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Westfield sets sights on title

Sport:   Posted: March 11th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Westfield sets sights on title
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
By JASON REMILLARD
jremillard@repub.com

Merely reaching the Division III state final isn't the goal of the Westfield High School hockey team this time around.

The Bombers have been there and done that, losing a 1-0 heartbreaker to Scituate last season.

Coach C.B. "Moose" Matthews and his Western Massachusetts champions would like to bring home the big trophy for the first time since 2003. To spend Sunday at Boston's TD BankNorth Garden, however, Westfield must first get past Gardner in a state semifinal at 8 p.m. Thursday at Worcester's DCU Center.

"Our objective is to bring it home, as they say," Matthews said. "Last year could have went either way at the Garden, but the puck didn't bounce our way."

While the Bombers (14-5-2) have the Garden in their sights, they are hardly overlooking Central Massachusetts champion Gardner. This is a rematch of last year's state semifinal, which Westfield won. Like the Bombers, the Wildcats return the bulk of their team from last season.

Both teams also are dynasties in their respective regions. Gardner (18-1-4) won its sixth Central Mass. title since 1987 with its 5-3 win over Hudson on Saturday, while Westfield has five championships this decade alone.

Gardner coach Jean-Guy Gagnon spoke at length with Matthews following Westfield's 2-1 win over Longmeadow in Sunday's sectional final, and the two coaches have plenty of respect for each other and their teams.

"We're going to have to be on our best game," Matthews said. "It's not going to be 7-2 or anything. It's going to be a close game, I anticipate."

If Matthews' prediction holds true, then goalie Alex Wiggs will have to play at least as well as he did against Longmeadow. The sophomore has progressed well in his first year as a starter and is peaking at the right time.

"What we were worried about coming into the playoffs was that he hadn't been here before," Matthews said. "He fooled us. He was ready."

Offensively, Westfield's front line of Corey Bellamy, Sean Frere and Rich Asselin matches up well with Gardner snipers Eric O'Reilly, Tyler Robinson and Damian Blodgett.

BRAVO, MIAA: When Springfield Falcons media relations director Damon Markiewicz revealed to the press that 2,281 fans attended Sunday's finals at the MassMutual Center, a few ears perked up.

Pair that turnout with some excellent games on the ice, and it's safe to say the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association's decision to have a Division III and IIIA tournament was a good one.

"I think it was one of the best moves they made in high school hockey in some time," tournament director Bill Sapelli said. "We were the pilot."

Every game was decided by three goals or fewer, with two overtime games in the inaugural Division IIIA tourney. The stands were packed not only for the Division III semifinals at the Olympia Ice Center but also for the other games there. The IIIA experiment had a lot to do with that.

"You had schools that the fans knew when they showed up that they had a chance of winning," Sapelli said.

The MIAA will soon talk to the participating schools about how the experience went and will decide from there if and when to pursue a similar Division IIIA or Division IV format in other parts of the state.

BESSONE TIME: The annual Amo Bessone Award banquet will take place on Sunday, May 4 at 1 p.m. at the Dante Club on Memorial Avenue in West Springfield. In addition to the Bessone Award for the best player in Western Massachusetts, some of the other hardware includes the Eddie Shore Award (best defenseman), the Bruce Landon Award (best goalie), coach of the year, and league rookies of the year.

'Hamp, Quaboagshould do well

Sport:   Posted: March 11th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

'Hamp, Quaboagshould do well
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
By RUSS HELD
rheld@repub.com

Pardon the Northampton and Quaboag Regional High School girls basketball teams if each feels pretty good about its chance tomorrow night in state semifinal action.

Both teams are preparing for a rematch against foes they defeated by 30 points this winter.

But don't expect it to be nearly that easy.

Northampton enters its Division I state semifinal game with Westboro on the heels of a 12-game winning streak, including a resounding 77-45 regular-season tournament win over host Westboro 2½ weeks ago.

Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. at Mullins Center at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.

Quaboag takes on Lee, at 4:15 p.m. in the opener of tripleheader action. The Warren regional was a 67-37 winner over Lee in mid-December.

First-time champion Palmer meets Millbury in Division II semifinal play starting at 6:15.

Winners advance to state championship games Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester.

Division I Northampton rolling: Northampton (22-2) enters as the winner of 12 straight, after coming off its first Western Mass. title in 16 years. The Blue Devils unseated three-time defending and reigning state champion Central on Saturday night.

"We are playing well, and we had to beat the best to be the best," Northampton coach Tom Parent said.

Northampton junior Alannah Driscoll-Sbar struck for a career-high 28 in the Westboro tourney title game, and Northampton had five players reach double figure scoring against Central.

"They are a very good team, they were 19-0 when we played them and I think that was when it all really started to click for us," Parent said.

Westboro, with four senior starters, has won 45 of 47 games the last two years, the other loss coming in the sectional final last year against Holy Name of Worcester.

Division II Palmer power: Palmer trailed by 10 points at halftime and its star player finished Saturday's sectional final with six points.

Enter Katrina Caulfield.

The 5-foot-7 sophomore forward played a monster game against Monument Mountain, scoring a career-high 27 points and grabbing 16 rebounds to lead the Panthers to their first sectional title.

"Talk about taking a team on her back," Palmer coach Bernie Fontaine said. "I have never seen her play like that.

"The place is abuzz. It's like being elected president of the United States, the voice mail is full. ... We just came from our end of the season sports banquet ... but not yet, for us."

Division III Old friends: Lee and Quaboag Regional of Warren meet in the state semifinals for the fifth time in six years. The programs have split their postseason matchups.

Lee (19-4) is coming off its 15th sectional title in 20 years, while Quaboag (23-1) just won its sixth straight central Mass. crown.

"We jumped on Lee early in that (Dec. 15) game, and we are absolutely expecting a different game and different team in Lee," Quaboag coach John Vayda said.

Quaboag junior Meaghan O'Keefe (12 ppg) is the only player on either team to average double-figures scoring.

