BOSTON – A busy weekend of basketball gave fans a nice choice of events to check out in between the Patriots playoff game. Two prep school events were going on in the city, while the stop for Saturday was the Good Sports Invitational at the Boston Garden.
The event consisted of eight high school games, with all but one school coming from Massachusetts (Bishop Hendricken traveled up from Warwick, Rhode Island). While it had some of the top schools in the state, it also had a couple of rivalry games, and as much as anything it gives the kids an experience of a lifetime. They played in the arena where 17 NBA championship banners hang from the rafters, as well as six Stanley Cup banners.
We take a look at the scores from the boys games on the day, then some notes on the game action.
Arlington Catholic 63, Masconomet 45
Somerville 65, Belmont 63
Malden Catholic 62, Bishop Hendricken 35
Newton North 61, Newton South 46
Franklin 57, Mansfield 54
Catholic Memorial 90, Andover 73
St. John’s Prep 71, Central Catholic 58
Joas leads unselfish Malden Catholic
With all the talent that Bishop Hendricken has, you could be forgiven for thinking they would be the favorites as they took on Malden Catholic. Justin Mazzulla (6’2″ So. SG) and Preston Santos (6’5″ Fr. SG-SF) are both Division I talents, Kyle Henssler (6’0″ Jr. PG) is a steady floor leader, and the Hawks are a powerhouse in Rhode Island. Malden Catholic has talent, but more importantly, this senior-laden team has experience, and that along with how they played had a lot to do with blowing out the Hawks on Saturday.
Karlens Joas (6’3″ Sr. SG) certainly has plenty of talent and is athletic, though he doesn’t always show it consistently. But he had lots of help, as Malden Catholic put on a ball movement clinic. For much of the game, they made extra pass after extra pass, with textbook unselfishness. Joas finished a couple of breaks with dunks later and helped the offense run during the game.
That wasn’t the only part of the win, though. They didn’t let Mazzulla get going, making him prove himself shooting the ball, and Santos had his moments but wasn’t a big factor. Malden Catholic simply played better on the afternoon in all facets, and it showed on the bottom line.
Malden Catholic lost a key player from last season’s team who decided to go to prep school, but if Saturday is any indication, they should be able to give Catholic Memorial and St. John’s Prep a run for their money in the Catholic Conference this season.
Hockomock rivals give all they had in a great back-and-forth game
Franklin and Mansfield have been a bit under the radar, but both are formidable teams that will battle it out in the Hockomock League. The former has been under the radar more so, while Mansfield is again without Brendan Hill (6’5″ Sr. SF) due to tearing the same ACL he tore a year ago. Both teams battled in the best game of the day, with Franklin pulling it out late.
Franklin has a nice post presence with Marcus Giese (Sr. C), who didn’t dominate on Saturday but was in a lot of plays. The big reason he didn’t score was not enough touches, though Mansfield did a nice job of making him give it up.
Mansfield took the lead in the third quarter after trailing for most of the first half, and they held it for some of the fourth quarter. Once Franklin tied it at 49 with under three minutes to play, they took over the remainder of the game. They did give Mansfield a couple of extra chances, but made plenty of plays to keep the lead up en route to taking it home. Mansfield couldn’t buy a basket late.
The second of the rivalry games on the day was the better one, as Newton North pulled away from Newton South in the preceding game. It was also one we might well see again when the stakes are a bit higher.
Could we see a rematch in a couple of months?
The next-to-last game of the day was perhaps the headline game of the day, and for good reason. In two months, it wouldn’t be a surprise if they were playing in the same building once again, this time with much more at stake.
Don’t let the final score – Catholic Memorial won by 17 points – or the fact that it’s indicative of how competitive the game was, fool you. Andover has a good, experienced team with an experienced coach. They look like the team to beat in the Merrimack Valley, which might be the toughest conference in MIAA this season, so they will be well-tested. Helping is that they will play arch-rival Central Catholic at least three times this season, having already played them in the Commonwealth Motors Christmas Classic in addition to the home-and-home series.
Andover is led by seniors David Giribaldi (5’11” Sr. PG-SG) and Trinity College-bound Connor Merinder (6’6″ Sr. PF). They have an emerging talent in E.J. Perry (6’2″ So. SG), but may also have another bloomer under the radar in Jonathan Rodriguez (6’3″ Jr. SF), who did all he could to keep them in the game on Saturday. In fact, he was arguably the best player on the floor in that game, and he looks to be getting better every time out.
Catholic Memorial is adjusting to life without departed point guard Aamahne Santos just fine with their own talented guards, and Stephen Azums (Jr. PF) was the unsung hero on Saturday as he did a lot of things that won’t show up in the box score off the bench. If these two teams meet on the same court in March in the Eastern Mass. final, no one should be surprised.
For Central Catholic, it’s up to the guards
Last year, Central Catholic had young guards aside from Tyler Nelson, now a freshman at Fairfield. That meant growing pains, and they came early and often. The talent was certainly there, though, and you could see it in watching the Red Raiders play. Meanwhile, their frontcourt led the way before the guards grew up in time for their state tournament run.
This season, there will be no frontcourt leading the way. Their frontcourt players are younger and not as talented. But their guards are more experienced and more talented, especially now that Kevin Fernandez (6’0″ So. SG) is back and playing well. Fernandez is playing like he has something to prove, as he’s had a couple of big games since his return.
The lack of frontcourt prowess didn’t help against St. John’s Prep, led by big man Harry O’Neil (6’8″ Jr. PF). O’Neil had a good night getting baskets and rebounds, and he was a bigger presence than anyone Central Catholic had. From that, his perimeter teammates got chances they took advantage of.
Central Catholic’s frontcourt will surely develop over the course of the season. They will need that to happen regardless. In the interim, the guards will have to carry this team at times, and given the outsize importance guards tend to have in high school basketball, it’s probably better for them that they are better off on the perimeter than up front.