---- — Division 1 North
Top Seeds: 1. St. John’s Prep 18-2; 2. Lowell 17-3; 3. Westford 16-4; 4. Central Catholic 17-5
Power Players: Anthony Gilardi, Malden, 18.4 ppg.; Rodney Morton, Malden, 18.3 ppg.; Sean Doncaster, Medford, 17.5 ppg.; Drew Costello, SJP, 14.1; Tyler Dooley, SJP, 11.0; Stevie Collins, Lynn English, 16.0 ppg.; Jonathan Perez, Lowell; Timmance McKinney, Everett; Fredens Deneus, Cambridge
Bracket Breakdown: A funny thing happened on the way to St. John’s Prep’s coronation as king of the North. Lynn English took the Eagles down in the finals of the IAABO Board 130 Classic at Central. Stevie Collins and the boys looked might good doing it. Mighty good as in Travonne Berry-Rogers/Ryan Woumn good. We all remember that run in ‘09, right?
I still love the backcourt of Drex Costello and Tyler Dooley. And Plaistow’s Ben Judson might just be the sophomore that indeed puts the Eagles over the top. But things have changed in the last two weeks. Central is no longer the beast, and the Prep is beatable. Lowell put a hurting on the Raiders this week. It’s wide open, and we haven’t even mentioned Westford, which knocked off North Andover in the final week.
Longo’s selections: 1. Lynn English – Love the swagger of the city kids. 2. Central – Losses to the Prep and Lowell have to be considered mere bumps in the road. 3. St. John’s Prep – Love the guards.
Sectional Sleeper: A No. 2 seed is the sleeper? Yep. Nobody wants to talk about the third-place team in the MVC, but Scott Boyle’s club has only lost to the Knights and Central, avenging that one this week.
No. 4 Central Catholic (17-5)
Opener: Wednesday, hosts No. 13 Malden
Prime time players: Tyler Nelson, Jr., 14.9 ppg.; Nick Cambio, Jr., 13.9 ppg.; Doug Gemmell, Sr., 13.2 ppg.; Joel Berroa, Sr., 12.0 ppg.; Lucas Hammel, Sr., 5.3 ppg.; Jamahl Lopez, Sr., MVC all-star.
The road ahead: A quarterfinal date with a beatable Waltham looms. I wouldn’t be surprised if Cambridge knocks off Waltham in the lone upset of Round 1. A semifinal date with the Prep or upset-minded would follow. Raiders stumbled late, losing two of last three.
No. 8 Andover (14-6)
Opener: Tuesday, hosts No. 9 Medford
Prime time players: Sam Dowden, Sr., 15.2 ppg.; Chris Dunn, Sr., 12.5 ppg.; David Giribaldi, Soph., 8.3 ppg.; Tyler Verrette, Sr., MVC all-star; Max Silveira, Sr., MVC all-star
The road ahead: The goal was to play Central Catholic on a neutral floor. That might happen for the Golden Warriors, but they’ll have to knock off top-seeded St. John’s in the North quarters first. Medford is a very winnable opener.
No. 14 Haverhill (11-9)
Opener: Tuesday, at Westford, 7 p.m.
Prime time players: Saul Phiri, Frosh., 13.3 ppg.; Anthony Dionne, Jr., 12.4 ppg.; Matt Jameson, Jr., 11.2 ppg.; Shain Roche, Sr., 3.8 ppg.
The road ahead: Considering the Prep, Lowell and Central were the alternatives, the Hillies have to be content with the first-round draw of Westford. Pull off the upset there, and they match up rather well with Lynn English.
Division 2 North
Top Seeds: 1. Melrose 20-0, 2. North Andover 16-4, 3. Wakefield 15-5, 4. Salem 15-5
Power Players: Frantzy Pierrot, Melrose, 19.6 ppg.; Kendall Hamilton, Wakefield, 16.8 ppg.; Sam Jean-Gilles, Melrose, 14.1; Shane Farley, Burlington, 19.2 ppg.; Nate Anderson, New Mission; Isshiah Coleman, New Mission
Bracket Breakdown: Melrose played 17 games in the Middlesex and added wins over Whittier, Arlington Catholic and Dorchester. Does that make the top seeds vulnerable? If not, then the stacked side of the bracket should.
Longo’s selections: 1. North Andover – Knights are battle-tested and ready. 2. Brighton – Beat Danvers, played BC High tough and won the Boston City title. That’s good enough for me. 3. Salem – Quick and ready to pounce. Christian Dunston has the Witches primed for a run.