Ticket info: Tickets for state semifinal and final round games sell for $12 for adults, and $7 for students and seniors ages 62 and older. Admission is good for all games that day.

D-II matchup a bit of a surprise

Sport:   Posted: March 11th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

D-II matchup a bit of a surprise
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
By JEFF THOMAS
jthomas@repub.com

Tonight's Division II boys basketball state semifinal at the University of Massachusetts Mullins Center in Amherst is not David vs. Goliath.

It's more like Cinderella vs. Goliath.

The Tigers of South Hadley, a team that won just six regular season games but qualified for the Western Massachusetts tournament because of the 50 percent rule, plays defending state champion and undefeated Tantasqua of Fiskdale in Sturbridge.

The Warriors (23-0) have won an astounding 48 straight games, their last loss coming more than two years ago. They ran the table last year to win the state championship, including a state semifinal win over South Hadley, 64-59.

Tantasqua lost three big players from last year's perfect squad, but coach Jeff Child said he still thought his Warriors would be a pretty good team this year, although maybe not this good.

"To be quite frank, I thought we'd be much better than a lot of people expected," Child said. "I just kind of knew we had some other guys that were going to step up."

Child said his players went unbeaten in a summer league, so he expected them to be good. Combine that with a so-so schedule of opponents and the ingredients were there for a good season.

"I knew if things went right, we'd beat everybody in our conference," Child said. "Still, I didn't think we'd be undefeated."

Whereas last year's team was more balanced in terms of offense, this Warriors team is led by senior forward Brian Vayda who is averaging 21 points a game. Then there are four players averaging between six and eight points a game.

Child said the one thing he didn't expect to see this season is the South Hadley Tigers returning to the state semifinals.

"I'm surprised to see South Hadley, I know that," he said. "But South Hadley plays a brutal schedule."

The Tigers knocked off the top three seeds to win their second straight sectional title and fourth in five years.

South Hadley had to play a very difficult schedule of 16 Division I games with a roster that had just two returning seniors, and both those players - guard Colin Lacey and forward Ryan Gravey - missed a number of games because of injuries.

Even if they win the state title, the Tigers will finish the season with a record two games under .500 at 12-14.

FRONTIER vs. BROMFIELD: The Division III state semifinal will be a rematch of the 2002 game won by the Red Hawks.

The Frontier Red Hawks (22-1) reached this point by finally dispatching Sabis International after three straight years of frustration at the hands of the Bulldogs.

Bromfield is a surprise winner of Central Massachusetts. Bromfield (16-7) was the eighth seed in the tournament, but used outstanding defense to beat top-seeded Boylston in the quarterfinals before going on to beat No. 5 Maynard and then No. 7 Sutton in the final.

"I guess they pack in a 2-3 zone and if I was playing us, that's what I'd do," Frontier coach Marty Sanderson said. "They control tempo with their zone, keep it low-scoring and try and take time off the clock with their defense."

The Red Hawks are just the opposite. They like to get out and run and use their triple-threat offense of guard Jamie Bell and twin forwards Brian and Dan Clark.

Bromfield would like the game to be played in the 50s while Frontier would prefer the 70s.

Last time the two teams met it was Frontier which had its way, winning 76-61.

LONGMEADOW vs. ST. JOHN'S OF SHREWSBURY: Lancers coach Tim Allen admits his team is facing a big problem, but most problems at this time of the season are still viewed as good problems.

Allen admits to knowing very little about Longmeadow's opponent for tonight's Division I state semifinal.

"We know they have a big guy down low who is scoring some points, so we'll have to deal with that," Allen said. "We'll just have to make adjustments on the fly."

Allen admits to being a little uncomfortable not having seen St. John's (20-6) or having a scouting report on the Central Mass. champion, which was the No. 5 seed and defeated No. 1 Fitchburg in the semifinals and No. 2 Marlboro in the championship game. St. John's beat Shrewsbury and Doherty in overtime in its first two games.

Longmeadow (19-4), which has won 17 straight games, prevailed in three contests that could have gone either way.

"Both teams came through three tough games so both teams are going to be mentally tough," Allen said.

NOTEWORTHY: Of the six teams scheduled to play tonight at the Mullins Center, only one team was a No. 1 seed in sectional play.

Tantasqua is the lone No. 1 to play tonight. Frontier was a No. 2 and Longmeadow a No. 3. St. John's was a No. 5 and Bromfield a No. 8, with South Hadley bringing up the rear as a No. 10.

N. Camb. Cath. 77, Avon 54: Rose flourishes in Garden

Sport:   Posted: March 11th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

N. Camb. Cath. 77, Avon 54: Rose flourishes in Garden
Guard sparks NCC to state championship
By Andrew Petrie
Globe Correspondent / March 11, 2008

North Cambridge Catholic took control against Avon with 30 first-quarter points en route to a 77-54 victory in the Division 4 boys' basketball state title game yesterday at the TD Banknorth Garden.

"It's unbelievable," said NCC coach Daniel Salazar. "These kids and these coaches make it easy to coach."

Senior Paul Rose (32 points) was a dominant player for NCC. After hitting four from beyond the arc in the first quarter, he nailed two 3-pointers in a row to smother a Panther rally in the third quarter, pumping his fist in celebration while Avon called a timeout.

"I knew we had to kill the momentum," he said. "That shut them down."

Salazar acknowledged his talented guard's effort.

"He's truly our leader," he said. "He proved that today."

Rose and senior forward Allen St. Surin were instrumental in helping NCC take a 30-11 lead after one quarter. Surin was a force on the boards, snatching offensive rebounds and converting five field goals in the quarter.

NCC (18-9) played with urgency from the start.

"We wanted to get it out of reach quick," Rose said. "We knew they would have a better chance if the game was decided by foul shots."

NCC took advantage of shoddy passing and bad decisions by Avon, opening up a 48-27 lead at halftime. Avon looked overmatched under the basket, as NCC junior forward Brandon Bowman and Surin dominated the boards and drew fouls.

