With our first polls coming out this week, I wanted to take a look at the winter sports scene this holiday week, starting with some Division 3 hoops projections for the boys and girls of Central Mass.
Last year I picked Sutton and Whitinsville Christian to meet in the D3 final and that held true, but this year I only have the Crusaders making it back to the final. Whitinsville Christian returns all-stars Andrew Dykstra and Kurt Steiner to the floor and they have a solid player in Hans Miersma to help carry the load. The Crusaders looked stacked this year and I think they can take it all. They opened up with a 72-68 loss to a tough New Leadership team, but rebounded with a 71-43 win over Hopedale before making everyone take notice by throttling St. Bernard’s, 90-52. I can’t remember the last time someone beat them by that much – or put up 90 points on the scoreboard. That had to worry some potential D3 foes.
I think Maynard will be in the final with Whitinsville Christian. I’ve loved watching Mike Fowler take control of games the past two years and he returns along with all-star teammate Jake Tyler, so the Tigers should be okay this year.
Sutton is going to be a team to watch this year. While I like the Tigers and Crusaders in the final, the Sammies will be an exciting squad. Sutton is young this year, but will be one of those teams that heads into the postseason at 12-8 or something, but have won 8 of 10 going in. They play a very good schedule – they’re 2-2 this year, but their losses were to St. Bernard’s and Millbury – so they will be tested. Kayvon Lewis and Frank Brogie should keep the team afloat along with Derrick Bethune, while I know coach Jim Donnelly is really high on sophomore Mac Roy – who will be someone to watch for the next three years.
My sleeper team? Easy. That’s Littleton. I think they can play with the big boys in this conference and really surprise some people. Not too many people are going to talk about their league – and then when they start winning games with the likes of James and John Williamson, Jeff Bielefeld and Mac Hanlon, people are going to wonder where they came from. I think they can make a run this year. They play Maynard Tuesday night, so we’ll see where they stand early on.
Another team I think people will sleep on is St. Mary’s. They have a solid player in David Jasukonis and a sophomore Ryan Bird that has already posted 25 and 29 points in his last two games. He’s going to be something to watch. They’re 3-0 so far and are going to be shaking that “WCAC Who?” label this year.
I also think another WCAC team, Main South, can get some people talking. They’re 2-1, but can make some noise. They have some talent Markquell Berry – yes, another Berry brother – and Jackson Powell. They could be an overlooked team if they qualify for the postseason.
I think Southbridge, with Hashian Rosario and Mike Agbortoko, could be impressive, but they seem to be missing that one key player to make things happen. I also think North Brookfield, with Josh Oliver and Rich Caron, may surprise a few people this year, too. Also, don’t count out Worcester Tech in the mix. They have some talent that can win a handful of games.
Over on the girls’ side, it looks like the same old story. Quaboag, Quaboag, Quaboag. The Cougars went undefeated last year and look just as strong now. Olivia Jankins, Sam McCann and Meaghan Burns are back for the Cougars – who already handed Millbury a 46-32 loss. I don’t see them losing many games this year.
I think we could see a handful of teams in the mix to face Quaboag in the D3 final. I like South a lot, as they have Amanda Harrington and Courtney Roberts on the court. They’re 1-1, but their only loss is to Millbury. They’re going to have a tough league this year, as I think Douglas, Hopedale and Whitinsville Christian will be right there.
The Crusaders have Catherine Malcolm and Abby VandenAkker helping them to a 1-1 start, but like the Suzies, their only loss was to a D2 power (St. Bernard’s). Whitinsville Christian is tough and should bounce back. The DVC is loaded this year.
Hopedale has Kate Bresciani, Kelly Hyland and Sierra Schrader back from the DVC all-star team while Douglas returns Kyla Hatch and Lizz Ferguson. All four teams will beat each other up this year and I think the winner will match up with Quaboag in the D3 girls’ final.