NEPSAC Tournament Preview
The NEPSAC regular season came to an end on Saturday and by Sunday morning post-season brackets had already been announced in all six classes.
With only 8 spots up for grabs in each division, just the task of earning a post-season bid was a substantial one, especially in the deeper classes like AA, A, and B.
Quarterfinal action will tip-off Wednesday with the semis on Saturday and champions crowned on Sunday.
Here's a class by class preview of this week's action
The premier prep league in the country has shrunk down to just five members, which means Wednesday's quarterfinal game will feature just one game as New Hampton School travels to Bridgton Academy. The winner will face top-seeded Brewster while Northfield Mount Hermon will host St. Thomas More on the bottom side of the bracket. This appears to be a collision course for Brewster and NMH to once again meet in the finals in what would be a rubber match this season as both teams defended their home court with double figure wins. Brewster obviously has the size advantage up front with the likes of Derek Culver, Miles Norris, Isaiah Mucius, Lukas Kisunas, and Nate Roberts while the consistency of their guards will be key. NMH has a more defined hierarchy as Nate Laszewski and Noah Kirkwood will play starring roles while their teammates playing supporting parts.
The Tilton School is the top seed in Class AA and playing their best basketball of the season after knocking off Brewster last week and clinching the Lake Regions championships. Marcus Zegarowski is one of the league's top players but there's far more depth than most realize with Max Zegarowski, Joey Glynn, Christian Hinckson, Cal Connelly, Eric Beckett, and Cameron Parker among others. The road won't be easy though. The Rams open up with KUA and Nick Timberlake, who has been playing as well as anyone in AA as of late. South Kent, which finished with a 15-3 regular season in AA play, landed the fourth seed and faces a MacDuffie team that knocked off Tilton in December.
Cole Swider and St. Andrew's took the second seed and they host Lawrence Academy in the opener with a potential match-up against the defending champions, Cushing Academy, on the horizon assuming David Duke and company get past Gould Academy in a quarterfinal game that will be played on a neutral floor at Proctor. A semifinal between St. Andrew's and Cushing semifinal would pit two of New England's against each other with the winner moving on to Rhode Island College.
Class A may be the most wide open bracket. Loomis Chaffee is the top seed and playing their best basketball of the season with Jaiden Delaire now healthy and back to his normal self. They'll face an always tough Tabor team in the opening round though and then potentially have the winner of Suffield and Choate in the semifinals. The bottom half of the bracket is loaded. Williston Northampton earned the number two seed with a series of road wins in recent weeks but they face a Belmont Hill team that has been playing at a high level all season long but earned the 7 seed, presumably due to the strength of their schedule in the ISL. Third seeded Milton has the best player in the class, Cormac Ryan, surrounded by a more than capable supporting cast but their draw is especially difficult as they'll open with the defending champions Phillips Exeter with the winner facing the Williston/Belmont winner in the semis.
Realignment has made this a particularly interesting and competitive year in Class B. The Brooks School remains the overwhelming favorite to defend their championship with unmatched depth around Justin Connolly, Keigan Kerby, Brian Wright-Kinsey, and Preston Santos but the overall field is much stronger than a year ago. Beaver Country Day, Governors Academy, and Marianapolis Prep all have the weapons to at least make it interesting with Brooks on their way to the finals while the bottom half of the bracket is particularly competition. Second seeded Rivers combines veteran leadership with high level young talent and they'll face a St. Luke's squad that is capable of pulling an upset behind Jonas Harper. Canterbury and Hamden Hall could be the most competitive quarterfinal with Mike Speight, Emmanuel Ansong, and Kieffer Punter squaring off against Christian Adams, Byron Breland, and Tim Dawson.
Top seeded Dexter School looks like the overwhelming favorite behind their junior trio of Charles Coleman, Jordan Mason, and Noah Kamba and should be able to march into the final relatively unchallenged. Hyde School and Winchendon appear to be the team's in the bottom half of the bracket that have the best chance of competing as Hyde features Edwin Ezedonmwen along with sophomores Aidan Carpener and Jalen Graham while Winchendon is led by Bryant signee Nino Hernandez.
New York Military Academy earned a first round bye as a result for earning the top seed but their are challengers ready to give them a test should they meet in the final. Rocky Hill School has a lethal junior trio in Steven Lora, Jay-Juan Hayes, and Tedrick Wilcox while Watkinson has some firepower of their own.