The MIAA Division 1-5 boys’ basketball state finals will be held Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at Tsongas Center in Lowell. Here’s a look at all the matchups.
Matchup: NEEDHAM (22-2) vs. WORCESTER NORTH (22-2)
Sunday at Tsongas Arena, 6 p.m.
Coaches: Paul Liner, 15th year (Needham); Al Pettway, 20th year (Worcester North).
Needham starting 5: G Brian Cloonan (Jr.); G Chris Camozzi (Jr.); G Jackson Shaw (Jr.); F Henry Bickford (Sr.); F Campbell Keyes (Jr.)
Worcester North starting 5: G Tahlan Pettway (Jr.); G Amir Jenkins (Soph.); G Khari Bryan (Soph.); F Teshaun Steele (Jr.); F Joseph Okla (Jr.).
Players to watch/Needham: Bickford, a 6-foot-6-inch forward, leads a balanced offense with the ability to score down low and from the perimeter. Bickford scored the winning hoop on a put-back in the quarterfinal win over Central Catholic and filled the stat sheet with 23 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 steals in the state semifinal win over North Andover, displaying his 3-point shooting and athleticism in the open court.
Player to watch/Worcester North: Pettway is a quick and skilled guard capable of scoring at all three levels. Backcourt mates Jenkins and Bryan are tough downhill drivers and thrive in the open court. Big men Steele and Okla are constantly active in the paint. But sophomore guard Ty Tabales is the X-factor off the bench. Arguably the team’s best offensive player, Tabales spent 18 days in the hospital with a serious bout of toxic shock syndrome in late December. He returned to the court in February and is slowly regaining his footing, evidenced by his 10-point fourth-quarter performance in the semifinal win over Newton North.
The lowdown: Needham’s spacing, cutting, and passing is a thing of beauty. It fired on all cylinders in a rout of North Andover on Wednesday. The Rockets also dig in on the defensive end, allowing just 46 points per game. Do they have the size and athleticism to keep up with Worcester North? The Polar Bears are big, strong, and athletic and They haven’t lost an in-state game this season, owning a pair of wins over Newton North and a neutral court victory over Lawrence. The Polar Bears also thrive on the defensive end with active hands and relentless pressure led by Pettway and Jenkins. Worcester North is most dangerous in transition, but Needham takes care of the ball at an extremely high rate. Both teams are seeking their first state title.
Matchup: MALDEN CATHOLIC (22-2) vs. MANSFIELD (24-2)
Friday at Tsongas Arena, 5:30 p.m.
Coaches: John Walsh, 3rd year (Malden Catholic); Mike Vaughan, 18th year (Mansfield).
Malden Catholic starting 5: G Matt Gaffney (So.); F Ben Howard (So.); G Nick Martinez (Sr.); G Buckley Moody (Jr.); F Ethan Tracy (Sr.)
Mansfield starting 5: F Caden Colby (Sr.); G Nate Creedon (So.); F Chris Hill (Sr.); G Eddie McCoy (Jr.); F JT Veiking (Sr.).
Player to watch/Malden Catholic: Martinez, the co-MVP of the Catholic Conference, is averaging 19 points per game and is one of the best on-ball defenders. He brings a stabilizing presence for a Lancers team that has had several players stepping into larger roles during their title defense. Martinez is dangerous in the open floor and has the ability to hit a tough shot when the offense breaks down.
Player to watch/Mansfield: McCoy, whose older brother Johnny led the Hornets towon the D1 state title in 2018, is coming on strong with 20-plus points in all four of Mansfield’s state tournament winsHe is averaging 23 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 steals per game during the tournament and poured in a career-high 31 points on 12-of-17 shooting in the Round of 16 win against Salem.
The lowdown: The Hornets have been perennial contenders under Vaughan with nine trips to the sectional final, five trips to the state semifinals, and three state title appearances over the last 13 years. All those accolades came in Division 1, but the Hornets are still facing a top-tier program in Malden Catholic. Walsh (’98) took over at his alma mater in 2020 and immediately brought the Lancers back to prominence, winning their first Catholic Conference crown since he was a captain in 1997. Coming off the first title in program history, the Lancers are experienced and well-coached with a sophisticated offensive system and sharp shooters all over the floor. Walsh’s squad has shown its depth by withstanding season-ending injuries to Roger Vasquez and Abe Camara, with Ethan Tracy stepping into the starting lineup.
Matchup: ARCHBISHOP WILLIAMS (23-1) vs. ST. MARY’S (19-7)
Saturday at Tsongas Arena, 2 p.m.
Coaches: Brian Holden, 5th year (Archbishop Williams), David Brown, 10th year (St. Mary’s).
Archbishop Williams starting 5: G Josh Campbell (Sr.); G Charlie Connors (Sr.); F Andres Espaillat (Jr.); F Lorenzo Jackson (Sr.); G Tristan Rodriguez (Jr.).
St. Mary’s starting 5: G David Brown Jr. (Sr.); G Derick Coulanges (Sr.); G Anthony D’Itria (Sr.); F Omri Merryman (Sr.); F Nick Sacco (Sr.).
