Tilton Wins Fourth Straight
Class AA Final: #2 St. Mark’s (MA) 56 #1 Tilton (NH) 72
In a match-up featuring some of the region’s most impressive prospects in a variety of classes, second-seeded St. Mark’s would battle top seed Tilton in a contest highlighted by elite size, athleticism, and playmaking ability on both rosters. A lob from Rhode Island-commit Dominique Bull to sensational freshman Wayne Selden for an emphatic dunk in transition would help maintain a six-point Tilton lead, at 19-13, with over seven minutes remaining in the first half, before a series of dunks from Nerlens Noel and threes from Selden and Georges Niang would help extend the Rams’ lead to 12, at 36-24, heading into the break. St. Mark’s would come out of the locker room with a greater sense of urgency, and, behind the dynamic scoring ability of Nikolas Stauskas and inside play of Kaleb Tarczewski, the Lions would fight to keep the Tilton lead to single-digits with nine minutes left to play. Back-to-back lob plays involving Selden would stretch Tilton’s lead to 13, at 54-41, with under eight minutes remaining, before a three and acrobatic finish in the lane from freshman Kevin Zabo (eight points) and a transition bucket from Eli Lubick would cut the St. Mark’s deficit back to six, at 59-53, with 4:23 remaining. A big-time three from Tony Lester would push the spread back to 10, at 64-54, with just over three minutes left to play, and multiple highlight-reel finishes from Selden, Niang, and Noel down the stretch would eventually punctuate a dazzling, 72-56 victory and a fourth consecutive New England title for Tilton.
Niang finished with a game-high 23 points for Tilton to capture Most Outstanding Player honors, to go along with 22 from Selden. Stauskas led St. Mark’s with 17, with Tarczewski joining him as the only other Lion player in double-figures with 12.
Marcus O’Neill, Tilton Head Coach: “We just try to keep it simple and go out and win every game we play, without concentrating on what’s happened in the past or being satisfied with what we’ve been able to accomplish before. Our guys really do a nice job of focusing on the challenge at hand and preparing for what’s in front of us and that’s a big part of why we’ve been able to be so successful over a consistent period of time.”
Georges Niang (Tilton): “Our group of guys have been playing together for such a long time, we know our roles and what’s expected of us in order to be successful. Before the season, Coach O’Neill sat us down and defined each of our roles and outlined what we needed to do in order to be successful. Like everyone else, I just go out and try to do what we need in order for us to get it done, and look at us now, we’re sitting here in March holding a championship trophy.”
Most Outstanding Player - Georges Niang (Tilton)
While Selden and Noel supply most of the above-the-rim, highlight-reel finishes and prolific blocked shots on the defensive end, Niang (23 points, nine rebounds) is a constant staple of production with his super efficiency around the rim and ability to stretch the defense with a reliable stroke from three. With a high basketball I.Q. and underrated athleticism, the six-foot-seven forward can hurt you with a polished back-to-the-basket game, score from a variety of angles in the paint, and make opposing teams pay with crisp, pin-point passing ability out of double-teams on the low block.
Tough In Defeat - Nikolas Stauskas (St. Mark’s)
A deceptive, high-level athlete at six-foot-six, Stauskas (17 points) attacked from the wing in transition and showed off the pure stroke from the perimeter that makes him a dynamic offensive threat capable of putting up numbers in a hurry. A confident competitor who embraces the bright lights of the big stage, he was the lone St. Mark’s player to consistently rise to the occasion against Tilton’s elite athletes and did all he could to keep the Lions in the game down the stretch with a variety of tough hoops through traffic.
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