Avon's offense was neutralized by Rose's tough play and stingy NCC defense. Akeem Williams, who came in averaging 41.5 points per game in tournament play, scored only 18 and was continually forced into difficult shots.

"I was just playing my game and I knew I had help behind me," Rose said of his defensive effort. "I told myself he's human. Everyone puts their shoes on one foot at a time, and so does he."

Williams struggled throughout the first quarter. He stepped out of bounds trying to evade an NCC double team, then slipped and lost the ball to Rose, who immediately converted the misstep into 2 points.

"They did a good job defensively, no doubt about it," said Avon coach Richard Gifford. "They trapped Akeem early. There was nothing new, we just didn't react well to the situation."

Avon (20-5) made a late run, fueled by sophomore center Deric McCottrell, who finished with 20 points. His rebounding managed to keep some possessions alive, and he converted four of his five free throw attempts in the second half. However, with the lead cut to 53-37, Rose nailed two 3-pointers to put the game out of reach.

An overtime victory in its previous game against Cathedral may have sapped Avon of its energy.

"We just came out flat," Williams said. "We just weren't ready."

NCC had a solid regular season, but struggled at times. Rose said the team became overconfident when it would win a few games in a row. But in the playoffs, NCC didn't let up, and they have a state championship to show for it.

"A dream come true," said a beaming Salazar.

Scituate 56, Watertown 46: Scituate win is no picnic

Sport:   Posted: March 11th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Scituate 56, Watertown 46: Scituate win is no picnic
Sailors overcome second-half deficit
By Chris Estrada
Globe Correspondent / March 11, 2008

Sometimes, junk can be beautiful. Just ask the Scituate boys' basketball team.

"Junk" was the term used by Sailors coach Matt Poirier to describe the type of defense his team used to erase a 12-point deficit en route to a 56-46 victory over Watertown in the Division 3 EMass final at TD Banknorth Garden.

"We have kids that have good poise. They look like they're at a garage sale half the time," Poirier said of his team, which outscored Watertown, 25-3, in the final 11:25 of the game. "Things can be going nuts and they have the demeanor of a picnic, and it pays off.

"We know how good [Watertown] is, and we knew that we had to rebound, and we knew we had to contest their shots. We were lucky. We threw a junk defense at them, to be honest with you, and it changed their look."

Watertown (22-3) started the second half with a 12-4 run that was propelled by two 3-pointers from junior guard Kyle Stockmal (16 points). The Raiders pushed the advantage to 43-31 before Scituate's Rodney Beldo kick-started his team's eventual march to Saturday's Division 3 state final at the DCU Center in Worcester.

After making two free throws, the sophomore guard followed up with an off-balance 3-pointer that cut the deficit to 7 with 1:37 left in the third quarter.

Scituate (22-2) didn't cool off over the quarter break, retaking the lead for good, 46-45, as Beldo (19 points) hit a runner with 4:03 left in the fourth.

When asked about the Sailors' mind-set before they made their big run, Beldo was succinct.

"Just do anything, just make every shot, and take it to them," he said. "Try to get [Kyle and Cory Stockmal] fouled out, because they had four [fouls]. Just do everything you can to win."

The Sailors pushed the lead to 51-46 on a basket by Beldo off an inbounds pass with 1:30 remaining. Kyle Stockmal fouled out with 1:03 to go while trying to defend Beldo, who sealed the victory on a driving layup from the left side to make it a 7-point lead.

Watertown coach Stephen Harrington said his team was hurt by a cold snap in the second half and the loss of starting senior center Konstantin Ioannidis early in the game. Ioannidis went down clutching his knee with 7:26 left in the first quarter, and did not return.

"I think we fought as hard as we could underneath the basket, minus one of our big guys that was out," Harrington said. "I think that first play of the game hurt us a lot. [Ioannidis] was another big guy that could've helped us out on the boards, but I tip my cap to [Scituate]. They played well and took advantage of what they needed to do."

CM 74, Reading 61: CM able to get what it wants

Sport:   Posted: March 11th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

CM 74, Reading 61: CM able to get what it wants
Knights defeat Reading for title
By Maggie Cassidy
March 11, 2008

Reading rallied within 5 points late in the fourth quarter last night, but Catholic Memorial quickly doused the spark with a bevy of baskets to earn the Division 2 EMass boys' basketball championship at TD Banknorth Garden, 74-61.
 
It was the second trip to the Garden in as many years for the Knights (21-4), who defeated Belmont, 68-66, in the final last year, before falling to Tantasqua Regional in the state final.

"It was tough leaving last year with a loss, but we had a goal in mind this year to get back to where we were last year, get our ring back," said Catholic Memorial senior Brendan Monteiro, who had a game-high 22 points. "We had to gut this one out."

Reading (15-10) built a 15-8 advantage out of the gate, but the Knights finished the opening quarter on a 6-0 run topped by Julian Colarusso's field goal and led, 22-21, after one. After Nick O'Brien opened the second quarter with a basket that put Reading ahead, 23-22, Catholic Memorial's Nick Edson sandwiched a pair of free throws between two field goals to give Catholic Memorial a 5-point edge.

The Rockets stayed on CM's heels throughout the second quarter. But with less than four minutes left and trailing, 32-29, their 6-foot-8-inch anchor Evan Smotrycz took a seat on the bench after he was charged with his third foul.

After Smotrycz sat down, a pair of free throws brought Reading within 1. But with the Rockets' big man gone, the Knights - whose tallest player is 6-4 - quickly took command and entered halftime on a 10-0 run and led, 44-31. They piled it on from there, leading by as many as 16 in the third quarter and 11 with about six minutes to play.

Reading coach Paul Morrissey said that although Smotrycz's absence hurt his team offensively, giving up key possessions hurt the most.

"We had some turnovers that we really shouldn't have committed with Evan on the floor or not," he said. "That hurt us offensively, but we shouldn't have turned the ball over like that."

