Previewing the state girls’ basketball championship games
The MIAA Division 1, 2, 3, and 4 girls’ basketball state finals will be held Saturday in Worcester. Here’s a look at all the matchups.
Matchup: Braintree (21-4) vs. Springfield Central (19-2)
Saturday at Holy Cross, 2:15 p.m.
Coaches: Kristen McDonnell, 10th year (Braintree), Erik Maurer, seventh year (Springfield Central)
Braintree starting 5: F Ariana Fay (Sr.); F Jeniyah Jones (Sr.); G Adriana Timberlake (Sr.); G Barbara Ronca (Sr.); G Lily Adams (So.)
Springfield Central starting 5: G Jaliena Sanchez (Sr.); G Selenya Gonzalez (Sr.); G Rosheda Guthrie (Jr.); G Alecia Maxwell (Jr.); G Nala Roache (So.)
Player to watch/Braintree: Adriana Timberlake. A senior, Timberlake is Braintree’s leading scorer and has emerged as a creative playmaker this season. She had 9 points in Braintree’s 39-38 come-from-behind win over Central Catholic in the state semifinal, and is a two-time Bay State Carey Division Most Valuable Player. She had a game-high 19 points in last year’s championship game.
Player to watch/Springfield Central: Jaliena Sanchez. With 32 points in the Golden Eagles’ 64-57 win over Franklin in the state semifinals, the senior guard is an electric scorer. She’s committed to play Division 1 basketball at Weber State, and certainly wants to end her career with a state title after last year’s final, in which was held to 8 points.
The lowdown: This is the teams’ fourth meeting in the D1 final in five years, with Braintree taking titles in 2015 and 2018 and Central winning in 2017. Last year, Braintree won a thriller, 59-56. Watch for the Timberlake and Sanchez matchup on the perimeter. Braintree senior forwards Jeniyah Jones and Ariana Fay are important pieces and give Braintree grit. Selenya Gonzalez is a talented senior for Springfield Central. If Braintree can hold Central’s star guards in check, it can repeat.
Matchup: PENTUCKET (23-3) vs. NORTHAMPTON (19-4)
Saturday at Holy Cross, 4:30 p.m.
Coaches: John McNamara, 13th year (Pentucket); Perry Messer, 11th year (Northampton).
Pentucket starting 5: G Maddie Doyle (Sr.); G Angelica Hurley (Jr.); G Angelina Yacubacci (Jr.); G Jessica Galvin (Sr.); C Liv Cross (Sr.).
Northampton starting 5: G Emily Sledzieski (Jr.); G Jill McGrath (Jr.); G Amanda Mieczkowski (Jr.); F Sydney Lewandowski (Jr.); C Kolbie Jones (Sr).
Player to watch/Pentucket: Angelica Hurley. The junior up-tempo guard can take over the game by herself with quickness and basketball IQ. In the Division 2 semifinal against Pembroke, she led Pentucket with 19 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 steals. Three times, she stole a pass and went coast to coast, drawing a foul.
Player to watch/Northampton: Amanda Mieczkowski. The junior point guard, who scored 21 points in the state semifinal win over Nashoba, is the leader of the Northampton offense. Her outside game is just as good as her ability to slash to the hoop and make plays. She’s connected on a team-leading 41 3-pointers this season.
The lowdown: Pentucket has been highly motivated since letting a 20-point lead slip away to Foxborough in last year’s state semifinals. Relentless full-court pressure fuels a defense that is yielding just 36 points per game in the postseason. Senior guard Maddie Doyle is a spirited leader. For a Northampton squad vying for its first state title since 2008, Sydney Lewandowski and Kolbie Jones are going to have to be difference-makers down low.
Matchup: St. Mary’s (18-6) vs. Hoosac Valley (20-4)
Saturday at WPI, 12 p.m.
Coaches: Jeff Newhall, 14th year (St. Mary’s), Ron Wojcik, ninth year (Hoosac Valley)
St. Mary’s starting 5: F Jannise Avelino (Jr.); G Pam Gonzalez (Sr.); G Olivia Matela (Jr.); G Nicole D’Itria (Jr.); G Yirsy Queliz (8th.)
Hoosac Valley starting 5: F Riley Robinson (Jr.); G Alie Mendel (Sr.); G Lexi Mercier (Sr.); G Sarah Field (Jr.); G Shaleigh Levesque (Jr.)
Player to watch/St. Mary’s: Pamela Gonzalez. She scored 23 points and had nine rebounds in a 59-56 win over two-time defending state champion Archbishop Williams in the state semifinals. The 5-foot-10-inch senior has the quickness to blow by traditional post players and size to take smaller guards to the basket. She is a tremendous defender as well.
Player to watch/Hoosac Valley: Lexi Mercier. She had a game-high 22 points in a 63-42 win over Millis in the state semifinals. She averaged 17.5 points in the regular season, and is a defensive whiz, averaging nearly four steals per game. A 3-point sniper, Mercier can match a single team’s output. She’s liable to erupt for five or more in a game.
The lowdown: Both teams shoot well from long range. St. Mary’s has a bit more size, and Gonzalez has been sensational in the tourney. Hoosac Valley has played sound team basketball in its run through the West and Central, blitzing opponents with four double-digit wins and three with at least a 20-point margin. St. Mary’s has the size and athleticism to keep up.
Matchup: CATHEDRAL (21-2) vs. HOPKINS (19-6)
Saturday at WPI, 4:30 p.m.
Coaches: Clinton Lassiter, fifth year (Cathedral); Michael Prattico, first year (Hopkins).
Cathedral starting 5: G Dejah Jenkins (Sr.); G Amani Boston (Sr.); G Kiara Ansley (Jr.); F Kaiya Duverna (Sr.); F Mackenzie Daleba (Jr).
Hopkins starting 5: G Samantha Jenks (Sr); G Sara Beauchamp (So.); F Thea Hanscom (Jr.); F Allison Kowal Safron (Jr.); F AJ Mitchell (Sr.).
Player to watch/Cathedral: Mackenzie Daleba. A force down low, Daleba is tough to move in the paint but can also go coast to coast in a flash. The 6-footer doesn’t back down from a challenge and can stuff a stat sheet by the half.
Player to watch/Hopkins: Samantha Jenks. The 5-foot-11-inch senior guard is the focal point of the Hopkins offense. She had 31 points in the West final and 27 in the state semis.
The lowdown: Cathedral has been operating like a well-oiled machine since the start of the playoffs, defeating opponents by an average of 31.6 ppg. Cathedral has won two of the past three state titles. Hopkins had never won a sectional title before this season, and must have success from beyond the arc.