Collins stars in Pope John’s win over Mashpee
By Cary Shuman
When the lights were the brightest, Mehki Collins was at its best.
Collins, who has Chelsea connections, scored 23 points and was Mr. Clutch in the final minutes as the Pope John XXIII High School basketball team defeated Mashpee, 70-62, in the state semifinal Monday at the TD Garden.
Mehki is the son of Teresa Baker and Michael Collins. He is the grandson of Beverly Martin-Ross and the godson of former Chelsea High basketball standout John Martin. It was a proud family gathering at the Garden as Mehki, a junior guard, and Michael Thompson (14 points), a senior forward, took over the game and delivered a thrilling victory to the Tigers.
Luis Velasquez, a junior forward from Chelsea, also propelled the Tigers with six points and a key steal in the fourth quarter. He, too, has been a major contributor for the Catholic Central League champions.
Pope John will play Maynard for the Division 4 state championship Saturday at Springfield College. The school principal at Pope John is former Chelsea resident Thomas Mahoney, who founded and coached the CHS boys soccer team.
Pope John coach Leo Boucher said Collins has earned his reputation as a clutch player.
“Mekhi has always stepped up and been a leader,” said Boucher. “He is always there at the end of the game to take care of the basketball when we need him to. I thought he played really well offensively and was a catalyst for us. He hit some big shots and free throws in the fourth quarter.”
Collins said the team has played as a close-knit team all season.
“We play together and have so much fight in us, and I’m so proud of my teammates and my coaching staff,” said Collins. “We never give up.”
He was excited to play at the TD Garden, home of the Boston Celtics.
“It means a lot to win this game on the Garden floor,” said Collins. “I didn’t feel any more pressure in this game. They passed the reins to me and I did what I had to do. My teammates put me in the best position to score.”
Collins attended the Hooks School and began his basketball career in the Chelsea Youth Basketball where he played for coach Maurice Cromwell. His skills were well known and his coaches predicted a bright future for him.
And they were right.
On Saturday, Collins and the 23-1 Pope John Tigers will try to bring home a state championship for the first time in school history.
Pope John basketball team beats Mashpee at the Garden
Collins, Thompson lead Tiger team into the Massachusetts state finals
By Cary Shuman
Pope John’s brilliant guard Angel Price-Espada was hobbled by a leg injury so head coach Leo Boucher looked to other players to give his team a boost in the decisive fourth quarter of Monday’s state semifinal at the TD Garden.
Senior forward Michael Thompson and junior guard Mehkhi Collins both answered the call with heroic efforts in the final stanza. Thompson scored 12 of his 14 points, including two clutch free throws, in the second half, while Collins had 14 of his game-high 23 points, as North champion Pope John defeated South champion Mashpee, 70-62, on the famous parquet floor.
The Tigers (22-1) advance to the Division 4 state championship game in Springfield against defending state champion Maynard (22-3).
Espada came out dishing and had seven assists, to go along with nine points (11 overall) in the first half. The Tigers’ dependable inside player, Marques Bouyer, also made an early statement with 10 points in the first half as Pope John led 37-32 at intermission. Bouyer also reigned over Pope John’s control the defensive boards. Luis Velasquez helped out the Tigers’ offensive with six points. Cam Erickson, the Tigers’ sharpshooting junior, had a basket while Connor Kelly was a key contributor off the bench, also netting two points.
Velasquez had two hoops in the third quarter before Thompson went on a mini-tear with three baskets and a key steal with the game tied at 49-49. A basket by Collins gave Pope John a 51-49 lead after three quarters.
Pope John was leading 59-57 when Price-Espada left the game after sustaining a right leg injury. He would return to the game, though clearly not at 100 percent.
Collins connected on a free throw and Collins added a basket to keep Pope John ahead, 64-61. Another Thompson hoop, two free throws by Collins, a steal by Velasquez allowed the Tigers to seal the victory.
“That was a terrific basketball game,” said Boucher. “Mashpee just keeps coming at you, they’re a phenomenal basketball team. They were everything we thought they would be and more.”
Collins was a catalyst in the first quarter for the Pope John offense with eight points. He saved his best for last with the game on the line.
“We got together as one unit and played together and we have so much fight – I’m so proud of my teammates, our coaching staff and Pope John” said Collins. “They passed the reins to me and I did what I had to do. My teammates put me in the best position to what I had to do and score.”
Thompson was equally humble about his clutch effort.
“I have to thank my teammates for putting me in that situation,” said Thompson. “I was struggling a little bit, but they kept giving the ball. Their confidence in me and keeping me motivated is what decided those final layups for me.”
Boucher said Collins and Thompson were difference makers in the game.
“I thought our upperclassmen, our junior [Collins] and our senior [Thompson] stepped up,” said Boucher. “Angel was hurt and the leg was bothering him the whole game, but these kids stepped up. They’ve worked hard to get to where they got to, and they won’t be denied. They’re trying to earn the respect they truly deserve.”
