Bulldogs Reach State Final

            The Old Rochester Regional High School boys’ basketball team is headed to the MIAA Division 3 state championship game after hitting the John P. Brissette ’88 Competition Court at Worcester State University running, building an insurmountable lead and coasting to an 82-72 victory against third-seeded Pittsfield on Monday night.

            ORR saw its 2023 tournament run end in the semifinals, but this edition of Bulldog basketball was simply too versatile to be denied a trip to the championship weekend.

            The win puts the second-seeded Bulldogs (21-4) in the state final against the winner of Wednesday’s semifinal between top-seeded Charlestown and 14th-seeded Taconic. The date and time for the title tipoff at Tsongas Arena in Lowell was not announced in time for press. Eight championship games will be played at Tsongas, beginning Friday, March 15, at 6:00 pm with a second game at 7:45 pm. On both Saturday and Sunday, four games will be played at 12:00 pm, 2:00 pm, 4:00 pm and 6:00 pm.

            Pittsfield started off Monday’s game with a three-pointer, but the Bulldogs caught fire, running off 13 straight points and in the second half, growing their lead to 27. Point guard Gavin Martin ran the offense and Zach Maurao (27) and John Butler (26) combined for 53 of ORR’s season-high 82 points. Chase Bensacon was also in double figures with 17 points.

            After Malik Perry (team-high 21 points) dunked the ball for Pittsfield late in the game, Butler looked to match the feat at the other end of the court, but the play went sideways and led to a sloppy stretch that allowed the Generals to whittle ORR’s lead down to 14 points with 2:39 remaining. Coach Steve Carvalho had a talk with his starters, who sealed the deal from there.

            On March 8, ORR played Dover-Sherborn at home in the “Elite 8” and won 72-55 in a statement game that put the second-seeded Bulldogs into Monday night’s “Final Four” match.

            The quarterfinal win against Dover-Sherborn came more easily than the March 6, Round of 16 win against a tough Salem squad.

            At the start of the first quarter against Dover-Sherborn, it was a close game, but soon, that was not the case at all. ORR center Robert Spenard had a great quarter, dominating the paint and building up a huge lead.

            “We wanted to get the ball inside, we were bigger than them,” said Carvalho.

            By halftime, the Bulldogs held a 21-point lead. In the second half, every time Dover-Sherborn made runs, Old Rochester responded. The Bulldogs took care of business and ultimately came out with the win.

            Maurao led the way with 20 points, including six three-pointers. Spenard had 14 points and 7 rebounds, and Besancon also had 14 points, including 6 rebounds and 3 blocks. Butler had an all-around impactful game, scoring 14 points while adding 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 steals.

            ORR played Salem in the Sweet 16 on March 6 and won 66-58. The Bulldogs had a rough first quarter but ended up leading 16-10 by the end of it.

            “We were getting a little outrebounded in spots; we talked about it, and we made a little switch on defense,” said Carvalho.

            In the second quarter, the Bulldogs turned a tough start into a great defensive half with many steals, closing out the half with a six-point lead.

            “In practice, we work on maybe giving up the drive, and then help comes, and we’re helping that help. We have a huge emphasis on getting them off the three-point line,” said Butler.

            It was a back-and-forth third quarter, with ORR scoring many points inside. At the start of the fourth, it was a three-point game. But with the Bulldogs’ monster offense and defense, it was all over for Salem.

            The Bulldogs had a dominant final quarter, scoring 27 points.

            “We had enough offense to take it home,” said Carvalho.

            Butler made two steals and slam dunks on the other end in a matter of 15 seconds to end the hopes of a win for the visiting Wizards.

            “We got good, slow looks. We really calmed down,” said Butler.

            It was a team effort, as three ORR players scored in double figures. Mourao had 18 points, Besancon had 18 points and 7 rebounds, and Butler had 15 points and 6 rebounds. Martin did it all, as he had 6 points, 5 assists, 4 steals and 5 blocks.

State Tournament Basketball

By Aiden Comorosky and Mick Colageo

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