Malden Catholic repeats as champs
Martinez nets 28 points, Lancers top Mansfield
LOWELL >> Nick Martinez saved his finest performance for the season’s biggest stage.
Martinez scored a gamehigh 28 points while Malden Catholic’s defense stifled what had been a prolific Mansfield offense as the No. 1 Lancers won their second consecutive Division 2 state title with a 72-54 win over the No. 2 Hornets on Friday night at the Tsongas Center.
The win gives Malden Catholic (23-2) coach John Walsh his fifth career state championship with three coming at Danvers High School.
“Mansfield’s offense is very difficult to defend. They’re a real tough team to stop, but our kids listened and paid attention to what we needed to do,” Walsh said. “I just love Malden Catholic and seeing the kids celebrate — it’s special.”
Coming into the game, the Hornets (24-3) offense had been firing on all cylinders, scoring at least 64 points in their first four tournament games. Right away, however, the Lancers set the tone at the defensive end of the floor using their speed and physicality to make Mansfield uncomfortable. The Hornets started out 2-for-10 from three-point land and at the other end of the floor Martinez scored nine early points to give the Lancers an 1810 lead.
Malden Catholic’s first half lead got up to 12 on consecutive Martinez triples, but three-pointers from JT Veiking and Eddie McCoy helped the Hornets trim the deficit to 3122 at the break. The Lancers pulled away for good in the third quarter with Matthew Gaffney drilling two treys, Martinez connecting on a turnaround in the lane, and Messiah Johnson connecting on a transition layup to give Malden Catholic a 53-34 lead after three.
“Martinez played great and did it in different ways across the whole game,” Mansfield coach Mike
Vaughan said. “When you play against talented teams, you have to set the tone. In the first quarter we did not set the tone that we were going to do what it took to win.”
The performance felt fitting for Martinez, who earned Catholic Conference co-MVP honors and, alongside Gaffney, Bo Moody, and Ethan Tracey, led a Lancers roster that appeared to be reeling after losing starter Roger Vasquez to injury midseason.
“Nick Martinez was sensational tonight,” Walsh said. “He hit big shots all night long. Matthew Gaffney
hit two big threes. Bo Moody hit one when Mansfield made a bit of a run. Then Ethan Tracy really filled a huge void for us.”