Boucher was asked what it meant for the school to be playing in its first state final.
“It’s pretty exciting,” said Boucher. “For a little school like us, we have about 200 boys – our basketball team is just about everything to us, so it’s pretty cool. We have a great administrators, great kids, and great supporters.
Two of those administrators, Head of School Carl DiMaiti and Principal Thomas Mahoney, a member of the school’s first graduating class, sat courtside Monday and will now join a legion of PJ students and alumni in Springfield in search of the school’s first state basketball title.
by Bob Morello
Bruins continue to show their resilency by scoring five unansewered goals
Just when it looked like the Bruins were headed for the rare (this season), two losses in row, the Bruins on Tuesday night had an epiphany, scoring five unanswered goals in the third period to notch a 6-4 win over the Carolina Hurricanes. The realization that they had lost the services of defensemen, Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug, and forward Jake DeBrusk, due to injury, the future looked bleak. The forecast had the Hurricanes holding a 4-1 lead and a solid look at a win going into the third period, like many New Englander’s, the youth playing for Boston felt the prognosticators were wrong and decided to do something about it.
Boston’s lone goal late in the first period came from Brad Marchand for a 1-0 lead. For Marchand was his 30th goal of the season, the third consecutive time he’s hit that mark, tying him with Glen Murray, the last Bruin to have three straight 30-goal seasons (2001-2004). At 10:04 of the third period the youngster Matt Grzelcyk scored Boston’s second goal to cut the deficit to 4-2. Then the floodgates opened as David Pastrnak, 56 seconds later, deposited his 25th goal at 11:00, Danton Heinen found a spark 21 seconds after, taking a pass from David Krejci to score his 13th at 11:21, to tie the game at 4-4. Just over five minutes later and no goals scored, Pastrnak took over, scoring the game-winner (#26) at 16:30 and an empty-netter (#27), for the first hat trick of his young career. A startling, entertaining ten minutes that earned the Bruins the two points, leaving them just four points behind the Tampa Bay Lightning who lost to the Ottawa Senators, with the Bs still holding two games in hand.
Once again the moves and non-moves Bruins general manager Don Sweeney made at the trade deadline have proved to be good, decisive ones. Sweeney’s addition of veterans Rick Nash, Brian Gionta, and Tommy Wingels up front, and Nick Holden on the blueline may have looked like overstock a bit, but has proved to be vital, with the loss of Patrice Bergeron and Charlie McAvoy. Add to that the undisclosed, possible injuries Tuesday night to Chara, Krug, DeBrusk, and it almost makes Sweeney seem clairvoyant.
Tuukka Rask in net has not looked as sharp as he had been earlier in the season, but despite the fact that he has given up a handful of goals in his last six appearances, with four goals in three of those games, he has managed a record of 5-1 in those six games. In 44 games thus far this season his record is still an impressive 29-11-0-4, goals-against-average 2.35, and save percentage of .917.
Boston’s four-game road trip continues with two more stops: Tonight (Thursday 7:30pm) versus Florida Panthers who are still fighting for a playoff spot (3 points back), with a huge game on Saturday, 7:00pm, with the Bs taking on the Tampa Bay Lightning, in what could still be a battle for the top spot in both the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference. The odd NHL schedule has the Bruins returning to TD Garden ice on Monday (10/19 at 7:00pm) to host the streaking Columbus Blue Jackets who are currently riding a five game win streak, for a single game, before embarking on a five-game road trip beginning in St. Louis Blues on Wednesday (10/21 at 8:00pm). St. Louis is also three points out of a playoff spot. In summary, it will be a tough four games coming up for Boston with each time they face, still battling for position, and a spot in the playoffs.
Brad Marchand was named NHL second star of the week for the week ending March 11. General Manager Don Sweeney announced that the team has signed University of Wisconsin forward Trent Frederic to a three-year entry-level contract, beginning with the 2018-19 season. Frederic will join the Providence Bruins on an Amateur Tryout Agreement (ATO) for the remainder of the 2017-18 season. Sweeney also announced that the team has signed University of Wisconsin forward Cameron Hughes to a three-year entry-level contract, beginning with the 2018-19 season. Hughes will also join the Providence Bruins on an Amateur Tryout Agreement (ATO) for the remainder of the 2017-18 season.
STEPHANIE SIMON COMPETES IN TRACK MEET IN NEW YORK CITY
This past Friday, Chelsea High sophomore Stephanie Simon competed in the New Balance Indoor High School Track & Field National Championships held at the Armory in NYC.
“Stephanie went into this meet with a personal best high jump of 5’-5”,” said CHS head coach Mark Martineau. “While the results were not what we had hoped for, it was a great achievement for Stephanie. She is the first national-qualified track performer we have had at CHS since the legendary Bobby Goss. The future is bright for this student-athlete.”