The Rockets wouldn't go quietly, though, as they switched to a zone defense that frustrated the Knights and shook up their shooters. Edson put up 8 of his 12 points in the final quarter, hitting three straight field goals to cut the Knights' lead to 66-59. Smotrycz, who stayed out of foul trouble in the third quarter, added 6 of his 20, including a layup with about 1:30 to go that made it 66-61.

The Knights missed the front end of a one-and-one on the next play, but Colarusso stole the rebound and made the layup to knock the steam out of Reading's comeback. Catholic Memorial piled on 6 more points to stay in control.

Morrissey said he was proud of his players' performance after entering the Div. 2 North sectionals seeded 10th at 11-9.

"Especially after the first half, I'm sure people in the crowd were saying, 'It's going to be a blowout,' " he said. "It's a 5-point game with a minute and a half left. We've got nothing to hang our heads about, that's for sure."

Catholic Memorial will play in the state final at Worcester's DCU Arena Saturday at 4 p.m. against the winner of the Western Mass. championship between Tantasqua and South Hadley, which is today at the Mullins Center at UMass.

Central Cath. 54, BC High 44: Central completes comeback

Sport:   Posted: March 11th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Central Cath. 54, BC High 44: Central completes comeback
Raiders rally, soar past Eagles
By Chris Estrada
March 11, 2008

Central Catholic's defense derailed the defending Division 1 state champion last night.

The Raiders trailed by 13 points in the third quarter, but used a 32-9 run in the final 12:40 to bounce BC High, 54-44, in the EMass final at TD Banknorth Garden.

"I thought it was a sluggish first half for us a little bit offensively, and I thought our defense won the game in the second half," Raider coach Richard Nault said. "We changed to a zone [defense] during the [third quarter] and it got us back in the game. Down 2, we went to the man-to-man and I think that's what won us the game.

"I think by the end of the game, we were pretty fresh and they looked a little tired, and the man-to-man pressure caused that."

Back-to-back scores by sophomore center Carson Desrosiers and two free throws from by Tim Wheeler pulled the Raiders back within 23-20 late in the second quarter. But a 3-pointer from Colin Halpin and a jumper from Jake O'Brien with 24 seconds left pushed the Eagles' lead to 28-20 at halftime.

"The first half, I thought, was sensational," said BC High coach Bill Loughnane. "I think we sort of died in the second half and I think most of it was caused by Central Catholic. They really came out in the second half and took it to us."

The Raiders struck back with a 14-3 run during the third quarter after the Eagles had built their 13-point lead. Central trailed, 38-36, after three quarters, but took charge with an 11-0 spurt at the start of the fourth. Junior guard Billy Marsden had 8 in the run.

"We were hitting more shots and definitely, our defense helped out," said Marsden, who scored 19 of his 22 points in the second half. "That helped out our offense a lot, because in the first half, we couldn't hit anything. Then things just started falling in the second half."

After the Eagles' Ryan Sharry fouled out with six minutes to go, O'Brien ended the Raider surge with a jumper to bring BC High within 47-40. But Marsden cut through the Eagle defense on the next possession and finger-rolled it in to push the lead back to 9 with 3:22 to go.

The game was iced when backup guard Walson Constant drove from the 3-point line and was fouled as he went up for a layup. His free throw gave Central a 52-42 lead with 48 seconds left.

It was an emphatic ending to a thrilling win for Central, which has coped with the tragedy of reserve player Ryan Bourque's death over the Thanksgiving holiday.

The Raiders will head to Worcester for Saturday's state final, looking to add to their trophy case.

"It's something I've been thinking about since I was young - a young kid," senior Adrian Gonzales said after scoring 10 points. "And now I have the opportunity to win a state championship."

Goalies prominent among finalists for Travis Roy Award

Sport: Hockey (Boys)  Posted: March 11th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Goalies prominent among finalists for Travis Roy Award
Biddeford's Tony Dube and Falmouth's Derek Kump are two of the four candidates as the top Class A senior hockey player.


By RACHEL LENZI, Staff Writer March 11, 2008


Two goalies are among the four finalists for one of high school hockey's most coveted individual honors.

Derek Kump of Falmouth and Tony Dube of Biddeford are finalists for the 13th annual Travis Roy Award, given to the top senior in Class A hockey.

The Maine Class A Coaches Association on Monday announced the finalists for the award, given for academic achievement, community involvement and playing ability. Dube and Kump joined Lewiston right wing Jon Roy and Messalonskee center Matt DelGiudice as this year's finalists.

"Those are players who are representative of hockey in Maine," said Kump. "To be among those names, it's an honor."

The award will be presented at a banquet that begins at noon Sunday at the Ramada Inn and Conference Center in Lewiston. Jeff Libby, a former Waterville High and University of Maine hockey standout, will be the keynote speaker.

Dube helped Biddeford to a 24-0 season and its second straight Class A championship.

He recorded a goals-against average of 1.00 and a saves percentage of .957 in 18 games. Dube has a three-year record of 46-9 and a 1.45 GAA.

"It's a great individual honor but it also says a lot for our program," said Dube, who hopes to play at the University of New England next year. "To have two people nominated (Nick Reny was a semifinalist) for the award, for the program it's huge.

"For any elite player in high school hockey, to be a finalist is an absolute honor."

Kump finished with nine shutouts this season, and school records of 17 shutouts and 48 wins, with a 1.50 goals-against average.

Kump is Falmouth's third Travis Roy Award finalist in four years, joining Peter Gustavson (who won in 2005) and James Tolan (2007).

"My freshman year, having the pleasure of playing with Peter, and seeing the dedication and effort he and James put in, it helped me become the best player I could be," said Kump, who plans to play junior hockey next season.

Roy helped Lewiston win its fourth straight Eastern Class A title, scoring 26 goals and 24 assists.

DelGiudice is Messalonskee's second finalist in three years, joining 2006 winner, Ted Fabian.

DelGiudice had 28 goals and 37 assists for the Eagles, and finished with a four-year total of 57 goals and 107 assists.

