Can anyone stop Franklin?
The MIAA girls’ basketball tournament tips off Monday night. Here are eight storylines to follow.
The Globe’s top-ranked girls’ basketball squad in every poll this season, the 20-0 Panthers could not be stopped during the regular season. In their own Division 1 Central bracket, Wachusett may pose a threat. Also 20-0, Wachusett tangled with Franklin before bowing out in a 61-60 loss in last season’s D1 Central final. Can the Panthers win it again?
The mystery of Division 1 North
Picking a favorite in Division 1 North is like choosing your favorite food — they’re all good, and something different might come up on any given day. Four of the Globe’s top 20 teams will jockey for the D1 North title; seventh-ranked Central Catholic (17-3), eighth-ranked Woburn (19-1), 10th-ranked Chelmsford (18-2), and 17th-ranked Cambridge (16-4). Dark horse teams like Andover (14-6), Billerica (12-7), and Masconomet (12-7) also loom. Central Catholic has made it to TD Garden in each of the past two seasons, but losing star senior point guard Nadeshka Bridgewater to a broken right hand makes the path to the Garden much more treacherous.
A different side of Braintree
It took until the last weekend of the regular season for the Wamps (10-10) to qualify for the state tournament. With first-year coach Matt Freeman at the helm, Braintree has shown flashes of brilliance but also displayed deep inconsistencies. In the past few weeks, Braintree topped sixth-ranked Needham (18-2) and 18th-ranked Hingham (17-3). In between those victories, Braintree fell to Weymouth (5-17). For the first time in a while, the Wamps are far from the favorite in D1 South.
Any repeat bids?
It’s unlikely Braintree three-peats in D1. In D2, 13th-ranked Pentucket (21-2) has a shot. Hoosac Valley captured the D3 state title last season, but fourth-ranked St. Mary’s (21-2) will be hard to slow down. The most likely sure bet is second-ranked Cathedral (16-4) rampaging through D4.
Talent across the Bourne Bridge
There are a few teams from Cape Cod to keep an eye on. In D2 south, 19th-ranked Falmouth (18-4) and Nauset (14-6) have the pieces to make a run for the top. D1 Barnstable (14-6) put together a fine regular season. In D4 south, St. John Paul II (19-1) is the top seed and will pose the biggest threat to reigning state champion and second-ranked Cathedral (16-4).
Watch for St. Mary’s to roll through D3
Ranked fourth by the Globe, the Spartans (21-2) should cruise in D3. Junior Maiya Bergdorf, a 6-foot-1-inch transfer from Belmont, has injected a new source of scoring and rebounding. Seniors Olivia Matela and Gabby Torres are as experienced as they come, and junior Nicolette D’Itria along with freshman point guard Yirsy Queliz round out a top level two-way team.
Faces in new places
It’s not just Braintree’s Freeman is a new coach leading a team to the tournament. Masconomet’s Shannon Kirwan is in her first year. Former Masconomet coach Bob Romeo leads North Reading (12-8) into the D2 tournament. Michael Costa is the coach of Whitman-Hanson (14-6) in D1 south.
First year’s the charm for Malden Catholic
In its first varsity season, the Malden Catholic Lancers (15-5) not only qualified for the D4 North tournament, but have a fair shot to win it. The team of freshmen and sophomores plays like a seasoned squad. They’re the fifth seed.
Greg Levinsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.