We've got you covered from the first tip-off to the final buzzer tomorrow at Worcester's DCU Center, home of six MIAA basketball state championships. But for now, to whet your appetite, here's high school editor Brendan Hall's picks for each of the six games.
DIVISION 3 GIRLS: LEE (24-1) VS. ST. MARY'S OF LYNN (23-4)
The Lowdown: In a season of relative unknowns in Division 3, the Wildcats of Lee dominated Western Mass again, albeit to nobody's surprise. Puncutated by wins over Division 1 finalist Amherst and Division 3 juggernaut Sabis (which was averaging nearly 70 points per game before falling in the D3 West final to Lee), the Wildcats are at it again with that famously dogged press of theirs. Always undersized yet always relentless, they blitzed Pentucket a year ago on the DCU floor en route to their sixth state title in 20 years, and could be up to their same old tricks tomorrow morning. St. Mary's, meanwhile, has size all over the place, led by the senior "Twin Towers" of 6-foot-2 center Tori Faieta and 5-foot-11 forward Cassi Amenta. The Spartans beat Lee a month ago, 71-60, in a tournament just before the start of the MIAA playoffs.
Hall's Pick: History says to never take Lee lightly -- no matter what shape or size it comes in. But unfortunately, there is just too much size to be accounted for on St. Mary's side of things. Not that they're unbeatable, but I just think the Spartans will control the glass. St. Mary's, 50-45.
DIVISION 3 BOYS: WHITINSVILLE CHRISTIAN (22-2) VS. WATERTOWN (19-5)
The Lowdown: Another matchup that on paper looks uneven, the Whitinsville Christian Crusaders boast plenty of size behind 6-foot-9 Hans Miersma, who dominated Lenox in Wednesday night's Central/West semifinal. Meanwhile, Watertown's tallest player is 6-foot-3 senior forward Connor Stockdale -- whom head coach Steve Harrington likens to another point guard on the floor -- and Marco Coppola, one of the state's leading scorers with 25 points per game. Whitinsville excels in the 2-3 zone but isn't afraid to quickly drop it and play straight man should they get into early trouble. But this is Harrington's Raiders, which means you're likely to see four things: weakside post, four out, pick and roll, perimeter shots. In other words, don't take the Raiders lightly, especially if they don't try to challenge Miersma immediately at the rim.
Hall's Pick: The tale of the tape favors Whitinsville, just based on the size it wields in the frontcourt. But Steve Harrington is one of the best coaches in New England, and you can guarantee he's going to draw up a hell of a game plan to try and neutralize the size advantage. Whitinsville Christian, 65-64.
DIVISION 2 GIRLS: ARLINGTON CATHOLIC (20-6) VS. MILLBURY (23-1)
The Lowdown: The Arlington Catholic Cougars -- led by Emma Roberson, Nicole Catizone, and sisters Rachel and Maura Buckley -- can be viewed as a green bunch with all of their youth abound. But on Monday night at TD Garden, they pulled off one of the more impressive feats in recent EMass Finals history, clawing back from 18 down with six minutes left in the first half to take a halftime lead over Hopkinton and hold it up. Meanwhile, Millbury has burned opponents in the transition game all season long, beating opponents in the playoffs so far by an average of 16.5 points per game. Out on the break, seniors Julie Frankian (19.1 points, 8.3 rebounds) and Sydney Bloomstein (9.5, 6.1) have been as formidable duo as we've seen in Division 2.
Hall's Pick: Sorry, AC. That was an amazing comeback you pulled over Hopkinton over the Garden. But this is Julie Frankian's moment in the sun. Millbury, 60-48.
DIVISION 2 BOYS: NORTHBRIDGE (20-5) VS. NEW MISSION (21-4)
The Lowdown: Mission was the odds-on favorite in Division 2 headed into the season, and hasn't done a whole lot to convince otherwise. Led by three Northeast-10 ready senior guards in Samir McDaniels, Kachi Nzerem and Darius Davis; as well as Charles Gunter, Leroy Hamilton, and Isshiah Coleman on the blocks; the Titans have begun to find that scoring touch around the rim that was missing for stretches this season. They also like to wear opponents out with a smothering, physical man-to-man defense -- as head coach Cory McCarthy often tells reporters, "The uglier, the better." Good news for the Titans: Northbridge relishes in that style, too. Eight of its players were on the Rams squad that won a Division 2 football Central Mass Super Bowl this past fall, and have brought that aggressive mentality to the floor with forwards (and brothers) Thomas and Harrison Murphy. Also watch out for Corey Pryor, who burned Sabis on Wednesday night with a series of uncontest layups en route to 24 points.
Hall's Pick: Cory McCarthy is known to fill up a reporter's notebook fairly quickly with his endless arsenal of money quotes. But the one that still resonates above the rest is the one he gave our correspondent Adam Kurkjian back in December: "I love these kids. I would do anything for these kids. And I feel like they will eat glass for me." Remember that one if this is close in the waning minutes. Mission, 58-47.
DIVISION 1 GIRLS: ANDOVER (26-1) VS. AMHERST (22-2)
The Lowdown: Amherst, written off the in preseason after the transfer of Mariah Lesure to Tabor Academy, has rolled through Western Mass, and arrives in Worcester after a thrilling overtime defeat of Algonquin in Tuesday's Central/West state semifinal. Much of the Hurricanes' emergence has to do with the maturation of their junior class led by Brianna Leonard (11.1 points), Morbasaw Nkambeo (10.0) and Kristen Ferrola (9.3). The Golden Warriors, meanwhile, were one of several heavy favorites in Division 1 headed into the season, and save a lone regular-season blip to Central Catholic have done nothing to deter that thinking. Much has been made of Andover's Division 1-ready backcourt led by Marist-bound senior Natalie Gomez-Martinez and BC-bound junior Nicole Boudreau, the state's newly-anointed Gatorade Player of the Year. But the Warriors excel on the boards, too, behind junior Ally Fazio and sophomore Devon Caveney.
Hall's Pick: At the risk of jinxing this...should Andover win, I don't think it's out of the realm to think the Warriors have a shot next season at making it the first Division 1 girls three-peat since Haverhill in the mid-90's. Long Live The MVC. Andover, 70-60.
DIVISION 1 BOYS: ST. JOHN'S PREP (24-1) VS. ST. JOHN'S OF SHREWSBURY (21-5)
The Lowdown: After the loss of Ryan Kelley (ACL tear) and stalemate of a Central Final defeat of Fitchburg (40-38), some questioned whether Shrewsbury was ripe for the picking. The Pioneers put an end to that doubt on Wednesday night, handling a talented Northampton squad with physical defense and clutch shooting from Matt Harrington. Head coach Bob Foley is known for his Princeton-ish offense, this year led by forward pivots Matt Palecki and Richard Rodgers, but we've seen the Pioneers transition teams to death in state championships past (Lynn English, 2009, anyone?). This marks the fourth straight D1 final appearance for SJS, while Prep is making its first appearance since 1974. The matchup of the day might be Pat Connaughton versus Rodgers (we'll just assume that's what Prep head coach Sean Connolly will do for now), but the Eagles have prided themselves all year long on the work of their role players. Every game, it's a different kid stepping up, between Steve Haladyna, Freddy Shove, Mike Carbone, Owen Marchetti and Isaiah Robinson.
Hall's Pick: It's going to be a rockfight on the court, and both student sections are going to be rocking out. And I do mean rocking. I literally can't wait. By the way, every high school fan ever, you've got your work cut out for you after Northampton's "Full Metal Jacket" routine the other night at DCU. Prep, 45-41.