"They are all amazing athletes," said Dube, who with Reny was one of two semifinalists from Biddeford before the field was pared from eight to four. "Jon Roy is a great player, and Matt DelGiudice, his stats speak for themselves. And Derek Kump, in my opinion, has to be the best high school hockey goalie."

Kit Smith of Brunswick won last year. Smith is a freshman at Bowdoin College, where he plays hockey and lacrosse.

The award is named for Travis Roy, the former Yarmouth resident and North Yarmouth Academy player who was paralyzed from injuries sustained 11 seconds into his first shift at Boston University in 1995.

Roy lives and works in Boston, where he is a motivational speaker who works with the charity that bears his name, which raises money and provides grants for research and medical equipment for people with spinal injuries.

Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be reached at 791-6415 or at:
rlenzi@pressherald.com

Oriakhi would have helped LHS

Sport:   Posted: March 10th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Oriakhi would have helped LHS
By Barry Scanlon100
Article Last Updated: 03/10/2008 03:47:16 PM EDT

Random thoughts about the classic Lowell-Central Catholic boys basketball game Saturday now that my heart’s stopped racing:

• The scary part about Central center Carson Desrosiers isn’t that he blocked nine shots and altered a half-dozen other ones.

The really scary thing about the 6-foot-9 Desrosiers is the fact that he’s only a sophomore.

“I think he’s the guy that makes them the team they are,” Lowell coach Scott Boyle said last night. “I think he’s 6-10. I think he’s grown. He’s a very good player and he’s only a sophomore. Picture him as a senior.”

• Boyle didn’t mention it, but can you imagine how strong Lowell would have been had Alex Oriakhi enrolled at Lowell High and Ronald Gitlaye stayed a Red Raider?

Oriakhi, a 6-foot-9, 220-pound power forward at the Tilton School in Tilton, N.H., and Gitlaye, an athletic 6-foot-6 forward starring at a Delaware high school, would have been Lowell seniors.

They were part of a nearly-unbeatable eighth grade travel team along with star Lowell player Matt Welch.

Gitlaye, who played at Lowell as a freshman before going the prep school route, is a coveted player by Division 1 college recruiters, while Oriakhi, who never became a Red Raider, long ago committed to play for Jim Calhoun at the University of Connecticut. Low-post battles between Desrosiers and Oriakhi would have
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been interesting Saturday, to say the least.

• Lowell High has fielded a boys basketball team since 1900 and the 2007-08 edition was the first team to win 23 games, a remarkable accomplishment.

Much of the credit goes to Welch and senior classmates David Brown, Jaime Shannon, Nick Schermerhorn, Fernando Perez, Sarnoh Lepolu, Osvaldo Gonzales and Kevin Muiruri.

“I thought they deserved a state title. We talked about it,” Boyle said. “What you get and what you deserve are sometimes two different things.”

• Where does Welch rank among the great LHS athletes? I’d have to put him near the summit. The University of New Hampshire-bound football star is a terrific basketball player. There’s not many 6-foot-6 wing players who can shoot the ball like Welch.

While on the subject of all-time great LHS athletes, spotted in the crowd Saturday night were two of the best, basketball standout Tracy Mitchell and football star Blake Galvin.

• The atmosphere at Tsongas Arena was nothing short of electric. A standing-room-only crowd of 6,500. Chanting student bodies. Two of the best teams in the state, separated by 15 or so miles.

“It was phenomenal,” Boyle said.

Tonight, however, when Central plays B.C. High in a state semifinal at the TD Banknorth Garden in Boston, there will be thousands of empty seats — the building, while state of the art, is simply too big for Massachusetts high schools to fill.
Why not play the final three rounds — sectional finals, state semifinals and state championship games — at facilities like Tsongas? It’s not Boston, it’s not the big city, but the atmosphere Saturday night will not be duplicated.

Knights win South crown

Sport:   Posted: March 10th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Knights win South crown
By Rob Duca
STAFF WRITER
March 10, 2008 6:00 AM

 

Members of the Sandwich boys hockey team hoist up the Division 2 South trophy they claimed after beating Franklin in a shootout on Sunday.MERRILY LUNSFORD/Cape Cod Times



BOURNE — Sandwich High coach Derackk Curtis had a premonition that yesterday's Division 2 South Sectional boys hockey final against Franklin High would come down to a shootout.

So he spent a portion of Saturday's practice determining who would be his five skaters if the situation arose.

"It was kind of foreshadowing, I guess," he said. "But we took the time to make the point that the game could come down to that, and if it did we wanted to be prepared."

They were. After the teams battled through a scoreless regulation and eight-minute overtime, the South championship was decided in a shootout that went beyond five skaters to a sixth before the second-seeded Blue Knights finally prevailed 3-2, giving them a 1-0 victory at a packed Gallo Ice Arena.

Matt Cassista scored the shootout-winner after the score was deadlocked at 2-2 through the first round, and goalie Pat Harrington made it stand up with a final save, sending Sandwich (19-2-3) to the state final against North champion Wilmington (a 4-3 shootout winner over Tewksbury) next Sunday at 2:45 p.m. at TD Banknorth Garden. Eighth-seeded Franklin finishes 15-6-3.

"I wasn't expecting to go up there, so I was just excited," Cassista said. "I went down, took a shot and it went in."

He did a bit more than that. He lofted a wrist shot to the short side that sailed over the shoulder of goalie Jeff Kaplan. Farrington then held the short side with a pad save against Tony Degrazia, setting off a wild celebration.

"I could tell he was going short side, so I just stayed there, put my pad down and made the save," Farrington said.

Thus ended a game that was mainly about goaltending. The story through regulation and the first overtime was Kaplan, this year's Hockomock League MVP. The junior netminder was sensational, stopping 32 shots, including three clean breakaways and numerous other sparkling Sandwich opportunities.

Kaplan was the principal reason that the Panthers made it to a shootout.

