Worcester in general and the Central Mass. Conference in particular were well represented last year in the Central Mass. Division 1 Boys Basketball Tournament.
Central Mass. Conference (CMC) members St. John’s, Holy Name and St. Peter-Marian were the second, third and fourth seeds, respectively, in the tournament. In addition, Doherty was the No. 7 seed and North High was seeded 10th in the 11-team tournament.
The Pioneers advanced all the way to the final, beating the Naps in a semifinal-round game in the process. St. John’s lost the final, however, 67-64, to top-seeded Franklin High, which eventually lost in the Division 1 state final to Cambridge Rindge & Latin. The Pioneers finished last season 19-4; while Holy Name ended the season with a 17-5 mark.
In the other Division 1 semifinal last year St. Peter-Marian lost to the aforementioned Franklin, 54-44. The Guardians finished 15-9 last season. Doherty, which was 13-7 a year ago, was upset in its opening-round game by North, 72-63. The Polar Bears finished the season 11-11.
“The CMC, it’s a good brand of basketball; in 2012 all four teams (HN, SJ, SPM and St. Bernard’s) won at least 15 games,” said Holy Name coach Jason Chavoor, now in his 15th year leading the Naps. “SPM is good; St. John’s is good. Everyone is good right now.
“St. Peter-Marian has Shamar Dennis; he’s probably the best player in the league; he scored 12 points a game last year as a freshman,” continued Chavoor, a St. John’s graduate. “We have Devandre Edmonds back. Devandre (14.9 ppg in 2016-2017) was a league All-Star and a Super Team member last year. St. John’s has Sean Burke (leading returning scorer, 13.3 ppg), who is very good. And Doherty, since you mentioned how they were seeded seventh in last year’s tournament, has Marty Silvera (22.1 ppg last season), who is the best scorer in the area.”
So, how will these teams fare this year? Will the Division 1 Tournament in 2018 be another “Worcester Invitational” the way the 2017 season was? Let’s take a peek at each of the teams.
Less than 48 hours after winning the Massachusetts Division 3 Football Championship with a 35-33 win over North Attleboro on Dec. 1, Steven Bucciaglia and Hunter Gorgas joined their basketball teammates for a Sunday afternoon scrimmage against Chicopee Comprehensive.
No rest for the weary, the wicked or for members of the best football team in school history, apparently.
The Pioneers made the most of the scrimmage, opening the season Dec. 8 with a 76-46 win over Nashoba Regional. Freshman Lucas SanFratello was the surprise of the night, leading all scorers with 26 points, 18 coming off six three-pointers. Burke, a senior, added 19 points.
Other seniors on the team in addition to Burke are Bucciaglia, Gorgas, Denzel Darteh and Ryan Hardenbrook. Big things were expected from a sixth senior, Ty Mola, but Mola may miss the entire season due to a broken ankle.
Juniors on the Pioneers’ roster include: Bobby Duquette; Ben SanFratello; and John Love. Jack Carelli is the lone sophomore on the team. Rounding out the squad are freshmen Lucas SanFratello and Nathan Bangandozou.
Burke is the team’s leading returning scorer, having averaged 13.3 ppg last season. Alex Bradley, who graduated, and Mola each averaged better than 14 ppg. Lucas SanFratello, according to a media member on hand Friday night, is a star in the making. Gorgas averaged seven points a game last year. The 6-foot-7 center/forward scored eight Friday night against Nashoba.
With the win against Nashoba added to his career record, longtime St. John’s coach Bob Foley is now just eight wins shy of an eye-popping and mind-boggling 900 for his career.
The Naps lost their season-opener, 59-55, to Portsmouth (R.I.) High, on Saturday night.
“It was a good game; we were up by a point with a minute left and we just couldn’t close the deal,” Chavoor said. “I was happy with our effort. They’re a good team and the game was on the road. I thought it was an all-around good experience for the kids.
“We started playing them two years ago in the Barrington (R.I.) Holiday Classic,” Chavoor said of Portsmouth High. “I made a connection with their coach (Joseph Occhi) so we decided that we were going to try and play every year. They came up here last year and we beat them by eight points and then yesterday we went back down there and lost by four.”
Portsmouth won the first meeting of the team, in 2015, by nine points.
Chavoor said the Naps are finding their way right now in the early going after having lost their top three guards – James Trottier, Dhalyn Sanders-Dyer and Sam Adusei – from last year. Trottier and Sanders-Dyer graduated and Adusei, who would be a junior this year, transferred to a prep school.
