By Joe Dicruttalo (@JDicruttalo)
This past Sunday, the 8th Grade Division 1 MetroWest narrowed the field from 16 teams to 8. Throughout the day we saw teams battle for their chance to participate in the Elite 8, which will be held Thursday March 12th at 7:45 at Mass Premier Courts.
#3 Belmont vs. #14 Randolph
In the first game of the day the (14)Randolph came out swinging versus (3)Belmont. After the first quarter, Randolph jumped out to a 21 to 10 lead. Lefty guard Sebastian Borgard (19pts) started the game on fire, scoring inside and out. Throughout the first quarter, Randolph’s 2-3 zone with their size and length gave Belmont trouble and forced them into bad shots. Belmont made a great adjustment in the second quarter bouncing back and forth between their 2-2-1 full court press and their man to man press. This really sped the tempo of the game up and caused Randolph to play faster than they were comfortable playing, as the ball began to be thrown around and the turnovers increased rapidly.
Belmont’s Point Guard Danny Yardemian however, looked very comfortable as the speed of the game increased. Poised under pressure, Danny showed why he was one of the main pieces that helped Belmont finish with the third best record in D1. Making play after play for himself and his teammates, he lead the charge as Belmont bounced back and outscored Randolph 52-34 after their slow start in the first. Danny Yardemian finished the game with an impressive 24 points and 6 assists. Also impressive in the winning effort for Belmont was power guard Arek Boynerian (16pts) who was a bull on the interior and hit shots throughout the game. Randolph came out of the gates strong, but Belmont pulled away down the stretch to be the first team to advance into the Elite 8 with a 62-55 win.
#6 Newton vs #11 Needham
Needham could have been one of the most disciplined teams in the field. Coached by Wheaton College Assistant Coach Bill Naylor the Division 2 regular season Needham group proved to everyone they were deserving of their top 20 finish in the state. Both teams went back and forth from start to finish with neither team ever having larger than a five-point advantage on the other. Newton jumped out to a 14-9 lead after the first quarter, playing physical and controlling the glass on both ends of the floor.
The second quarter both teams netted 8 points and we went into half time with the same margin we finished the first quarter with. Needham made several half time adjustments, changing matchups and identifying players to key up on in the third quarter. Jack Idelson scored 8 of his team high 10 points in the third quarter propelling Needham to their first lead of the night 29-28 after three quarters.
Newton played very strong over the last 8 minutes and used their strength and size to outscore Needham 15-10 in the final frame. Newton advanced with a 43-39 over a very well coached Needham group and will play Belmont in the Elite 8.
#2 Westboro vs #15 Southborough
Westboro started off the game with one of the most impressive runs of the day, scoring 18 straight points before Southboro scored their first basket. Westboro, led by the Matt and Mike Doherty, play a fast, up-tempo style of basketball and punish teams for not getting back in transition. Matt lead the game in scoring with 17 points but what was most impressive was his overall court vision. Scanning the floor and always looking for teammates. Matt tallied seven assists, five steals, and nine rebounds in a very well rounded game. Twin brother Mike may not have shown up as dramatically in the score sheet but the scrappy defender and high energy guard added 11 points to go along with 10 rebounds, and countless tips and deflections. Dominic Casparriello added 15 points knocking down 15-footer after 15-footer and punished Southboro for trying to help on the countless Doherty drives.
Despite having three guys in double digits, the really impressive characteristic of this team is their overall togetherness. From the way they help each other up off the floor, to cheering each other on from the sideline, these boys compete for each other from layup lines to the final whistle. Final Score - Westboro 62 Southboro 29.
#7 Burlington vs #10 Canton
Just as in the March Madness Brackets of the NCAA the 7 vs 10 game is always entertaining. Having just watched Westboro advance to the Elite 8, both teams would fight all game long for the chance to match up with what most people are calling the favorites to win the whole tournament. Canton has impressive length across the board and when they play their 2-3 Zone it make it very difficult for teams to run their offense.