"I thought we outplayed them the whole game. Their goalie kept them in," Curtis said. "But we've been in a position where we had to keep our composure and stick to the game plan, and not get frustrated. Sometimes when you get a little too focused on not being able to score you start pressing, and you start running around."

For much of the game, Farrington stood at the opposite end of the ice watching his teammates attack the Franklin zone. He only faced 10 shots during regulation and another two in OT. So there could have been reason to worry that he might be a tad cold for the shootout.

And, oh yeah, he's also a freshman.

But Curtis wasn't concerned.

"We knew we had something special in Pat about halfway through the season," he said. "We put him in some of the bigger games and he was able to step up to the test. I had complete faith in Pat. I wasn't nervous at all. He might be a freshman, but he doesn't play like a freshman."

The Panthers opened the shootout and Farrington stood tall as Matt Hurst fired wide. Sandwich's Casey Helms then also missed the net.

Farrington came up big on Franklin's next attempt, flashing out his right leg to deny Nate Webber's backhander. But Kaplan was also up to the challenge, stopping Garrett Lessard to keep the shootout scoreless.

Brett Lerner beat Farrington between the legs to give Franklin a 1-0 edge, and Sean Gallagher matched him with a pretty top-shelf shot to the glove side.

"(Kaplan) was excellent. It was hard to beat him," Cassista said. "We didn't do it until the shootout."

Farrington made superb glove saves on the next two Franklin shooters, while Craig Brubaker scored to the 5-hole for a 2-1 Sandwich lead. Down to their final shooter, the Panthers tied it when Mike Iacobucci got Farrington to commit early and lifted a back-hander into the open side.

That sent the shootout into sudden death, and Franklin figured to hold the edge with its MVP goalie. But his freshman counterpart had other ideas.

Staff writer Rob Duca can be reached at 508-862-1177 or rduca@capecodonline.com.

What's next for Knights

Sunday, March 16: MIAA Division 2 state boys hockey final, Sandwich (19-2-3) vs. Wilmington (17-2-4) at TD Banknorth Garden, Boston, 2:45 p.m.

Click here for complete hockey brackets.

Westfield bests Longmeadow

Sport:   Posted: March 10th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Westfield bests Longmeadow
Monday, March 10, 2008
By FRAN SYPEK
fsypek@repub.com

Westfield 2 Longmeadow 1

SPRINGFIELD - Ryan Leonard didn't have the kind of season to place him among the elite players during the regular season.

But what happens during the regular season can be so different come tournament time.

Leonard scored at 8 minutes, 42 seconds of the third period to snap a tie and lift Westfield to the Western Massachusetts High School hockey Division III championship following a 2-1 victory over Longmeadow yesterday before 2,281 fans at the MassMutual Center.

Westfield (13-5-4) will play Gardner (18-1-4) in the state semifinals Thursday at 8 p.m. at the DCU Center in Worcester. The winner of that game advances to the state championship game Sunday at TD Bank North Garden.

Leonard, a sophomore, had five goals and seven assists for 12 points during the Berry Division season. But he was in the right place at the right time in the title game.

"This is unbelievable," Leonard said. "Goes to show as long as you work hard, anybody can do it, and I'm thankful that it was me who scored the goal."

"Ryan has come a long way, and he's playing physical, aggressive hockey," Westfield coach C.B. "Moose" Matthews said. "Now he has a nose for the net, and that sure was a pretty goal."

Leonard wasn't the only kid who was all right. Sophomore goalie Alex Wiggs had a strong, 17-save performance, and the only goal he yielded was to a sophomore, Devan Joyce.

Longmeadow, which won five of its six previous games, didn't let Westfield's top scorers dominate the game. Sean Frere scored the Bombers' first goal, but Corey Bellamy and Rich Asselin were watched closely by the Lancers.

"When you've got so many good players on a team like we do, no one person has to do everything," said Bellamy, who had a natural hat trick in last March's championship game against East Longmeadow. "I so happy for Ryan - he works so hard, and he's just awesome."

Leonard crashed the net just as the puck caromed off the back dasher and was picked up by Dan Ross, who delivered it out front. Leonard powered a shot past Billy Mooney (22 saves) to give Westfield its second consecutive sectional championship and fourth in six seasons.

"I was in front of the net and all alone, and I went to my backhand and it went in," Leonard said.

Longmeadow, which won the two years Westfield didn't, played very well, too.

"I knew this would be a tough game because Longmeadow's got scrappers and battlers," Matthews said. "They're not quitters, and you've got to give that team credit."

Longmeadow finished 11-9-1.

"Our kids came together and really played their hearts out," said Longmeadow coach Jim Joyce, who coached Leonard in youth hockey (MassConn). "There's not many teams who can play with Westfield, and I'm very proud of them."

The second period ended with a Longmeadow flurry in front of the net. Wiggs made a couple of key saves, and the Lancers were not able to capitalize on rebounds.

Wiggs came up big to thwart a breakaway by Sean McDermott. Chris Hess had an open net, but couldn't get a shot off in traffic.

The Bombers pulled even at 1-1 at 4:08 of the second period.

Brian Moran took a shot from the point that Sean Frere stopped with his stick. He lifted a backhand high over Mooney's right shoulder for the tying tally.

Mooney denied a short-handed bid by Bellamy shortly before the goal. Bellamy did draw a penalty on the play, but the Bombers failed to convert the power play.

Westfield carried play for most of the first period, but the Bombers trailed 1-0 after the opening 15 minutes.

Devan Joyce scored on a redirection with 3:28 remaining in the period. Hess took a shot from the left point. It went through a crowd of players before it was tipped by Joyce past Wiggs.

"I knew after that one, they wouldn't get another one," Wiggs said.

The goal came on Longmeadow's third shot of the game. Westfield had six straight shots on goal to open the game and held Longmeadow without a shot for 8:28.

