By Jim Stout
One team reached the state Division I championship game in 2006. The other would like to get there on its first try in 2007. Last week, the two met for the first time this season. Could another meeting, perhaps deep into the post-season, be in the cards?
East Boston High, ranked No. 1 in Eastern Mass by the Boston Herald and No. 3 by the Globe, traveled west to Worcester last week to face Holy Name, ranked No. 1 in Central Mass after being a Division I finalist last March.
East Boston, which has moved up to Division 1 this season, capitalized on a team-high 19 points by Tyrone Hughes and some poor foul shooting by Holy Name (8-of-20 for the game) in scoring a 65-56 win in one of the season's first big interregional matchups.
After trailing by as many as 12 in the second half, Holy Name closed to within 51-47 with five minutes to play in the game as Dominique Price took over for the Naps, leading his team on an 11-3 run with eight of his 21 points. Mike Baldarelli, who led all scorers with 22, added a three-point play during the rally.
But after Holy Name had pulled to within the four points, East Boston's Eleazar Clayton muscled his way to a pivotal basket and Hughes (19 points) got a friendly bounce on a 3-pointer as the lead quickly swelled to nine with under four minutes to play.
Hughes scored 12 of his team-high 19 points in the second half for East Boston.
"Dominique Price really showed why he is a top 150 prospect, but I thought that if we are able to run tonight, that we might be able to have some success," East Boston coach Malcolm Smith told the Worcester Telegram.
"Our game plan was really to play Baldarelli 94 feet, don't give him anything, but the kid I was most concerned with was Ryan (Brown). I think he is the best player on this team, and you can quote me on that. I thought if we were able to contain him and hold him under 19 points we would have a good shot, and I don't know if he got 19 or not."
Brown was held to just one field goal and three points, missing every attempt he put up from 3-point range.
"I think (East Boston's) pressure hurt our offense. They pressured the ball extremely well and they were all over the place and our shots just weren't falling," said Holy Name coach Jason Chavoor. "Ryan missed a bunch of shots; Mike missed a bunch of shots. The shots just weren't falling."
Baldarelli, who scored his 1,000th point earlier this week against Worcester South, scored 19 points for Holy Name and grabbed 11 rebounds, while Price had a game-high 21 points to go along with 10 boards.
Holy Name reached the state Division I final a year ago before losing to Newton North.
Lawrence Tourney Nearly Spawns Epic Upset
In what was nearly one of the greatest upsets in tournament history, Greater Lawrence had mighty Lawrence on the ropes, but a crucial injury and some inspired Lawrence play enabled the Lancers to hang on for a 65-56 win in the first round of the 32nd annual Greater Lawrence Boys Christmas Tournament.
Greater Lawrence (4-1) nearly pulled off the upset despite senior guard Jose Vidal (21 points) being hobbled for most of the second half after suffering a high ankle sprain.
"I would have loved to have seen (Vidal healthy)," Greater Lawrence coach Chet Jackson told the North Andover Eagle-Tribune. "He picked up his fourth foul and twisted his ankle at the wrong time. We just didn't make enough plays."
Danny Singh (21 points) fueled a late 16-3 run by Lawrence (3-1), allowing his team to finally pull away.
In other first-round rivalry games, Pinkerton stayed with Salem for the first half, but the Blue Devil defense didn't give the Astros any breathing room after that and came away with a 59-41 win.
Central Catholic was too much for Methuen, with the Raiders rolling to an 82-49 victory.
North Andover had the lead much of the way but Andover closed with a flurry to earn a 61-56 decision.
The tournament resumes Dec. 27.
Season Unfolding Brightly for Beverly.
Seth Stantial drilled the game-winning 3-pointer as time expired to give unbeaten Beverly (4-0) a thrilling 65-64 overtime victory at Winthrop.
Stephen Hawkins' tip-in with two seconds to play in regulation tied the game at 56. Then with time winding down in OT, Furcy Ferreras drew the defense towards him before firing it back out to Stantial on the right wing for the game-winner.
"He (Stantial) drilled it," Beverly coach Scott Lewis told the Salem News. "Seth got a good look at it; he has the green light to go anytime like that.
"We were trying to drive it inside all game; that's how we got back into it when we were down four points with under a minute to go, Lewis added. "But when (Winthrop) collapsed and Seth was open late, I'm glad he was there to hit it."
Matt Tobin of Beverly led all scorers with 24 points and added 11 rebounds. Stantial finished with 11 points, Ferreras with eight points and eight assists, and Brian Skerry finished with six points and eight rebounds.
Archbishop Williams Looking to Go Far
A year ago, Archbishop Williams' junior-oriented team won their first Catholic Central League title since 1989 and reached the Division 3 state semifinals for the first time in school history.
With only two players having graduated from that team, the Bishops are looking to advance one step further and reach the state championship this season. Eight seniors are back and make up an experienced core that earned a school-best 22-3 record last season.
"Last year, I think we just snuck up on everyone," Bishops guard Lambros Papalambros told the Boston Globe.
Now they realize getting back to the tournament will require a lot work and a little luck. Expectations are high.
The Bishops realized their potential last January, when they came from behind to defeat league rival Cardinal Spellman, 54-52. They ended the season undefeated in the league and went on to claim the South Sectional title. In the state semifinals, Williams led at halftime, but turnovers led to a 60-57 loss against Minuteman Regional.
"At first we didn't expect to make it that far," said senior forward James Marcellus. "Last year was a big surprise, but we realized we could play with a lot of teams in the state."
"Last year is history, and we need to start all over and prove ourselves again," said Archbishop Williams coach Ged Phelan.
BABC Classic One of the Best
Highlighting holiday tournament play this week will be the Chelsea BABC Classic. Chelsea will host Eastern Mass powers Madison Park, Newton North, Lexington, Archbishop Williams and Cambridge. Longtime Connecticut state contender Wilbur Cross of New Haven is the strongest out-of-state team.
Jim Stout is the MaxPreps.com master photographer for the Massachusetts/Rhode Island area and a Northeast region columnist. He may be reached at email@example.com