Leading by eight points after the first, Canton would go on to push their lead to 15 points entering the final quarter. Behind three consecutive 3-pointers, Burlington came out hot in the fourth quarter cutting the deficit to only a handful with just under two minutes to play. Canton’s lead guard Devin Foster (15pts) knocked down eight straight free-throws in the waning minutes, under pressure, to hold off the late Burlington push. Final Score - Canton 59 Burlington 51
#1 Brookline vs #16 Sharon
Brookline led this game from start to finish proving why they are the number one team in this talented field of 8th grade teams. Behind a 33-point first quarter, Brookline jumped out to a 21-point advantage after just one quarter of action.
Sharon, playing without 6’4 Daniel Schlakman, was forced to adjust their style of play, and find out new ways to generate offense. The Eagles moved the ball well and played an unselfish brand of basketball tallying 20 assists in their losing effort.
Brookline was forced to play without their power forward as well, Chris Camille, who may not return for the remainder of the playoffs. Despite not having Camille, Brookline controlled the glass and was able to showcase their depth in an impressive victory over Sharon. Sharon’s Ali Ghaddar was the game’s leading scorer with 23 points. Final Score - Brookline 73 Sharon 46
#8 West Roxbury vs #9 Wellesley
Behind strong guard play from Alex Stoddard (16pts), Wellesley took a 28-14 lead into the half. The teams went back and forth throughout the first half. Despite Wellesley’s sizable lead, everyone in the gym could sense it was only a matter of time before West Roxbury made their run. The second half West Roxbury’s defense picked up and the intensity of the game amplified as the crowd grew.
Marc Henli of West Roxbury scored 12 of his game high 20 points in the second half and helped his team grab a one-point lead with just under 30 seconds to play in the game. Wellesley would call upon their leader Alex Stoddard once more, who banked in a floater to give Wellesley a one-point advantage with just under 12 seconds to play.
West Roxbury had one more chance in a game that appeared that whichever team had the ball last would walk away victorious. A great offensive set left a West Roxbury guard wide open from the foul line, but the shot rattled in and out and Wellesley would hang on to advance. Final Score - Wellesley 54 West Roxbury 53.
#4 Arlington vs. # 13 Sudbury
Arlington, lead by James Gascoigne (16 pts) and point guard Amani Gottlieb, was too much for Sudbury from the opening jump. Gottlieb was not too flashy when checking the score sheet, but was one of the most solid point guards of the day. He ran his team and helped get the ball to where it needed to be. Sudbury was rattled with injury and had to play with their star forward Judson Martindale stuck on the bench with a broken wrist. Sudbury fought from the first whistle to the final horn, but the depth and strength of Arlington proved to be too much. Final Score - Arlington 60 Sudbury 41
#5 Easton vs. #12 Mansfield
As a reminder, Easton was last year’s runners up in the Division-1 7th grade MetroWest tournament. They have had their ups and downs this season, but have seemed to figure it all out at the perfect time. Team defense is something that was not seen much throughout the Sweet 16, but the last game of the night Easton put on a clinic in what it means to have five guys guard the ball. Players rotated to help, other players slid down to help the helper, it was really impressive to watch how hard Easton worked on the defensive end of the ball.
Lead by point guard Tim Kemp (13pts 5 steals), forward Jake Erlich (15pts 7 rebs) and Center Ethan Eckstrim (15pts 8 rebs), Easton played great team basketball for 32 straight minutes. They shared the ball, and looked for a good shot on every possession that when they slowed it down.
Mansfield’s Khristian Connor finished with a game high 16 points, but was forced to work for each and every basket he made. Help rotated over, and Connor saw constant double teams. Easton’s scheme was properly executed. Final Score - Easton 55 Mansfield 35.
Elite 8 Predictions
#1 Brookline advancing over #9 Wellesley. The depth of Brookline will be too much for Wellesley to overcome.
#5 Easton over #4 Arlington – Going to be the best game of the Elite 8. This game should go down to the wire, but Easton’s focus on the defensive end will give them what it takes to reach the Final 4!
#6 Newton over #3 Belmont – Belmont is very skilled, but I believe the strength and toughness of Newton will prove to be too much for Belmont to handle.
#2 Westboro over #10 Canton- Unfortunate draw for Canton, as they could be one of the top 3 or 4 teams in this tournament. However, Westboro is just too fast and will create enough scoring in transition to eliminate Canton’s zone.