Berilo, Tigers clawing their way to the top in the CAC

Belmin Berilo scored 22 points for the Tigers. (Item Photo by Katie Morrison)

LYNN — When the Tech boys basketball team dropped two games in a row in the Boverini Tournament, there weren’t many who penciled the Tigers in for another trip to the state tournament. With the consecutive defeats, Tech dropped to 3-3 and looked as though it had hit a stumbling point in its season — but the Tigers roared back.

Since the Boverini, Tech has caught fire and improved its mark from 3-3 to 11-7. The Tigers clinched a berth in the state tournament two weeks ago with an 82-69 win over Whittier. This marks the second season in a row that Tech will play postseason basketball.

Tech can credit a portion of its late-season surge to the play of senior guard Belmin Berilo, who has torched opponents as of late. Over a recent string of three games that saw Tech thump Whittier, Greater Lowell and Northeast, Berilo averaged 33 points per contest. In 16 starts, the second-year varsity player is averaging 17 points, five assists, four rebounds and 1.5 steals per game.

“I’m extremely proud of Belmin,” Tech coach Stevie Patrick said. “I’ve been around him since his freshman year. These are the types of games that I envisioned him having at this stage of his career. All it was for him was just confidence. Once he gained confidence, everything clicked and that helped us click as a team.”

In his senior season, Berilo has emerged as one of the top scoring threats in the Commonwealth Athletic Conference. With his growth on the court, Berilo has helped the Tigers claw their way to the top of the CAC Small standings.

“He’s probably the best player in the CAC offensively,” Patrick said. “Of all the teams we’ve played, I haven’t seen anyone score as many points as he has. He’s heading towards CAC Player of the Year. If we finish off and win the league, he has a great chance to win that award. If he can match his defensive intensity to his offense, the sky’s the limit for him.”

Coming into the season, Berilo set high goals for himself and his teammates. The Tigers have already checked one of those goals off with a repeat trip to states.

“I had high expectations for the team,” Berilo, a team captain, said. “We wanted to make the state tournament. We reached that and now we’re looking to win the conference. Now that we’re in the tournament, hopefully we can beat a couple teams.”

Tech reached the tournament last year but the postseason run was short-lived. The No. 15 seed in Division 3 North, the Tigers were bounced in the first round by No. 2 Newburyport. Berilo and his teammates are hoping to avoid a quick exit this time around.

“I think that loss made us hungrier this year,” Berilo said. “We’re not trying to go into the state tournament and get knocked out in the first round. We didn’t work this hard throughout the season to lose in the first game. Us seniors, we’re trying to end our senior years strong and hopefully that means we go far.”

After losing to Classical and English in the Boverini, the Tigers have regrouped to find themselves as a much-improved team. The goal after a tough showing in the Boverini was to improve each day throughout the second half of the season.

“In those two games, we didn’t play the way we were supposed to,” Berilo said. “We wanted to get back to playing the way we were before that, because we were 3-1 going into that tournament. We had a meeting with the coaches and talked about staying focused. Our goal was to have a better second half.”

Although he’s having his best season, Berilo credited his teammates for putting him in position to succeed. He added that he’s confident the Tigers have what it takes for a postseason run given the way they’re playing as of late.

“My teammates are setting me up and Coach Patrick’s putting me in position to succeed,” Berilo said. “Robert Wallace has been an important part of my success. He takes care of things in the post and he kicks the ball out to me for an open shot. Other guys like Jama Aroni and Tre Baldwin have helped me out too. Tre hasn’t been putting up big points but he does big things on defense and gives us energy.

“Qasim Abellard has been playing really well and Joan Garcia has given us big points off the bench. Amari Gaston has been playing like a floor general, slowing the pace when we need him to.”

With two games left in the regular season, Tech’s next step is to win out and increase its chances at a home game in states.

“We’re just trying to win out,” Berilo said. “We have two games left. If we can finish 13-7, we’ll have a good chance to have a home game in the tournament. We just have to work hard all the way until the end of the season.”

Berilo and the Tigers are back on the court tonight (5:30) when they host Minuteman.

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