Raised Expectations for ME Boys Hoop in Postseason


The win total is high, and so are the expectations for the Manchester Essex boys basketball team.

The Hornets had one game left on the regular season schedule at the start of the week—a non-divisional game against Randolph on Feb. 21 that they won handily 64-42, resulting in an unprecedented record of 19-1 overall.  The team ended its Cape Ann League schedule undefeated for the second year in a row and appears poised to make waves once the MIAA Div. 4 tournament begins.  For most teams, the raised expectations might be intimidating. Impressively, this squad has taken it all in stride and will hopefully be able to continue to maintain this confidence in the postseason.

“Having back-to-back undefeated seasons in the Cape Ann League -- last year, I never thought we would do this again -- and coming back with the pressure of being one of the best teams, feeling like we might be able to go undefeated again, the stakes are high,” explains ME boys basketball coach Tim St. Laurent.  “We showed that we can play under pressure.  We feel like we are one of the best in Div. 4 and feel like we can make a deep run in the state tournament.  We’ve been talking about that since day one, and we are in a good place heading into the tournament.”

In an interesting twist, Manchester Essex’s first and only loss of the season -- a 60-52 loss to Burke on Feb. 12 -- reinforced the team’s confidence in their ability to get things done once the postseason begins.  

“The Burke game was what we thought it would be,” explains St. Laurent.  “We were playing a very, very fast, athletic team.  We were down twice in that game and stormed back to tie it.  It was tied at the half, 25-25, and it was a tie game with three minutes to play.  Unfortunately, down the stretch, they were the better team that night.”

The loss wasn’t the real takeaway from that night, however.  It was how the team felt after the loss and then responded with big wins over CAL foes Ipswich (a 68-42 win on Feb. 14) and Amesbury (a 77-33 demolition one night later).

“I think when we were coming home from Boston [after the Burke game], we were certainly disappointed that we lost, but we were glad to know that the loss was in the regular season and not the postseason,” says St. Laurent.  “Even though we lost, we felt like we could play with one of the best teams in Div. 4 and it affirmed that we could play at that level.

He adds: “We got lucky, we were supposed to play Ipswich on Tuesday after that and got a snow day so we could rest up.  Then we played Ipswich and Amesbury on Wednesday and Thursday and had two 20-plus point wins, played really well on both nights.”

Not only were the wins encouraging, it also didn’t hurt that the Hornets put together two big blowouts while giving Eddie Chareas time to recover from a knee injury and leaning on two players who could provide meaningful minutes come tournament time.

“Freshman center Alex Ste. Marie played 25 minutes in both games, and had 10-plus points in both games,” explains St. Laurent.  “He showed that he belongs at the varsity level, and he should be a nice addition for us to add to the arsenal heading into the tournament.”

Also of note was the play of freshman point guard Graham Lewis.

“He played big minutes versus Amesbury and Ipswich, “St. Laurent says of Lewis.  “He’s another guy who can handle the press when we need a ball-handler.  Both of them are nice additions heading into the tournament for us.”

After the season finale at home against Randolph, the Hornets will keep busy with practices and a pair of scrimmages against Charlestown and Newburyport while waiting for playoff seeds to be announced this upcoming weekend.  At the start of the week, Manchester Essex was ranked seventh in the Div. 4 Power Rankings, with the final rankings helping to determine how high of a seed and how many home games the Hornets will get in the playoffs.

“It’s been a moving target between five and seven,” St. Laurent said just before Wednesday's game against Randolf.  "As long as we take care of business on Wednesday [against Randolph], that could get us two home games, which would be great.  Last year, we had to go on the road for the Sweet 16, so to be able to play two home games would be great.   We would be on the road for the Elite Eight, if we get that far.”