ME Boys Hoop Undefeated at Season’s Midway Point


Perfect.  That’s the only word necessary when trying to define the first half of the season for the Manchester Essex boys basketball team.

As in, “ten wins in ten games,” perfect. A 10-0 record with road wins against heavy hitters like Cathedral, Peabody Veterans Memorial and Georgetown in the books, and more key matchups looming on the way to an inevitable foray into the postseason.

“I knew we would be good, and right now we’re undefeated in the [Cape Ann League], we thought we could do that,” explains MERHS boys basketball coach Tim St. Laurent.  “The difference is last year, we couldn’t get over the hump on non-league games, and we’ve won two of those already.

The first of those two non-league games – games against top opponents that can be used as a measuring stick for how a squad might fare against playoff-caliber opposition – was the season-opening victory over nemesis Cathedral.  The Panthers knocked a 17-3 Hornets squad out of the Div. 4 tournament last winter, and have proven to be a formidable foe in the postseason over the years.  This year, however, Manchester Essex looked dominant in an 85-34 win over Cathedral on Dec. 12, and then fared just as well against Peabody at the end of the month, winning 65-38 on Dec. 27 against a much larger school.

“We’ve played Cathedrals both of the last two years in the tournament and we got a nice win versus them opening night,” says St. Laurent.  “We also had a monster win against Peabody; in Peabody they have something like 50,000 people, and we are around 8,000.  They are 11-1 and we are their only loss. We also held them to 38 points.”

That last detail is not one to overlook when considering why the Hornets have played so well in 2023-24.  Defense has been at the squad’s success this season, with Manchester Essex holding five of their first 10 opponents to 40 points or under.  The Hornets have yet to allow an opponent reach even the 60-point threshold.

“First, we are playing unbelievable defense,” explains St. Laurent.  “If you look at the scores through the week, we are holding opponents to very low margins.  It’s a complete five-man effort.”

There are two defensive stalwarts who serve as the catalyst for the Manchester Essex defense.

“Milo Zeltzer and Zach Hurd, it starts with them,” says St. Laurent.  “They rotate in on the best offensive player for the opposition every game, and they put tremendous pressure on that player.  Then, they have excellent athletes around them to help.”

On the other end of the floor, the Hornets feature two core pillars surrounded by accurate shotmakers: Cade Furse is a creative, athletic scoring burst waiting to happen – the senior captain is averaging 24 points per game this season – and 6-foot, 6-inch Eddie Chareas (another Hornet captain) provides an intimidating presence in the paint and a scoring option that’s difficult for the opposition to defend.

“On the offensive end, everything runs through them,” says St. Laurent.  “We see how the defense responds to them and go from there.”

The rest of the eight-man rotation complements the two captains perfectly. Jake Zschau, Ben Jacobsen and John Chareas – Eddie’s younger brother – are skilled shooters from the outside.  Senior guard Preston Potter runs the offense and is a strong defensive presence on the perimeter.

“This is a completely unselfish group of kids,” says St. Laurent.  “They buy into the game plan and take tremendous pride in executing it.”

St. Laurent also lauds his trio of assistant coaches - Ralph Quinn, Steve Paccone and Drennan Burns - for helping to get the team to this point halfway through the winter season.

“They’ve been with me a long time, and they’re a tremendous part of the success of this program,” explains the coach.

The Hornets were scheduled to face Triton on Jan. 23, Hamilton-Wenham on Jan. 26 and Pentucket on Jan. 29.  In February, the gauntlet of top opposition begins again, with home games versus Newburyport (Feb. 5) and Georgetown (Feb. 8) looming.

“Both teams come to Manchester in early February, and they will be humongous games,” says St. Laurent.”