The Manchester Essex boys basketball team boasts all of the key ingredients a team might need to make a deep run in the postseason: The Hornets have a go-to scorer, guards who get after it on defense and size and talent in the front court.
Until last night, the only question was who the team will play next in the MIAA tournament.
The Hornets finished up the regular season with a 15-5 record, earning them the fourth seed and a first-round bye in the Division 4 North tournament. At the start of this week, coaches and players were waiting to see who they would be hosting in the divisional quarterfinals on February 28 at 7 p.m., with Manchester Essex slated to play the winner of the February 25 tilt between St. Joseph Prep and Georgetown.
While the Hornets will have had a few days to prepare for the winner of last night’s game by the time the quarterfinal game begins on Friday, each potential opponent provided a different kind of challenge for the team.
“I think it's 100 percent different based on who we will be playing,” Manchester Essex coach Tim St. Laurent explained yesterday. “We’ve played Georgetown twice already this year [during the regular season], so there will be some wrinkles thrown into our game plan if we play them.
And play Georgetown they will. Last night, 12th ranked Georgetown beat fifth seed St. Joseph, 76-66. Georgetown is a divisional opponent that should be quite familiar to this squad. The Royals finished the Cape Ann League regular season with a record of 10-10 (earning the 12th and final seed in the divisional bracket), keeping things close in two losses to Manchester Essex during the regular season thanks to their scoring prowess from the outside.
The Hornets has a pair of guards who are stellar defensively, a pair of accurate sharpshooters from the outside and one of the most dangerous scorers on the North Shore, Kellen Furse. Furse is averaging over 23 points a game, has amassed 470 total points this winter and reached the 1,000-point mark of his career during the regular season finale against Bishop Fenwick.
“When you have a scoring threat like Kellen, it makes the game a little easier for everyone,” says St. Laurent.
Furse’s presence on the court opens things up for speedy guards Jack Shaw and Mason Paccone.
“When the other team sends a lot of help at Kellen, we have two very good shooters who can knock down an open shot,” explains St. Laurent.
At the other end of the court, AJ Pallazola and Lars Arntsen lead the Hornets’ defensive press, which can translate to easy buckets in transition when humming at maximum efficiency. At 6-feet, 3-inches, Frank Wood provides size and strength down low.
This group is talented and experienced and possesses a high basketball IQ.
“I’m lucky that all the guys who play minutes for me are all very smart in the class, in addition to on the basketball court,” says St. Laurent.
We welcome Jason Brisbois as the Cricket’s new sportswriter. Feel free to say hi: firstname.lastname@example.org.