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HOLYOKE — The Bay State Magic once again qualified to compete in the National Championship by finishing in the top eight at the Boys AAU Basketball 15U State Championship. After going 2-0 in games over the first weekend, the Magic needed two more wins to qualify for Nationals during Championship round play the second weekend. The Magic, based in Ayer, did just that with a pair of convincing wins over the Coastal Pops A team and the Middlesex Magic. These victories advanced the Magic to the State quarterfinals and a trip to Las Vegas, NV in July.

In game one on Saturday morning, the Magic got off to a slow start while trading baskets with the scrappy Pops. The Magic enjoyed a definite size advantage at most positions and Luis Ramos (Fitchburg) scored 12 first half points to provide a small lead, but a series of turnovers and fouls caused the lead to shrink to just four points with four minutes left in the first half.

Sean Sullivan (Shirley) came off the bench abnd scored six points in a 90-second span, which seemed to ignite his teammates temporarily, but the Pops drew to within six points by halftime.

In game two, the Magic faced the always tough Middlesex Magic of Burlington. Both teams knew going in that a win meant qualifying for the State quarter-finals and a trip to the Nationals.

Bay State came out with lots of defensive intensity in the first half. Middlesex attempted to pack it in against the bigger Bay State team in an attempt to stop their inside scoring, but they could not. Ramos scored a game-high 26 points in the paint and Membrino added 13 points, plus some nice feeds to Ramos down low. Walter Lahood (Ayer) came up with two big steals and added six points. Taylor scored five points, Anderson added four, while Minnich, Smith and Murphy each scored three. Sullivan chipped in with a basket and House came on to add some tough defense and ball control down the stretch as Bay State killed the clock en route to a 62-47 victory.

In the quarter-finals the Magic faced the powerful Boston Raiders, who had beaten the Magic handily in their previous meeting. This time things were much different as a confident Magic team gave the Raiders everything they had. Unfortunately, the Magic fell into early foul trouble, having 11 fouls called on them and only one on the Raiders.

The Raiders used this advantage to push to a 35-29 halftime lead. The Magic saw their deficit swell to 17 points in the second half, but they began intentionally fouling and sending the weak-shooting Raiders to the free throw line. This tactic worked beautifully as the Magic rallied to force overtime.

Things remained deadlocked into the incredible fourth overtime when the Magic simply ran out of players and fouls. The Magic was led by Ramos with 32 points, Anderson 21, Membrino and Taylor ten apiece, Murphy seven, Lahood 3, and Sullivan and Smith with two each. David Suavita (Ayer) was pressed into emergency action and hit a big shot during the fourth overtime. At the game’s conclusion, four Magic players had fouled out and another four had four fouls. In spite of the tough 101-95 loss, the Bay State Magic had reached their goal of achieving a top eight finish in the State Championship, and had qualified for the Nationals for the fourth consecutive year.

Now comes the even tougher task of raising the necessary money needed to go to the Nationals in Las Vegas. The Magic would like to thank sponsors North Middlesex Savings Bank, Joseph’s Pasta and Home Equity Financial.