Player to watch/Archies: Campbell is a high-flying 6-foot-3 senior guard from Plymouth who is averaging 22 points and 8 rebounds per game and recently topped 1,000 career points during a 65-62 win over Cardinal Spellman in the state semifinals. When Archies and St. Mary’s tangled in early February, it was Campbell who scored the winning lay-up at the buzzer. Later in February, he dropped career-high 50 points in a 98-87 overtime win over Burke. Charlie Connors and Tristan Rodriguez help with ball-handling duties, but Campbell is the engine that makes Archies go.
Player to watch/St. Mary’s: Last winter, David Brown Jr. was named co-MVP of the Catholic Central League before winning a state title with help from co-MVP Ali Barry. This past fall, Brown Jr. showcased his talents on the gridiron by leading the Spartans to a D6 Super Bowl. Now Brown looks to repeat as a state basketball champion and cement an impressive legacy at the school. After missing the first few weeks of the season with a thumb injury, Brown has averaged 15 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists, and 3 steals per game.The athletic point guard can get his own shot, or force defenses to collapse so that he can find his teammates.
The lowdown: These conference rivals played a thriller on Feb 3, with Archies pulling out a 78-77 win at St. Mary’s. The Bishops squeaked past conference rival Cardinal Spellman, 65-62, in the state semifinals on Lorenzo Jackson’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer. Archies, in the state final for the first time since 1954, has incredible depth, averaged 77.8 points per game and finished 9-0 in conference play this season, with their lone blemish coming in a nonleague loss at Mansfield in the regular-season finale. Holden (’90) led his alma mater to its first CCL title since 2006 this seasonSt. Mary’s was tested early with a road trip to Florida against top-tier teams. The Spartans have gone toe-to-toe with defending D2 state champion Malden Catholic and current D1 finalist Worcester North during a tough nonleague schedule.
Matchup: WAREHAM (21-3) vs. SPRINGFIELD INTERNATIONAL (22-2)
Sunday at Tsongas Arena, 2 p.m.
Coaches: Steve Faniel, 7th year (Wareham), Pat Ochoa, 6th year (Springfield International).
Wareham starting 5: G Aaron Cote (Fr.); C Antoine Crosson (Jr.); G Ajay Lopes (Jr.); G Diego Mello (Jr.); F Jaron Pittmen (Jr.).
Springfield International starting 5: G London Denson (Jr.); G Josh Colon (Sr.); G Jay’Len Lovejoy (Jr.); F Sam Fleming (Soph.); F Kenny Rogers (Sr.).
Player to watch/Wareham: Lopes, a sophomore, led the South Coast Conference with 6 assists per game and scored 17 points per game. He scored 37 against Millbury in the state semifinals. A standout on the football field, Lopes is lethal in the open floor and is a perfect pick-and-roll partner for Crosson, a 6-foot-5 junior center.
Player to watch/Springfield International: Fleming, a 6-foot-8 sophomore, is a serious 2025 prospect who recorded 13 points, 8 rebounds and 4 blocked shots in a dominating performance in the state semifinal win over Burke. He also showed a solid mid-range game and the ability to step out and hit a 3-point shot. He’s joined in the front court by Rogers, a bulky forward who rebounds and scores inside.
The lowdown: In 2006, Springfield International (then called Sabis International) became the first charter school to win a championship in the MIAA state tournament.Ochoa, an operations manager at the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield and 2008 Clark graduate, has maintained that success since taking over at the charter school six years ago. The Bulldogs have been clutch down the stretch with close wins over Monument Mountain (66-64), South Hadley (69-64), and Boston City League champion Burke (59-53) to make the state final. Faniel (’00) has his alma mater on the rise. with help from assistants Darien Fernandez and Jowaun Gamble, who were both starring for the Vikings in 2010 when Wareham last won a state title. Since dropping late-season games to rivals Old Rochester and Bourne, the Vikings have won six straight by an average of 25.5 points per game. Cote, a sharpshooting freshman, became the first eighth grader in program history to play varsity last season.
Matchup: TACONIC (22-2) vs. DAVID PROUTY (24-0)
Saturday at Tsongas Arena, 4 p.m.
Coaches: Bill Heaphy, 18th year (Taconic), Pat O’Connor, 5th year (David Prouty).
Taconic starting 5: G Tayvon Sandifer (Sr.); F Maimoudou Bamba (Sr); G Christian Mateurvich (Jr.), F Steve Patch (Sr.); G Jarmal Sistrunk (Jr.).
David Prouty starting 5: G Braeden White (Sr.); G Cam Hoekstra (Sr.); G Alec Fournier (Sr.); F Braeden Cashman (Sr.); F JJ Neiray (Jr.).
Player to watch/Taconic: Sandifer, a senior guard, is a shifty and lethal scorer who averages 18.4 points per game. He shined in tournament wins over Lenox (29 points) and Sutton (26 points).Sandifer drives to the hoop and has also made multiple 3-pointers in six of his last seven games to power Taconic to the state final.
Player to watch/David Prouty: White, David Prouty’s first 1,000-point scorer since 1982, will match up Magainst Sandifer in the backcourt.The senior guard erupted for a career-high 40 points in Wednesday’s state semifinal win over Holbrook, including 19 points in the fourth quarter.
The lowdown: Taconic, the top seed for the second straight year, has been knocking on the door after a state seminal appearance last winter, having won 14 of its last 15 games. David Prouty is the lone undefeated boys’ team in the state and is seeking the first state title in program history. Both teams have breezed through the bracket and ishould create a fascinating matchup between a pair of title contenders.
NATE WEITZER, MATT DOHERTY