With the league schedules reaching the halfway point in the next week, it is time for something of a progress report on our local teams. Graduation hit pretty hard for some teams and for the Woburn and Winchester boys, plus the Woburn girls, the effects have been felt.
This is a point in the season where you can start projecting ahead and decide who is in good shape to make the tournament.
In a season where scoring and outside shooting is down, Burlington is the outlier. The Devils also have the best chance on the boys side of making the tournament due to this. The Red Devils are currently 4-2 in Middlesex League Freedom, 5-3 overall.
Having two games each against Stoneham and Wilmington certainly aids the cause, but Burlington has been the best shooting team out of the locals thus far. Alex Wong has done a great job running the show for the Devils averaging 15.1 points per game with eight 3-pointers.
Mike Melanson (16 threes), Sean Hurley (10), Kyle Inglis (9), and even freshman Shane Mahoney (9), have been providing the production from beyond the 3-point line as the Red Devils average nine made 3-pointers per game.
Reading and Winchester are in similar positions at this point, where they need to do well in the next week to prevent falling too far under .500. The Rockets (3-5) have another tough test Friday night against Lexington, which buried Woburn last Friday while hitting on all cylinders. Reading gets leadership from co-captain Matt Sannella (10.4 ppg), and a well-rounded starting five that should be even stronger with 6-foot-2 forward Patrick Conroy returning from a football injury.
The Rockets, a physical team, are now one of the rare teams starting three “bigs” instead of three guards.
The Sachems have already picked up two wins this week when you factor in Monday night’s non-league win over Marblehead, the team that knocked them out of last year’s tournament. Winchester (3-4) will look to even its overall record to 4-4 when it visits Woburn, Friday night. Forward Michael Tavilla could be in line for a big game with his size up front, along with Gus Kraft. Joe McCarrron is the top scoring threat but the Sachems’ bench is deep with possibilities, right down to sophomore Omar Shakeel and first-year senior Luivart Berrios.
Woburn is in big trouble now that star guard Ryan Ludwig is sidelined indefinitely. Ludwig sat out about a month when he suffered a similar injury two years ago, so coach Tom Sullivan is hoping to have him back at the end of the month. The Tanners’ job right now is to stay alive until he returns. Woburn has a puncher’s chance at 3-4 overall, 3-3 in ML Liberty and Max Bradley is coming along as Ludwig’s replacement in the starting lineup. The sophomore had a team-high 15 points in Woburn’s win over Stoneham. The Tanners can count on good efforts from forward Anthony Morales, and guards Dylan McLaughlin, Kevin Barry and Kyle Bennett.
The girls side is pretty clear: Reading and Woburn look highly likely to make the postseason, while Burlington will have to earn it. Winchester, already 1-8 overall, is not in the picture this time.
The Lady Rockets started out 4-0, including a win over the Tanners, but have since gone 2-2, including a 1-1 record in non-league contests, to enter Friday with a 6-2 overall record, 5-1 in ML Liberty. Thousand-point scorer Haley Lightbody sets the hardworking tone for Reading, while forwards Alyssa Pryputniewicz and Jackie Malley, a freshman, plus guards Celia Capone and Isabella Zagami make for a well-rounded squad, not to mention tough defense from Nakeya Carr off the bench.
No matter what, the Woburn girls are going to benefit from coach Steve Sullivan’s pressure defense. The Tanners’ main issue in their quest to win their sixth straight ML Liberty title is consistency on offense. Unlike in other years, the opposition knows you have your best shot against Woburn if you can contain Ashlyn Pacheco and Marina Rufo. That is the way so far but the Tanners have improving players with upside in wing players Julia Taylor and Megan Roderick, as well as Bella Sgroi and Abbie Morrison off the bench…
One thing the Tanner girls have been missing this year is that steady diet of threes that they have had the last couple years. Senior Sydney Doyle may have made her case, Monday night against Stoneham, when she buried five treys off the bench, including four in the fourth quarter, as part of a 17-point night. Of course, it did occur long after the game with the Spartans had been decided, so she might not get the same looks at the basket as when Woburn faces Belmont or Reading. Doyle should get another chance to show her stuff, Friday night, when the Tanners host the Sachems…
The Winchester girls remain in search of their first league win, and are not likely to get it when they visit Woburn and its aggressive defense, Friday night. Still, Winchester is improving at both ends of the court, with the Sachems scoring over 30 points in each of their last five games prior to Tuesday’s game with Wilmington. Winchester coach Johnna Fisher keeps it positive at WHS Gym and the players seem to responding in kind.
“The girls are playing hard and they are finally buying in,” said Fisher. “It’s been a long haul to get them to understand what we are trying to do and why. Every teenage girl wants to know why we are doing this and why, and I think they are starting to understand the why and that it is working, and that we can beat people. They just have to understand we have to play a full game, that is what we have yet to see."
Congratulations to Winchester’s Joe McCarron for scoring 39 points against the Magicians on Monday, and to Wilmington’s Stephen Anthony for sinking nine treys against Stoneham, Friday night. McCarron established a new school record for a single game, besting the 37 points scored by three Sachems in the 2000s. We were wondering if McCarron would try and go for 40 the next night at Wilmington, but coach John Fleming instead decided to spread the wealth, as 13 different players contributed to the 80-27 shellacking. Thanks go out to Arlington coach John Bowler for reminding us that Bensley Joseph of Arlington is also part of the nine 3-pointer club. According to the DTC records, Anthony was believed to be the sixth player in the Middlesex League to knock down nine 3-pointers in a game, part of a 35-point night against the Spartans. Joseph buried nine last year in a game against Belmont. Joseph, a Middlesex League All-Star a year ago as a sophomore, has since transferred to Cushing Academy as he has Div. 1 college aspirations. Getting 40 points for Winchester, and sinking 10 treys for the league’s outside sharpshooters, appear to be reasonable targets for this year’s players to go after in the second half of the season.
(Mark Nadeau’s “Around the Rim” column appears during the high school basketball season.)