ICE CHIPS: Ludlow High School was presented with the MIAA's James F. Mulloy Sportsmanship Award. Team captains John Barlow and Mark Evans accepted the award ... Westfield team manager Lindsey Bellamy sang the national anthem ... Gardner beat Hudson, 5-3 in the Central Mass. final Saturday in Worcester to claim its sixth sectional championship ... A would-be goal by Bellamy was negated with 31.5 seconds remaining because the net was dislodged.

Greenfield waves hello to IIIA title

Sport:   Posted: March 10th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Greenfield waves hello to IIIA title
Monday, March 10, 2008
By JASON REMILLARD
jremillard@repub.com

Greenfield 7 Agawam 4

SPRINGFIELD - Tym Dore's theory on winning hockey seems perfectly suited for a kid his age.

After his Greenfield High School team defeated Agawam 7-4 yesterday to win the inaugural Western Massachusetts Division IIIA championship, the senior espoused his thoughts on the relationship between offense and defense.

There's no secret what Dore, a forward, thinks is the Green Wave's dominant unit.

"Defense wins games, but the offense definitely helps," said Dore, who had two goals and an assist. "And the ladies love offense."

A combined 2,281 fans attended this game and the Division III final between Westfield and Longmeadow.

The Green Wave (20-1-2) used a four-goal first period to set the tone for an impressive victory against the Brownies, who tied Greenfield earlier this season.

Those early goals gave sophomore goalie Austin Urkiel the confidence he needed to put up a performance to remember. There may be more championships, but Urkiel learned there's nothing that compares to the first one.

"That helped me because I could keep my head in the game more," Urkiel said of the 4-1 cushion. "My heart was racing (before the game)."

An early save on an Agawam breakaway, one of Urkiel's 19 in the game, seemed to banish his butterflies permanently. His defense, led by Mark Glidden and Sam and Chris Dedinas, worked hard to ensure their young goalie had a relatively easy day.

"Austin didn't play like a young goalie today," Greenfield coach Mike Duclos said. "I'm definitely a defensive guy; you start from the goalie up."

Having talented snipers like Dore and Carl Ihrelius doesn't hurt either. Both forwards had two goals apiece, and Matt Dore handed out four assists. Ihrelius had two goals in the first period, joined by Tym Dore and Roger Conant.

After Ihrelius scored first only 1:44 into the game, Agawam (12-8-3) tied it on a Mason Richard tally almost seven minutes later. Tym Dore's first goal less than a minute later stemmed the tide and allowed the Green Wave to roll.

"We knew what we were up against," said Duclos, still dripping from his postgame water drenching. "I didn't want to get in a shootout with a team like this."

In recent years, the Green Wave could always score in bunches, but mostly from only one top line. This year, the addition of Ihrelius, a Swedish exchange student, gave the team a tremendous anchor for a second line that could provide just as much punch as the first.

"It was nice because we could throw either line out there and get goals," Tym Dore said. "That was the nicest part."

Agawam junior goalie Steve Fiedler also played pretty well, especially in holding Greenfield to only one goal in the second period. He finished with 24 saves.

The Brownies gave their vocal cheering section something to hold their heads high about by scoring a pair of late goals by Brett Barker and Colin Hensel.

Greenfield's victory capped an exciting first run for the IIIA tournament, which was only approved by the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association with about a month left in the season.

The Green Wave won't be moving on to a state semifinal, but that's totally fine with Duclos, who will gladly bring home Greenfield's first sectional title in 37 years.

"If any team deserved it, it was this one," Duclos said.

CM 3, BC High 2:The Boston Globe

Sport:   Posted: March 10th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

CM 3, BC High 2:The Boston Globe
Collins lifts CM in OT
By Matt Porter
Globe Correspondent / March 10, 2008

LOWELL - The game had all the makings of a classic, and delivered.


Longtime rivals BC High and Catholic Memorial, who have owned the Super 8 since its inception, each came in with one loss in this year's tournament. A berth in the next round was on the line. This was the only game that mattered.

In a game filled with drama, it was no surprise that it came down to a breakaway in overtime.

At 3:09 of the extra period, Mike Collins scored to cap a 3-2 win for the Knights. It knocked out the defending champions, and exacted revenge for a 1-0 loss in last year's semifinal.

"Of course," said BC High goalie Sam Marotta, "It had to be Collins."

The senior captain, one of CM's most talented scorers, broke in with the game on his stick. He loaded up and slung a wrister at the net. It flew past Marotta's blocker, glanced off the post and in.

Cue the celebration.

It had started much differently. BC High controlled the puck in CM's zone, and senior Brian Sullivan's backhand beat Tom Conlin 26 seconds in.

Just 2:31 later, the Eagles added another. Senior Rob Dongara took Sullivan's outlet pass and motored up the right side. He was forced to the outside by Knights defenseman Garrett Noonan, but Dongara faked a wraparound and tossed the puck backward. It bounced cleanly off Noonan's stick and slid between Conlin's pads.

But the Knights answered. They had 22 seconds of power-play time left to start the second period, but only 15 had elapsed when Noonan walked in and beat Marotta (26 saves) to cut the lead in half.

"Nothing bothers Garrett," said CM coach Bill Hanson. "He puts that right behind him."

The Knights (16-2-3) tied the game at 5:45 of the second period. From the blue line, Noonan whipped a shot at Marotta, who made the save but lost the puck. Knights forward Derek Colucci snapped it home.

For Dongara and the Eagles (12-6-5), it was a tough loss to take.

"This has been the best three years of my life. It's tough to let it go," said Dongara. "That was the hardest we've ever played."

BC High coach Joe McCabe said the loss put him in an unfamiliar and unenviable position.

"I don't really know what to do with myself this week, because we've never had it off," he said. "The sun will come up tomorrow, I guess."

Gorham hockey coach steps down

Sport: Hockey (Boys)  Posted: March 10th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Gorham hockey coach steps down
By Tom Minervino
Sports Writer
    

GORHAM (March 6, 2008): The only coach to win a playoff game in Gorham High School hockey’s 14-year history has resigned.


Eric Wales stepped down at the conclusion of this year’s 5-15 campaign, his third as head coach of the Rams. His overall record was 30-33.

