Another successful NEAAU MA D1 girls state championship is in the books. For the second year in a row, NEAAU concluded some of its age levels on a Friday night two weeks after the pool play and the elite eight, giving teams ample time to prepare.
This year only the fifth-eighth grade divisions were held until Friday, May 15th because of prom season and other high school events for the older girls.
Here are some quick notes from the Friday night final four.
- The 8th grade division had four amazing girls programs with some of the area’s top coaches. It was evident that one team stood out on this night, and it was MT Elite. This team doesn’t have a particular star player that stands out more than her teammates, but the sum of its parts set MT Elite apart on this night. They have steady ball handling, size, players that play with high energy, scrappers, shooters, depth, gamers. They were very enjoyable to watch as they lead each game wire-to-wire on the evening. You give a college coach two weeks to prepare, and perhaps that’s the performance everyone should expect. Hats off to Missy Traversi, her staff and hard working players.
- On the losing side, Bay State Magic Elite is built very similarly to MT Elite and has the talent to beat any team on any given night. Faced with some adversity in the semi against KSC Ducks, BSME turned up the full court pressure and used its depth to pull away. They shot a lot of 3’s, which tells me that they typically make them, but it wasn’t their night from downtown.
- For Bay State Magic Elite, a player that was a stand out to me was Alexis Rothmann. She was slated to play in the Select Hoops Showcase, but had to back out last minute so I had never seen her play and only heard about how good she is. While watching the game I had to ask around to find out who number 33 was, and sure enough it was Rothmann. She has great ball handling skills, pushes the tempo, snaps passes and is explosive. Enjoy her on the bball court while you can, because word is that she is a national level soccer player and typically those players ultimately specialize on the pitch.
- On the other side for the Ducks, number 56 had her moments of greatness. She is another player I was not familiar with, so I had to run to the scorer’s table to find out her name during a timeout – Adiza Alasa from Rockland. She is the first person you notice on this Ducks team because of her unmistakable big hair (Rockland people and their hair – see E. Ochenduszko’s Rapunzelesque pony tail) and because she wears the number 56. Alasa comfortably knocks down outside shots, can take slower opponents off the dribble, or back down weaker ones.
- The 7th grade championship final minutes were just bananas. Admittedly, I am not too familiar with the individual players at this age level, but there certainly were some good ones. The Jaguars boasted some good size, while the Thunder guards and wings seemed to be superior skill wise. The last few possessions were chaotic with turnovers, missed shots, referee discrepancies and timeouts. KSC Thunder survived as the Jags had a few chances with out of bounds plays to win the game, but came up short. I look forward to learning the players in this game, because it was loaded with talent.
- The MPC 6th grade team is an absolute wagon. They are huge, skilled, unselfish and they compete. They rolled to a 30-point victory over Lady Elite Basketball to win its second straight title. This team is a bunch of gym rats that play with an immeasurable amount of pride. It’s hard to pick out a stand out in a 30-point win, but lefty Cassie Davidson from Easton seemed to be able to do it all. She can score, make full court passes, rule the glass and even stepped in to take a charge on the biggest player on the court.
- In the 5th grade, two of my favorite coaches squared off in a matchup between Jim Reen’s MPC Swish and Pat Russell’s Bay State Magic Elite. It was the second time these two faced off in this tournament and MPC Swish earned the sweep. The Swish full court pressure and depth proved to be the difference. Lydia Mordarski from Mansfield was extremely impressive. This long, athletic guard is great at attacking the basket and is equally comfortable finishing with both hands. She will be one to keep an eye on for years to come.
- AAU basketball has grown considerably over the past 10 years. Not to sound like an old fart at 30 years old, but back in my day only truly elite players played AAU. MAYBE two or three kids from the same town would play. Now, there are about 200 teams and 20 organizations in a 60-mile radius, of all skill levels.
It has more pros than cons. It puts the basketball in more kids hands and provides opportunities for those players that strive to make their next winter team to get better and receive different coaching in the spring and fall.
Because of the growth of the sport, there are a lot of great circuits and tournaments out there for various levels of play.
The elite level is still there and it is very fun to be a part of. The NEAAU MA D1 state tournament is the only true barometer of where a team ranks in the state and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. The NEAAU D1 is sanctioned by a governing body that regulates players are in the proper grade/age and it truly draws the best teams from RI, MA and parts of NH. There are a lot of awesome tournaments/circuits out there, but there is only one that guarantees the greatest competition amongst the area’s best – the NEAAU MA D1 state tournament.