RANDOLPH, Mass. -– Thoughts and observations from today’s "Scrimmage Saturday" at Randolph, a jamboree featuring several top-tier MIAA programs, along with a few potential sleepers:
Don't Doubt 'The Dot': Some have pegged Dorchester as a potential sleeper in the Boston City League (including us), and after Saturday's performance by the Bears there is some justification -- at least for now. The Bears were late to arrive to their first scrimmage of the day against King Philip, and showed subsequent rust in the first quarter, trailing 11-8. But from the second stanza on, the Bears played nasty. They blew out KP in the second quarter, 17-4, and dominated D3 South favorite Rockland 31-13 over two quarters.
Two things in particular stood out with the Bears on Saturday:
1. Their bigs can stretch the floor - Center D'Bryant Coraprez, a 6-foot-7 junior, doesn't exactly resemble a gazelle running up and down the floor. But around the basket, he has some quick reflexes, some solid footwork and a soft touch. He can also stretch the defense with his perimeter game; in one sequence against KP, Coraprez swung to the top of the key off a screen and kissed the glass for a three-pointer. The Bears' other 6-foot-7 big, senior Dakari Hannahwornum, is not as polished but presents similar poise.
2. They can run - The Bears were able to run up and down the court on Rockland, and that led to a series of open perimeter shots. In one series of events, junior guard Dean Lee hit back-to-back-to-back treys -- all from the same spot, from the corner along the right baseline. Head coach Johnny Williams also likes junior C.J. Askew, who hit a couple of three's as well.
Boh Knows: We've mentioned this time and again, but part of what makes Franklin so consistent from year to year is how coach Dean O'Connor's flex offense is installed seemingly from fifth grade on up in the youth system, possibly lower. It seems like returning Hockomock All-Star point guard Sam Bohmiller was born to run this system, and this afternoon he picked up seemingly where he left off at the end of last season, when the Panthers made a surprise run to the D1 South semifinals.
In one terrific sequence, Bohmiller blew by his defender on the wing, made a right angle in the middle of the paint and kicked back out to junior guard Chris Rogers, who nailed a wide-open three. In another, he threw a precise bounce pass through traffic to the weak post, where junior forward Pat O'Reilly completed an 8-0 run with an easy layup.
The Panthers are also good at this whole charge-taking thing, drawing four in their two quarters with Malden. They also have some muscle underneath with 6-foot-2 forward Craig Anderson, a standout linebacker for the Panthers during the fall. In one sequence, Anderson stepped into the lane for a charge, then set a pick the other way and curled around to the elbow for an open 14-footer.
Overall, Franklin is bigger than advertised, but they are young, especially in the frontcourt. O'Reilly gives the Panthers some length in the frontcourt at 6-foot-4; another nice story might be 6-foot-6 sophomore Marcus Giese, who is expected to contribute some minutes to the varsity despite not even starting on his freshman squad last winter.
Whirlwind Defense: Malden's most impressive quarter of the afternoon was their second frame against Franklin, when they outscored the Panthers 25-10. Still, the Golden Tornadoes lacked in the scoring department, but that's probably due to the absence of leading scorer Rodney Morton, who was out taking his ACTs.
Malden suffocated Franklin in the second quarter with a 2-2-1 press, and sometimes experimenting with a diamond-and-one as well. That allowed the Tornadoes to do what they do best -- get physical with players, make them uncomfortable and make them think fast.
Keep an eye on 6-foot-2 senior guard Terrence Maisonneuve, a bruiser with a linebacker's build but also a sweet stroke. He dropped 43 points on Westfield in last year's season-opener, then a month later dropped 36 against Cambridge. Another gem could be 6-foot-4 sophomore forward Anthony Gilardi, who has a feathery, effortless stroke from long range, but may need to harness his aggression at times -- on the day, he recorded nearly a half-dozen offensive fouls.
The Air Up There: Rockland coach Freddy Damon will probably be disappointed with the score of the Dorchester game, but if there's a silver lining it's UMass-Lowell signee and Preseason Super Teamer Tyler Gibson. The 6-foot-5 slasher threw his body around with abandon, and fought his way through double-teams to make some points around the basket. If defensively the Bulldogs have to funnel things towards Gibson, the 6-foot-5 senior can clean up.
Gibson had arguably the two most highlight reel-worthy plays of the afternoon, both against Dorchester. First, running as a trailer on the fast break, he leaped up and forcefully slammed home a put-back. Then later, running the other way in transition, Gibson came up from behind the play and swatted a would-be layup, reaching above the rim and pinning the ball high off the glass.
Stoughton carries on post-Calixte: Aaron Calixte was one of the MIAA’s most productive point guards last season, an ESPN Boston Super Teamer who led Stoughton to the Division 2 Eastern Mass. Final, where they eventually lost to Brighton. Calixte announced in July that he would be leaving Stoughton to go to prep school at Lee Academy, leaving a huge void to fill at guard for Stoughton. However, on Saturday they looked to be right where they left off last season, using their high-pressure defense to force turnovers and hit lay-ups or open threes at the other end of the floor.
Senior guard Marcus Middleton, last year’s ESPN Boston Defensive Player of the Year, looked to be in mid-season form for Stoughton’s scrimmages on Saturday against Weston and Hull. Middleton was a constant pest defensively on the perimeter, but also did his part in providing offense from behind the three-point line. Joe Bunce-Grenon was one of the most athletic players in the gym, constantly showing to be an above-the-rim threat. Going up against forwards who weren’t quite on his level athletically, Bunce-Grenon was all over the glass and did a nice job of altering opposing teams’ shots.
Strong backcourt leads South: Worcester South was relatively disappointing last year, failing to qualify for districts after an 8-12 season, but the Colonels look poised to come back and make a run in the Division 1 tournament this year. Senior Rod Milton, a 6-foot-3 guard, did a ton of scoring off the dribble today, giving opposing defenses a handful. Milton was fearless when driving to the rim, often absorbing a heavy amount of contact and finishing acrobatic lay-ups around the rim. Also a standout athlete, Milton had a few skyrising dunks to show off his impressive vertical leap.
Junior guard Kasheen Cunningham also played well for South, especially in their second game against Randolph, where he knocked down 3 three-pointers and finished with thirteen points in total. Six-foot-3 sophomore forward Khalil Bryan is a name to remember to South; as he continues to gain more varsity experience he’ll be able to give the Colonels a much-needed presence on the post.
CM starting from scratch: Catholic Memorial had one of the MIAA’s most talented teams last year, advancing to the Division 1 South quarterfinals before losing to eventual state runner-up Brockton. The Knights entered the gym seemingly snakebitten already; 6-foot-8 center Gerard Adams wasn’t in action, Chris Siggers is on the mend from a torn ACL suffered during football, Aamahne Santos transferred to prep school, and 1,000-point scorers Matt Droney and Dan Powers both graduated. That leaves CM with a very young squad coming back this year.
A bright spot for the Knights was 6-foot-5 sophomore David Watkins, an athletic forward with a nice touch around the rim. Catholic Memorial is very young and will certainly take their bumps this year, but an athlete like Watkins certainly gives them reason to be excited for the future.