“I just felt that for the best interest of the program, it was time for me to step aside,” Wales said.

Wales served as an assistant under Norm Gagne during the 2004-05 season. When Gagne left Gorham after one season to take the head job at Lewiston High School — his current position — Wales took the reins of the Rams.

In his first year, Gorham finished the regular season at 19-1 and was the sixth seed in Western Maine Class A. After an 11-2 preliminary-round win over Bonny Eagle, Gorham's first-ever playoff win, the Rams avenged their only regular-season loss by upending Kennebunk 4-2 in the quarterfinals. Kennebunk had handled Gorham 10-3 in the regular season.

Gorham fell in the semifinals to Scarborough 4-2 to finish the year 21-2.

“The playoff run to the semifinals in the ’05-’06 season was awesome,” Wales said.

It also meant a tougher schedule the next year. Moving up from a tier-three schedule to a tier-one schedule, the Rams struggled, going 4-16 and missing the playoffs.

Wales described the past season’s slate as “upper-middle tier.” The 5-15 finish left the Rams in 13th place. The top 12 made the tournament.

“The first year he came in, we had a great run,” said Gorham athletic director Gerald Durgin, who said Wales informed him of his decision to resign toward the end of the season. “Then we moved up from third tier to first tier. … That scheduling, it’s tough. It’s very, very tough. I don’t think most people realize just how tough it is.”

Wales said it’s not only the schedule that made things difficult.

“At Gorham, it’s kind of a tough situation because it’s not paid by the school,” he said.

The hockey program for both boys and girls is booster-funded and pay-to-play. Gorham High School pays for coaching salaries, buses and game officials, said Jim Gregoire, the president of the Gorham Ice Hockey Boosters Association. The rest is left up to the boosters.

The boosters raised about $15,000 this year to help offset the costs to players, Gregoire said. The boosters club funds JV and varsity programs for the high school as well as the middle school hockey program, operating on a combined budget. Total costs come out to $40,000 to $55,000 per year, Gregoire said, leaving a large chunk to be funded through registration costs.

Registration is $400 for the first player in a family, with additional players paying $150 each according to Gregoire. The cost covers insurance, game jerseys, socks and equipment bags, and helps pay for ice time — a precious and expensive commodity, often only available at odd hours at distant rinks.

"We pay a premium for ice time," Gregoire said. "We have to fight for ice time."

It is a big commitment for parents and players of both time and money, Wales said. He applauds the efforts of the boosters, but added that the pay-to-play format can make it tough on the coach, as parents are financially vested in the program.

“I think they have more reason to complain … when money comes out of their pocket,” Wales said. “They feel they have more leverage. They have to work very hard and they raise a lot of money. You have to say God bless them."

It’s not an easy situation for anyone involved, Wales said. The quick turnover of coaches — the school has had seven hockey coaches in 14 years — suggests a need for change in his view.

“I’m concerned for the future of the program,” Wales said. “Either the school needs to step up to the plate and pay for the program or it should consider cutting the program.”

Wales said this year was especially difficult because too much of his time was spent dealing with off-ice issues related to the program.

“The least amount of time was spent coaching,” he said. “It just wasn’t fun.”

He said he loves working with kids and loves coaching — which made his decision to resign anything but an easy one.

“One of the greatest things to see is a little freshman come in and play hockey and grow into a senior and leader of the team,” Wales said.

A teacher at Westbrook Regional Vocational School, Wales coaches girls varsity lacrosse and JV golf in Portland during the spring and fall seasons. As for next winter, he may be back on the ice.

“If I do anything next winter, I may volunteer some time with a varsity hockey team, pass some pucks around, just have fun,” he said. “All in all, it was a good four years and it’s time to move on.”

Bonny Eagle's Simonds is coach of the year

Sport: Basketball (boys)  Posted: March 10th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Bonny Eagle's Simonds is coach of the year
By Adam Howard
ahoward@keepmecurrent.com
    

STANDISH (March 10, 2008): Last month, the Bonny Eagle boys’ basketball team finished their season with a preliminary round loss to Westbrook. The Scots overcame a lot of adversity this season, including some that started before they played their first game.


Before the team began their preseason workouts, senior Casey McKague was sidelined with some health issues that prevented him from playing at all this year. McKague was an important part of the team that they had to learn to play without.

Over the course of the season, the injuries piled up. At one point the Scots were left with just six varsity players. Only two of which were considered at the beginning of the year to be starters.

But through it all, there was coach Rick Simonds. Somehow through all of the setbacks and the patchwork lineups, Simonds led the Scots to an 8-10 record and a tournament berth for the fifth straight year under his guidance. All of that led the SMAA coaches to vote Simonds their coach of the year.

“To be selected as coach of the year was both a surprise and distinct honor,” Simonds said. “I prefer to look at this as a team award because it was their refusal to quit or get discouraged that allowed us to upset some of the finest teams in our league and play others tough. It was the first time that it went to a coach whose team was not at the top of the league standings and to be voted by your peers certainly says a lot.”

The Scots certainly made their mark this year with a few upsets along the way and some close finishes with top teams. In January, they knocked off perennial powerhouse Deering. Early in the season they outplayed Portland for three quarters before the Bulldogs pulled away. They nearly added Thornton Academy to their list of victims late in the regular season.

“I really want to compliment coach Simonds for having such a great year with such adversity,” said Gorham coach Kevin Jenkins. “He has had different kids out there every game and they’ve been banged up but they won eight games. They beat Deering, but they lost some close games to some good teams. I think he deserves to be coach of the year in the SMAA. He did a great job. No one else could have withstood the losses they have and had a tournament team.”

Windham coach Kevin Millington, whose team faced Bonny Eagle twice, said Simonds deserved the honor as well.

“Coach Simonds has done an awesome job with that team,” he said “You have to tip your cap to Bonny Eagle. With all their injuries coach Simonds has done as good a coaching job as I have seen in my 11 years in the league.”
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