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Division 4 boys hoop preview: St. Mary’s leans on depth

December 20, 2016 GMT

St. Mary’s chances of repeating as Division 4 state basketball champions took a hit due to events on the football field.

Standout freshman center Matt Cross suffered a serious leg injury in a Div.?3A Super Bowl loss to East Bridgewater, putting him out for the hoop season. Without the 6-foot-6 Cross, who started as an eighth-grader, others will have to pick up the slack.

Fortunately for the Spartans, they possess some solid leftovers from last year. Guards Jonny Mercado and Calvin Johnson along with forward Jonathan Mola earned all-Catholic Central Large honors. Add in the trio of Mike Cerulli, Stephen Fama and Jalen Echevarria and one can see why hopes remain high at St. Mary’s.

Several CCL teams figure to offer stiff resistance, starting with Pope John. Despite losing three transfers, the Tigers remain formidable as guard Travon Ford and forward Pat Kelly are back for another year.

Matignon returns its high-scoring backcourt with Mohammed Traore and Chris Blacquier. Lowell Catholic is in the same boat because Isaiah Holmes and Tom Desmond are back for another year.

Hamilton-Wenham returns all-Cape Ann League forward Nick DiMarino along with guards Ben Danforth and Billy Whelan. James Lustig is back up front, giving the Generals four quality returnees.

Cathedral has been the top dog in Div. 4 South for the better part of a decade and this year figures to be no different. New coach Larry Merritt has a solid group led by guards Calvin Cheeks, Victor Owens, Julian Howell, Khalil Blair and forward Trevor Lynch.

Cohasset should be in the mix as center Chase Bomeisler and guard Will O’Connell return. Holbrook has the high-scoring backcourt duo of Kyree LaPlanche and Jeremiah King, while Old Colony returns a pair of league all-stars in guard Paul Soucy and forward Jake Jason.

In Div. 3 North, defending sectional champion Bedford should be solid in the backcourt with Jack Cowan, Tim Cowen and Cam Shelmire back in the fold. Weston is looking to finish stronger than a year ago and has the ingredients with guards Kyle Murphy and Jared Groff along with forwards Doug Dahl and Cam Peddie.

North Reading returns a trio of starters from a 19-win team in guards Anthony Eldridge and Mike McCauley as well as forward Bob O’Donnell. Lynnfield will rely on the 1-2 forward punch of Louis Ellis and Michael Carangelo, while Newburyport is expecting big things from forward Cam MacRae.

Watertown is a team no one ever wants to see in the postseason. The Raiders could be a factor with guards Vondre Chase and Julio Fulcar along with center John Korte.

In Div. 3 South, Bourne has a solid core back in All-Scholastic guard Jacob Ashworth along with backcourt mates Parker Freedman and David Laine. Burke will be led by guards Dajour Dunkley and Levan Williams as well as forward Kenneth Araujo, while Cardinal Spellman returns guard A.J. Jaramillo and forward Mike Spencer.

Rockland should be in the hunt for the South Shore League title behind guard Jake Crawford and forward Jakigh Marcelin. Mashpee has guards Devaun Ford and Mike Fraser back to team with forward Dominick Fellini, while Norwell returns standout forward Jake Smith.

Look for Hanover to improve on a 12-win campaign as center Patrick Flynn, forwards Freddy Damon and Matt Delahunt and guard Zack Chase are back.