Nik Stauskas netted 14 of his team-high 19 points in the second half to help lead St. Mark’s over Tilton, 59-53, in the NEPSAC Class AA tournament final at Endicott College in Beverly Sunday.
The Lions (26-1) avenged a 72-57 loss to Tilton in last year’s title game, and snapped a string of four NEPSAC titles for the Rams (25-6).
“This win means a lot to us,’’ said St. Mark’s coach David Lubick. “We had to play them last year and we knew they were going to be the team to beat this season. They’re tremendously talented and it’s something we’ve had our eyes set on for, honestly, two years.’’
Stauskas, the Michigan-bound tournament MVP, connected on four of eight shots from behind the arc and an old fashion 3-point play with 2:53 left to put the Lions up, 51-42, effectively ending any chance of a Rams’ comeback.
“Nik did some amazing things,’’ said Lubick. “He also did some things that are going to give me nightmares, but he came through, he made shots. He’s an unbelievable shooter and that reverse layup just shows how hard he’s worked. Nik’s a gym rat, he just loves the game, and when he comes to play all bets are off.’’
St. Mark’s jumped out to a 21-11 lead, aided by hot shooting and a physical approach on defensive. The Lions connected on six 3-pointers in the first half, and held the Rams scoreless for a six-minute stretch that ended with 3:20 to play, when Georges Niang drew a foul and connected on both free throws to bring the Rams within 21-13.
Niang, the 6-foot-7-inch future Iowa State Cyclone, finished with 19 points for the Rams, scoring all but 5 of Tilton’s first-half points. The Lions limited the Rams to just five field goals and 18 points in the half.
“We were very concerned about George,’’ said Lubick. “I think George Niang, in terms of how wise he is as a basketball player, might be the best I’ve ever coached against. All our preparation on defense was about trying to stop him.”
Tilton’s 6-11 junior Nerlens Noel (10 points), who is ranked No. 3 on the Rivals.com top 150 recruits in the class of 2013, was a force defensively, blocking four shots and racking up four steals.
St. Mark’s 7-foot center, Kaleb Tarczewski (8 points, 7 rebound, 5 blocks), ranked No. 20 in the class of 2012, battled Noel down low all game. Tarczewski will attend Arizona next season.
Division 1 North
Acton-Boxboro 63, Lawrence 58 - Senior center Kevin LaFrancis exploded for 20 points and 11 rebounds and senior forward Jake Pilecki finished with 20 points to lift the host Colonials.
Lexington 64, Westford 62 - Senior captain Pat Burns netted 22 points, all in the second half, and collected 12 rebounds as the Minutemen topped the Grey Ghosts.
Central Catholic 61, Lowell 49 - Junior forward Doug Gemell netted a game-high 21 points to spark the 22-1 Raiders.
Division 3 North
Saugus 67, Whittier 53 - Senior guard Curtis Casella exploded with 29 points, including six 3-pointers, as the Sachems topped the host Wildcats. Senior forward Max Soto recorded a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds for Saugus (13-9).
Arlington Catholic 61, Newburyport 53 - Bob Wesokokie scored 12 points, including the 1,000th of his career, for the Cougars.
Northfield Mount Hermon 74, St. Thomas More 70 - Senior guard Spike Albrecht powered the Hoggers with 23 points and senior guard Ethan O’Day added 16 points.
Division 1 North Lincoln-Sudbury 56, Lynn English 41 - Junior forward Ashley Lutz netted a game-high 26 points to go along with 13 rebounds for the Warriors.
Division 2 North
Concord-Carlisle 51, North Andover 38 - The Patriots were led by Jessie Castelline, who scored a game-high 26 points. Halle Burns added 13. The Knights’ leading scorer was Morgan Lumb with 23.
Division 3 North
Pentucket 56, Newburyport 29 - Senior guard Sarah Higgins led the way for the Sachems, collecting 24 points, 9 rebounds, and 8 steals. Junior guard Coley Viselli contributed 8 points and 4 assists.
Nobles 53, New Hampton 43 - Sophomore Kate Kerrigan earned tournament MVP honors with 21 points and 6 steals and host Nobles took the Class A title. Nobles (25-1) also got 12 points and 12 rebounds from captain Lauren Taiclet and a clinching 3-pointer from Hannah Peterson with two minutes left.
Rivers 60, Tilton 42 - Tournament MVP Jen Berkowitz had 19 points and 12 rebounds and Rivers (22-3) outscored Tilton, 36-21, in the second half. Junior Emilee Daley had 14 points, and URI-bound Tayra Melendez added 13, including 10 in the second half.
Southfield 55, Hamden Hall Country Day 39 - Led by the defense of Class D tournament MVP Barbara Terwilliger and 20 points from Rainey Cox, Southfield raced to a 26-16 halftime lead and never looked back. Cox, who became the first player in school history to score 1,000 points, added 11 rebounds and 4 assists.
Division 3 South
Rockland 3, Somerset Berkley 0 - Rockland (16-5-1) scored all three goals in the second period, two by senior Kevin Sheehan. Shawn Kane added the third score.
Lawrence Academy 3, Nobles 2 - Senior wingers Devin Tringale and Tyler Whitney each had a goal and an assist for the Spartans, and senior Nano Heildrom made 28 saves, including several big ones down the stretch.
Nobles 2, Lawrence Academy 0 - Nobles won its sixth NEPSAC title in 12 years, getting goals from Mary Parker and Natasha Rachlin to finish 28-0-1. Parker scored the first goal in the second period on assists from MK Cruise and Lexi Laing. Rachlin made it 2-0 with an unassisted goal in the third period. Lexi’s sister, Brianna, made 19 saves to record the shutout.
Proctor 5, Middlesex 4 - Michelle Holmes earned MVP honors in Division 2, scoring three goals, including the winner. The other two Proctor goals were scored by Brea Davis and Nikki Gorman.