Sectional Sleeper: No. 8 New Mission pushed Brighton to the limit in the city finals. Their length will give teams fits.
No. 2 North Andover (16-4)
Opener: Thursday, hosts Latin Academy-Chelsea winner, 7 p.m.
Prime time players: Chris Bardwell, Sr., 21.6 ppg.; Isaiah Nelsen, Sr., 17.7 ppg.; Derek Collins, Sr., 13.1 ppg.; Brendan Miller, Jr., 7.0 ppg.
The road ahead: Nobody, most notably me, wants to heap pressure on the Knights. But … Melrose, Salem, Brighton and New Mission are all on the other side of the bracket, meaning no heavyweights until the North finals. Wakefield is the team to watch before the sectional finals.
Division 3 North
Top Seeds: 1. North Reading 20-0; 2. Danvers 18-2; 3. Whittier 19-2; 4. Wayland 16-4
Power Players: T. J. Hairston, Watertown, 15.9 ppg.; Kevin Dipietriantonio, Watertown, 14.4 ppg.; Jaleel Bell, Wayland
Bracket Breakdown: A test of the Cape Ann League and how it stands up. Danvers had been the talk of the North Shore since December, but closing losses to Brighton and Newton North have sent the Falcons’ stock tumbling. Whittier is in it to win it, with four impact seniors who are tourney tested and very dangerous. Oh, did we mention that North Reading haven’t lost yet? If the CAL is legit, it could be the Hornets’ year. But something tells me D3N is wide open for the taking.
Longo’s selections: 1. Watertown – Cinderella lives. By the time, you can figure out how to spell Dipietriantonio, the biggest shocker of March will be completed. 2. North Reading – Stifling defense, timely scoring and a school sports program that is soaring right now. 3. Whittier Tech – Last call for the Wildcat Four.
Sectional Sleeper: Stoneham steps up and shows the Middlesex as a force to reckon with.
No. 1 North Reading (20-0)
Opener: Host Northeast/Watertown winner, March 3, time TBA
Prime time players: John Mastascusa, Sr., 12.4; Dan Hogan, Sr., 10.3; Chris Capozzoli, Sr., 8.5
The road ahead: A couple Middlesex League hurdles in Watertown and Stoneham lie in the Hornets’ path. They’re not as sexy as a final with Danvers or Whittier, but they could be lethal.
No. 3 Whittier Tech (19-2)
Opener: Host No. 14 Amesbury, Wednesday, 7 p.m.
Prime time players: Justin Reyes, Sr., 20.2 ppg.; Ryan Grant, Sr., 13.3 ppg.; Andrew Wells, Sr., 13.0 ppg.; Nathan Frongillo, Sr., 9.3 ppg.
The road ahead: Amesbury will be physical up front, but probably shouldn’t be able to match the Cat quicks. Can Whittier outlast the likes of the Indians, Newburyport or Ham-Wenham from the CAL, then upset Danvers, before a potential sectional final with North Reading? We shall see.
No. 15 Gr. Lawrence Tech (10-10)
Opener: At. No. 2 Danvers, Wednesday, 7 p.m.
Prime time players: Oscar Reynoso, Sr., 15.5; Frankelly Estrella, Sr., 9.9
The road ahead: Honestly, one more team at .500 might have helped the Reggies’ draw. No. 16 wouldn’t have had to mow down Danvers and two others before a date with unbeaten North Reading. That fate lies ahead.
Division 4 North
Top Seeds: 1. St. Clement 16-4; 2. Matignon 14-6; 3. Pope John 14-6; 4. Lynnfield 13-7
Bracket Breakdown: Winthrop has soo many 30-50 point losses for me to believe. That places this one as a Catholic Central vs. Cape Ann League war. They’re outgunned in numbers, but I like the prospects of both Lynnfield and Manchester-Essex. The Pioneers own a pair of wins over M-E and played North Reading tough early in the year. M-E’s Liam Aldrich might be the top player in the sectional, but Lynnfield might be the most balanced team.
Longo’s selections: 1. Lynnfield – The CAL small champs can ride Connor Sullivan. 2. Manchester-Essex – Have knocked on the door repeatedly. 3. Mystic Valley – The best of the rest.
Sectional Sleeper: Winthrop – Have you noticed the lack of love for the Catholic Central from this corner?