Charlestown (Mass.) Wins HBC Northeast Regional

In the high school equivalent to March Madness, Charlestown (Mass.) won the Northeast Regional this past weekend to advance to Philadelphia, where the final 10 teams will compete for the AND 1 HBC Championship from June 23-26.

Charlestown (Mass.) has won five Division 2 state titles in the past six years, so it wasn't going to be daunted by playing in a big game. But when it comes to a summer tournament game, it doesn't get any bigger than the Northeast Regional championship game of the AND 1 tournament this past weekend.

The Townies were playing St. Mark's (Southborough, Mass.) with a free trip to Philadelphia on the line and they weren't about to let it slip away. Charlestown, behind 15 points from senior guard Rashaud Skeens, prevailed, 61-55, in the finale at Tufts University.

The win brings Charlestown to Philadelphia on the weekend on June 23-26, when 10 teams will compete at La Salle University for the AND 1 HBC Championship, with the title game aired on CSTV.

"The kids were real excited," Townies head coach Jack O'Brien said. "This is the first year the (regional) tournament has been in a local area, so there were a lot more local teams."

O'Brien, who under Massachusetts rules isn't allowed to coach his team at all in the summer, was able to catch a glimpse of the future of his Charlestown squad. And it's bad news for the rest of Massachusetts.

"It never hurts to get this experience," the coach said. "We've always had kids emerge as seniors. But I think it's great anytime anything like winning this can happen, especially when you can do it with some unheralded kids."

In addition to Skeens, senior Bernard Coleman had a tremendous weekend for Charlestown. Bernard is the latest in a long line of Colemans to come through the Charlestown halls for O'Brien. His older brother Derek, now playing at Robert Morris, won four state titles while playing for the Townies.

Other standouts included junior guards Paul Becklens and Lance Greene.

All Massachusetts teams were playing by the same rules, but O'Brien has to rely on his veterans more in the summer, when he and his staff aren't allowed to coach. They are allowed in the gym, but not on the bench.

"Absolutely, these kids took charge," O'Brien said.

Adding to the pressure for O'Brien's squad was that the tournament was single elimination. Although each team is guaranteed at least three games, if you lose once, the potential Philly trip is gone.

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Other teams joining Charlestown in Philadelphia will be Laurinburg (N.C.) Institute, which clinched its spot by winning the Southeast II Regional on June 12. Laurinburg defeated Dr. Phillips (Orlando, Fla.), 66-59, behind an outstanding all-around performance from star Celeste Mayllee, who finished with 20 points, eight rebounds and seven blocked shots.

Artesia (Lakewood, Calif.) rolled into Philadelphia, knocking off Vista Murrieta (Calif.), 64-31 in the finals of the West I regional. Malik Story led the way for the Pioneers with 16 points, seven boards and three dimes.

Rainier Beach senior Tremaine Meneese made sure his squad would get a free cross country trip with a 33-point, 11-rebound performance to propel the Vikings past Jefferson, 89-75, in the West II regional.

Perhaps the best game of the tournament was several weeks ago, in the Southwest regional finals, when Dallas Carter edged Fort Worth Dunbar, 64-63 on May 22. Carter earned its trip to Philly when Alzee Williams, who had scored just two points up until that point, hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

That ended a furious second-half comeback for Carter. After trailing by 10 at the break, Carter's Brockeith Pane brought his team back in the game, hitting several clutch 3-pointers and finishing with 31 points. Dunbar missed 3-of-4 free throws in the final minute, setting the stage for Williams' heroics.

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