By Matt Jenkins
---- — In the Paint
When you watch the games and look at the boxscores from the North Shore boys basketball scene over the second half of the season, it’s pretty easy to see that there is extreme balance across all local leagues.
That balance may not result in every team hovering around .500, but most games seem to be extremely competitive. Salem, Beverly and Lynn English each split with one another. A Hamilton-Wenham team with only two losses needed to fight tooth-and-nail to edge a Masconomet squad that is fighting tooth-and-nail to get into the tournament. Bishop Fenwick defeats Peabody one week, then loses to the Tanners the next week.
It goes on and on, and the balance of power isn’t just spread out among teams. When you look at individuals, there is power in all classes this season as well.
Several freshmen and sophomores are playing major roles across the North Shore, so it seemed like a good time to name some class-specific all-star teams.
But there’s a catch: all 13 teams in the Salem News coverage area had to be represented by at least one player, and no team could have more than three. Also, each “all-star” team had a maximum limit of eight players.
It was a bit of a balancing act — choosing just three players from teams like Salem, Danvers and St. John’s Prep was very difficult — but here’s the end result:
Starting five: David Kazadi, Salem, C; Nick Cross, Beverly, F; Dom Luoni, Bishop Fenwick, F; Max Burt, St. John’s Prep, G; Johnnie Spears, Pingree, G.
Off the bench: Matt Jaeger, Ipswich, G; John Berchoff, Beverly, F; Henry Eagar, Hamilton-Wenham, F.
Scouting report: This group would have strength up front with Kazadi and Cross as starters and Berchoff and Eagar off the bench, and the team would be very good defensively with Kazadi protecting the rim and Burt and Spears harassing opposing guards. Luoni would be in a great situation with this group. He could work hard without the ball and become a dangerous spot-up shooter that feeds off the play-making ability of Burt and Spears. Jaeger, a returning Cape Ann League all-star, has quietly had another excellent season and could play the role of shooter off the bench.
Starting five: Devan Harris, Danvers, F; Bryan Martinez-Rodriguez, Salem, F; Ben Judson, St. John’s Prep, G; Jake Rudolph, Masconomet, G; Kareem Davis, St. John’s Prep, G.
Off the bench: Trace Schaejbe, North Shore Tech/Essex Aggie, G; Matt Correale, Peabody, G; Cian Saunders, Marblehead, F
Scouting report: This team could put big points on the board. All five starters are capable of going off for huge offensive games and with Davis manning the point, everyone would get their touches. Harris and Martinez-Rodriguez could feed off each other, with Harris doing the dirty work under the basket and Martinez-Rodriguez setting up at the high post. Judson would be the player who could stretch the floor and Rudolph would be the player who has the ball when the shot clock is winding down. Having Schaejbe, one of the top scorers on the North Shore, coming off the bench is a bonus, and Correale is a player who really has hit his stride during the second half; he’d be valuable as a reserve because of his ability to play either guard position. There’s not a lot of height on this team, so Saunders would have to play taller than he is.
Starting five: Alonzo Jackson, Pingree, F; Justin Assad, Pingree, F; Rashad Francois, Danvers, G; Kyle Coughlin, Beverly, G; Joey Ragusa, Swampscott, G.
Off the bench: Jackson Latimer, Masconomet, F; Kelven Perpetuo, Salem, G.
Scouting report: Although this group may not be as deep as the upperclassmen teams, the top-level talent here is just as good. Jackson and Assad are both very athletic and are excellent offensive players. Francois also scores in bunches and a player like Coughlin could really flourish with this group. He’s a high-energy guy off the bench for the Panthers and would take on a bigger role with this crew. Ragusa has played well at point guard for Swampscott and Perpetuo, who has gradually worked his way into the Salem rotation this winter, would be a good backup. Perpetuo plays the game with a good pace. Latimer brings some height (6-foot-4) to the floor and can step out and shoot the 3-pointer.
Starting five: Moisse Irizarry, Peabody, F; Max Zegarowski, Hamilton-Wenham, F; Devon Allen, Danvers, G; Matt D’Amato, Peabody, G; Marcus Zegarowski, Hamilton-Wenham, G.
Off the bench: Andre Reeves, Swampscott, G.
Scouting report: This team obviously doesn’t go as deep; they’d have to play a six-man rotation. Also, they don’t have the size to matchup with the older teams. Irizarry is a legitimate forward, but Max Zegarowski is a tall guard. What this team does have is a strong backcourt. Allen is a solid defensive player with a lot of offensive upside. D’Amato is a very good guard who can handle the ball, knock down the three and create his own shot. Marcus Zegarowski, meanwhile, would be the player that makes this team go. He’s just started to get his feet wet after missing the first half of the year with a broken thumb. He’s a smart player with a lot of skill and he plays with that lead-dog mentality. Reeves, meanwhile, would be a good player off the bench. He played his way into the Swampscott lineup, averaging double figures for the Big Blue.
THE BIGGEST SNUBS
If you move right down the list, it’s hard to look at the team of seniors without wondering about the absence of players like Jamie Dominguez and Rashad Keys from Salem, Brian Onessimo of Peabody, Chad Nelson of Swampscott, Matt Millett from Marblehead, Kieran Beck from Danvers, and Matt Costello from Bishop Fenwick.
Trying to balance the power obviously made it tough on players from Salem and Danvers. Onessimo, Nelson and Millett have arguably been the most consistent players from their respective teams.
Beck was especially hard to keep off because of his versatility; he could help any lineup in so many ways, between his ability to score, defend, ball-handle and rebound.
Costello would be a great fit on these types of all-star teams because he has a knack for picking up the scraps, getting hard-work hoops on loose balls under the basket or slipping behind a defense in a halfcourt set.
As far as juniors go, Hamilton-Wenham’s Jimmy Campbell has been a versatile player all year who’d make any lineup better. But, arguably the biggest snub of all is Danvers’ Peter Merry. As a long, shot-blocking presence in the middle, Merry is a difference-maker, plus he’s a very capable offensive threat. He has missed time this season due to injury, however, and Danvers’ choices were limited because of the need for Francois on the sophomore team and Allen on the freshman team.
The Waring School’s Henry Balf is mostly known for his dominance on the soccer field. Balf recently committed to Boston College, where he’ll continue his soccer career playing in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
But Balf is also a very good basketball player for Waring. He has scored 221 points through 11 games (20.1 average). He missed a few games this season while attending a soccer showcase in Florida.
The senior from Beverly scored 21 points in a win over Brimmer and May recently, which came one game after dropping 35 in a victory over B.U. Academy. Waring is currently 10-4.
Waring earned the No. 2 seed and will begin its league playoffs next Tuesday when it battles the Cambridge School of Weston.
St. John’s Prep will host the fourth annual IAABO Board 130 Classic Sunday and Monday. The tournament features eight (four boys and four girls) of the best teams in Eastern Mass.
St. John’s plays Lynn English, the defending champ, on Sunday night at 7:15 p.m. Andover and Everett play in the other boys game, beginning at 5:30 p.m.
Boston Latin vs. Whittier Tech (2 p.m.) and Newton South vs. Central Catholic (3:45 p.m.) are the girls matchups.
The IAABO Board 130 has given out $10,000 in scholarships since the tournament started in 2011. A player from each team receives a scholarship.
In The Paint, a column on North Shore boys’ basketball, runs every Tuesday during the winter sports season in The Salem News. Contact staff writer Matt Jenkins at 978-338-2648, by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter @MattJenkins_SN.