FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- With every year, the Wally Seaver High School Invitational has grown bigger and better, and 2014 was no exception.
In its third year, the charity tournament grew to 37 teams -- 28 boys' teams, and nine girls' teams -- and crowned three champions based on school size and gender.
Mansfield boys, Dedham boys and Franklin girls were all crowned divisional champions at Foxborough's Mass Premier Courts on Sunday after two days of competition.
The tournament is organized by Hoop Crew, which was co-founded by Paul Seaver, who will be the new coach at Milford High School this coming season. Paul's father, Paul "Wally" Seaver, passed away in 2013 after a courageous battle with ALS.
The younger Seaver started this tournament in 2012 at Milford High School. The invitational raises money through admission and entry fees to raise money for ALS research.
"I think the weekend went very well," Paul Seaver said. "We had 16 teams when we started two years ago, 28 boys teams last year and then 37 total this year with a girls division. Next we obviously hope to grow the girls division and add more boys teams as well. The weekend went great, everybody was here and playing competitive, it was good throughout."
In the large school division, "Stay Strong," it was a short-handed Mansfield squad that were the last ones standing. The Hornets were a perfect 3-0 in Pool C play, beating Walpole, Quabbin and the International Colonials -- a team of 11 players from 11 different countries, including Brazil, Ireland and the Netherlands. The Colonials also advanced to the knockout stage on Sunday.
Brookline emerged from Pool A, going 3-0 against Wachusett (2-1) -- which also advanced -- North Attleborough (1-2) and Lexington (0-3). Both Wellesley and Acton-Boxborough advanced from Pool B, beating out Franklin and Moses Brown (R.I.). Bishop Feehan and Holy Name emerged from Pool D to complete the eight team field on Sunday.
In the finals, it came down to Mansfield and Bishop Feehan, which knocked off 2013 champion Brookline in a close contest. The Shamrocks jumped out to an early 11-3 lead and an 18-10 lead, but the Hornets were able to finally able to connect on the offensive end and took a 30-28 lead at the break.
Neither teams boasted the stars they normally do, as the Hornets were without Brendan Hill, Michael Boen and Ryan Boulter and Feehan was without Frank Oftring among others. But that didn't stop Mansfield rising sophomore Matt Ehrlich from hitting some big shots and helping Mansfield extend their second half lead to double digits at 67-57.
But when the deficit reached 10 for Feehan, the Shamrocks upped their defensive pressure and quickly scored eight points within a minute of play to make it a one possession game. Rising junior Nick Baskin connected with a couple of big shots in a row to help Mansfield pull away again though, including two free throws that turned a 73-70 lead into a five point lead and eventually the final score, 75-70.
In the small school division, "Fight Forth", Dedham bested Canton in the finals to prevent a Hockomock League sweep of the tournament. The Marauders emerged from Pool F along with Hopedale -- who they beat in the semifinals -- and Rocky Hill. Canton and Ashland came from Pool E and Rockland, Dover-Sherborn and Douglas all advanced from Pool G.
The Bulldogs of Canton entered the finals unbeaten and turned a 32-28 halftime deficit in the finals to a slight lead over Dedham shortly into the second half, but it didn't last. Kasey Kirby hit some key shots and Dedham took control for the rest of the finals, taking home a 74-50 win over Canton.
Franklin became the first ever winners of the "Give All" bracket, which consisted of nine teams. The Panthers were joined by Milford (MA) and Newburyport in Pool H, Juanita Sanchez (RI), Bishop Stang and Bridgewater-Raynham composed up Pool I and Milford (NH), Hamilton-Wenham and Norfolk Aggie made up Pool J.
On Saturday, Franklin, Milford (NH) and Juanita Sanchez all proved to be superior in their respective pools and on Sunday, all nine teams squared off in an elimination bracket. Franklin took care of H-W, Juanita Sanchez took down Bishop Stand and B-R took down Milford (MA).
In the semi-finals, Milford (NH) was able to pull away from B-R in the second half, turning a 29-25 lead into a double-digit victory. Franklin took down Juanita Sanchez -- who have won three straight D3 Rhode Island State Championships -- in dominating fashion, 83-47.
Franklin didn't let off the gas pedal in the finals against Milford (NH), one of the premier teams in the Granite State. The Panthers allowed just two field goals in the first 10 minutes of play and took a commanding 36-7 lead into the break. The Panthers were unmatched on the boards and got key contributions offensively from almost every player on the court. Defensively, Tracy Pisani and Aubrey Kutil helped keep Franklin comfortably ahead and the Panthers won 63-40.
"The goal is to raise as much money for ALS research as possible," Seaver added. "Through the growth of the team with 37 teams, I think it was pretty clear we reached that goal. The gyms were packed and all the courts were active throughout the weekend and that's as much as you can ask for."
For more information, visit www.wallyhsinvitational.blogspot.com/