The Winthrop High boys basketball team delighted a large and raucous hometown crowd at the WHS gym with a 62-45 win over St. Clement’s of Somerville Saturday evening in a quarterfinal contest of the MIAA Division 4 North sectional tournament.
The victory propelled the Vikings, the No. 2 seed in the North, into a semifinal matchup against Manchester/Essex, the No. 3 seed, which was set for last night (Wednesday) in Malden as the Sun Transcript was going to press. Manchester Essex, 15-5 on the season, had a bye in the opening round and then defeated Georgetown 66-53 in its quarterfinal contest. Georgetown, the 11th seed with an 11-9 season record, had defeated North Shore Vocational School, the sixth seed with a 14-6 record, by a 61-57 score in the first round.
Although Manchester/Essex and Winthrop did not have any common opponents this season, WHS fans can follow this thread of indirect comparative opposition: Manchester finished in second place in Division II of the Cape Ann League behind Hamilton Wenham. Hamilton Wenham easily defeated Manchester on February 3 during the regular season, 67-46. However, Hamilton Wenham narrowly edged Saugus, 62-61, in the quarterfinal round of the Division 3 North sectional, while Winthrop twice beat Saugus by 20 points this season. Thus, it would appear as though the Vikings would have an edge against Manchester/Essex.
If Coach Dave Brown’s crew is successful in that encounter, they will play for the North Sectional championship Saturday evening at Emmanuel College against what undoubtedly will be a New Mission High team, the No. 1 seed from the other side of the bracket, that has been crushing its foes en route to a date in the North Sectional title game.
Here’s the thread on that one for Viking fans to consider: New Mission played Division 1 East Boston twice this season, winning and losing by a point in each game. Eastie advanced to the quarters of the D-1 North sectional before falling to St. John’s Prep, 60-56. St. John’s then took on Northeastern Conference champ Lynn English (which defeated Winthrop by about 15 points in their regular season encounter) in the D-1 semifinals on Tuesday night and eked out a one point win over English. So, the bottom line is this: New Mission will be a formidable foe at Emmanuel Saturday night.
If Winthrop wins the sectional crown, they will play Monday at Boston Garden against the South Sectional champ for the Eastern Mass. Title. Three of the top four seeds, Westport (1), Cathedral (3), and Hull (4), still were alive in the South Sectional as of press time.
The Vikings knew what to expect against St. Clement’s, the No. 7 seed in the bracket that had advanced past No. 10 seed Mystic Valley in the first round by a 76-57. Brown and his staff did an excellent job scouting St. Clement’s in that contest and were prepared for the Anchormen’s quick point guard and a talented big man in the middle, as well as the man to man defense employed by the Anchormen.
Still, St. Clement’s played tough through the first half and Winthrop went into the locker room at the intermission holding a slim two point lead.
“The long layoff (almost two weeks) left us a bit rusty,” said Brown, who noted that his team hit on just 1 of 13 shots from three point land. “But in the second half we created some turnovers and got our transition game going.”
With the Viking fans behind them, Winthrop soon burst out to a double digit lead midway through the third period, a bulge that St. Clement’s proved unable to narrow the rest of the way. The Winthrop defense clamped down on the St. Clement’s top players and the Vikings started to come alive at the offensive end.
“Gavin Mahoney did a great job defensively on their top guard,” said Brown, who also noted that Gavin dished out an amazing 16 assists on the night. Dino “MVP” Mallios ended up as Winthrop’s top scorer with 20 points, while Mark Jenkins pumped in 14 points and pulled down nine rebounds. Jake Connors chipped in with eight points and Anthony “Hatzi” Hatzisavas, who has been sidelined for virtually the entire season with a back injury suffered in football, came through with a big eight point effort.