We have seen plenty of basketball over the month of January and early February, so let’s take a moment to regroup and see where we are and where we may be headed.
The MIAA mandates that playoff-bound teams win 50 percent of their regular season games. With most teams playing a 20-game regular season, this means the number teams shoot for is 10.
On the boys side, the conclusion of the regular season should make for an entertaining two weeks, for only three teams from the CAL have qualified for playoff ball. These teams are Georgetown, Hamilton-Wenham and Manchester Essex. While they have punched their ticket, their role for the final five-or-so games will be the spoiler.
The Clippers are a prime example. Newburyport head coach Tom L’Italien’s team sits at 7-6, tied in league points in the CAL’s Baker Division at 14 with Saugus, Masco and North Reading heading into Tuesday night’s slate of games. While Hamilton-Wenham is already in possession of the division title, the battle for the runner’s-up slot remains anyone’s game.
Newburyport will face Hamilton-Wenham on Tuesday in the hopes of moving closer to its clinching 10th win, though that will take a massive effort to successfully do so. From there, the road doesn’t get much easier.
On Friday, the Clippers will take on the Triton Vikings in a rematch of what was a rough night on the hardwood — a game that Newburyport lost by nine points. Even in a down year and sitting at just 4-10, the Vikings have fallen in eight games by under 10 points.
From there, Newburyport will take on Masco, a team that just three days ago beat the Clippers by 11 points and is sitting at 7-6. They will then travel to Pentucket (6-8) in what is always a close game between two teams who know each other well before concluding the regular season at Saugus (8-9).
With three wins needed and five tough games ahead, the hot-and-cold Newburyport team will have to finish the season strong if they hope to make a run to the TD Garden parquet.
While the Sachems have a longer road ahead, it doesn’t appear to be as ominous as the one facing the Clippers.
The remaining six games for the Sachems are: Saugus, Masco, Triton, North Reading, Triton and Newburyport, only two of which were holding a winning record on Tuesday afternoon. And, of those six teams, Pentucket has already faced four and beaten two.
Simply, if the Sachems can outlast Saugus and Masco for the second time this year AND beat both meetings with a Triton team that has found ways to lose of late, the Sachems could be playoff bound.
Watch out for the Royals come postseason.
Having already clinched a playoff spot, Georgetown hasn’t taken its hypothetical foot off the gas — winning every game since punching their ticket on Jan. 29. The Royals’ final four games are Lynnfield (6-9), Amesbury (3-10), Ipswich (1-14) before the regular season finale against Manchester Essex. Georgetown is just six points behind Manchester Essex (four points within the division and the tie breaker) in the race for the division title and could very well finish league champs if finishing the season unbeaten.
A team sitting at 4-10 could easily overlooked, but this Vikings team should not be. As the season progressed Triton was hit by youth and injury — but all the while showed signs of life for next season.
With only one senior contributor, Triton is a team jam-packed with junior talent. If you attended its game at the TD Garden against Bishop-Fenwick, you saw a Vikings team that controlled play, scored at will, rebounded with passion and played with heart. You saw a kid in Cam Armand lead his team as a junior captain and junior forward Corey Parsons hit monster shot after monster shot.
What you didn’t see from Triton was Ellsworth Rogers – a 6-foot-4 center who controls the paint while having the green light for the outside. Out with injury for that game, Rogers missed out on the opportunity to play at the Garden, but he may get his shot again next season in his senior year. S
imply put, look out for Triton in 2014-2015.
From the vantage point of girls basketball, not much remains unknown. Pentucket and Newburyport have both punched their ticket, while neither are expected to catch Masconomet for the CAL race.
After beating Pentucket on Monday night in what was undoubtedly the hoops game of the year for this region, Masco head coach Bob Romeo expressed a slight fear of the curse that has followed undefeated teams once the postseason begins.
While the loss to Masco ended a winning streak of over a month and all but knocked the team out of the run for the CAL title, Pentucket basketball has been known for its deep runs to the MIAA State Championship game.
The weight of the winning streak is off Pentucket’s shoulders, as is the pressure to tally points in the CAL. Perhaps the loss to Masco wasn’t the worst thing for the Sachems, as they can now securely fasten their sights on the ultimate prize.
Newburyport still has work to do. Beginning the year 8-1, Clippers head coach Gregg Dollas has seen his team go 3-3 in their last six games.
With Hamilton-Wenham, Masco and Pentucket remaining on the schedule, Newburyport could fall on the year to 13-7 — a tough record for a team that began the year with wins in eight of their first nine and likely a tough first-round contest in the post season.