“That’s a loss of about 35 points a game from last year’s team,” explained Chavoor. “James and Dhalyn each averaged 14 points a game and Adusei averaged nine points per game.”
Chavoor is hoping he Naps can fill the void with the play of Edmonds, freshman Tommy Dunn and junior Alvin Kouassi. Edmonds scored nine points against Portsmouth Saturday night while Dunn added 11 and Kouassi led the way with 12. Junior Elieser Ortiz added 10 points.
“We’re hoping Dunn can put the ball in the hoop for us a little, Edmonds can add a couple of points on to his average from last year and that we can get consistent contributions from Alvin and Elieser.”
Edmonds led the CMC in scoring last year with a 13.9 ppg average.
Rounding out the Holy Name roster are seniors Louis Davolio, Manny Raymond, Nick Cariglia, Sam Ampofo and Ryan Prosser, junior Varum Nathan, sophomore Max Lucas and freshmen Christian Rivera and Logan Talbot.
The Naps opens the Massachusetts portion of their season at 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 12 at South High.
Dennis leads a returning 6-man nucleus for the Guardians that combined to score about 45 points a game last year.
“Shamar is a very talented young man; we’re very excited about his potential,” St. Peter-Marian coach Marcus Watson said about the sophomore, who averaged 12.2 points per game last season.
Also back in the fold for Watson and the Guardians are: senior Shamar Simms (9.2 ppg last season); juniors Bobby Letourneau (8.7 ppg); Jeff Sullivan (7.8 ppg); Quion Sneed (4.5 ppg) and senior Matt Dumphy (4.1 ppg).
Watson said Demarr Langford Jr., who averaged 8.3 ppg last year as a sophomore, has transferred to the Putnam (Conn.) Science Academy and Bam Bam Brima, who would have been a junior center on the team, has moved to Philadelphia with his family.
Rounding out the St. Peter-Marian roster this season is senior Josh Pace, juniors John Butler, Aaron Fannoh and Owen Leary, sophomore C.J. Holmberg, freshman Cody Smith and eighth-grader Alex Karaban.
The Guardians have complemented their local schedule this season with a trip to Florida where they will play two games in a tournament in Naples. St. Peter-Marian will play Lely High of Naples in the first game, who Watson said won the Florida equivalent of the Central Mass. Tournament last year, and First Baptist Academy of Naples, a national program that features a 7-foot center.
“While we’re down there we will also do some community service,” Watson said. “We’re bringing down donations we’ve collected and we will be distributing them to hurricane victims. We’re about a little bit more than basketball.”
Watson wasn’t surprised to learn that the CMC was so well represented last year in the Division 1 Tournament.
“It’s a good league,” Watson said. “When you’ve got a coach like Bob Foley in your league, a man who is closing in on 900 wins; it raises the level of competition for everyone else. He, and St. John’s, is the benchmark that everyone else shoots for.
“Central Mass. basketball doesn’t get the credit it deserves,” Watson continued. “When people think about basketball in Massachusetts they think about Boston teams; teams like BC High and New Mission, and teams in the Merrimack Valley. But, as people around here know, there is a very good brand of basketball being played in Central Massachusetts.”
St. Peter-Marian will open its season at 7 p.m., Dec. 15 against Tantasqua Regional in the first round of the Bishop Reilly Tournament. The Guardians CMC schedule gets underway with a game against Holy Name at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 19. St. Peter-Marian will renew its rivalry with Doherty High at 6:30 p.m., Dec. 21.
The Highlanders dropped their season-opening game Friday night, losing to Boston’s New Mission High School – the defending Division 2 state champion, 71-66.
Silvera, a junior guard, picked up against New Mission where he left off last season, pouring in a game-high 28 points. Senior center Norberto Nader added 20 points and sophomore forward Alex Momo chipped in with 17.
New Mission, which featured a balanced attack – six players scored at least 10 points, led, 28-21 at the half.
Rounding out the Highlanders roster are: seniors Connor Bisnette, Steve Chivallatti, Corey Clark, Patson Pierre, Noah Waterman and Kevin Skilja; junior John Forson; sophomores Malikai Delgado and Tyrone Adams-Davis; and freshman Noah Callery.
Doherty will be back in action at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 12, when it hosts Algonquin Regional.