The only other local teams in the playoffs are old-time rivals Salem and Beverly, who are both in Division 2 North. The D2 North sectional is one of the deepest in recent memory, with top seed Melrose undefeated at 20-0. No. 2 seed North Andover has to be considered among the favorites, which include Brighton, New Mission, Salem, Beverly and Lynn Classical as the bracket features 11 teams with winning percentages over .600.
The Witches (15-5 for tournament seeding, excluding a split with Everett) drew the No. 4 seed and host Winchester on Tuesday at 7 p.m. They’re 12-9 in the playoffs under coach Tom Doyle and have qualified in each of his 10 seasons as head coach.
Dangerous senior Christian Dunston (16.4 points per game) leads Salem with both creativity and athleticism, while Marvin Baez provides a shooting stroke with 49 made treys. Billy Muse has made 48 trifectas of his own for the Witches while James Louf-Woods and David Kazadi provide the muscle down low. Dunston, Muse and Baez were the NEC all-stars for Salem, which would host the Brighton/Burlington winner in the second round if it defeats Winchester.
Beverly is facing a familiar foe in NEC rival Lynn Classical, with the rubber match slated for Tuesday at 7 p.m. The Panthers will host the game as the No. 6 seed with a 14-6 record while the Rams come in seeded No. 11 at 14-8.
Beverly took care of Classical in the season opener, 53-45, but fell in the second game, 66-45, on Feb. 1. The Rams have NEC North Player of the Year Eraldo Custodio while the Panthers counter with a deep roster that includes Cam Rogers, Jon Berchoff (13.5 ppg), Nick Cross, JonAngel Fraco and Dom Abate.
A year ago, Beverly won its first playoff game in five years and the Panthers are hoping to build on that momentum this year. They’ve been to the playoffs in seven of coach Scott Lewis’ nine seasons.
Outside the immediate area, six of the 12 Northeastern Conference teams made the playoffs with Lynn English in Division 1 North and Saugus joining the bracket in D3. Similarly, six of 12 qualified out of the Cape Ann League with North Reading, Lynnfield, Manchester Essex and Amesbury joining Hamilton-Wenham and Newburyport.