RANDOLPH, Mass. –- While some schools across the state kicked off their regular-season basketball schedule this weekend, for others it was an opportunity to get in one last tune-up before the game start counting for real. All Saturday long at Randolph High School, a number of teams got in two scrimmages at a time, including Foxborough, Concord-Carlisle, Dennis-Yarmouth, Weston, North Quincy, Marshfield, Randolph, and Rhode Island power La Salle Academy.
The most anticipated games came in the evening, where defending Division 2 state champion and preseason No. 3 New Mission squared off with two rising D2 powers ranked in ESPN Boston’s preseason poll, No. 13 Stoughton and No. 5 King Philip.
Each game consisted of two eight-minute quarters. Stoughton blew the doors off of Mission in the first quarter, 25-2, but the Titans stormed back and won the second quarter 18-2. KP took the first quarter of its scrimmage with Mission, 13-4, and played to a 9-9 tie in the second.
Duke Nukem: One of the most impressive performances of the night had to be that of Antonio Ferreira, Stoughton’s senior spark plug around the rim. Much of the attention with Stoughton this preseason has come as the result of the Black Knights’ dynamic backcourt of Aaron Calixte and Marcus Middleton; but with a visible lack of size, the slashing abilty of the 6-foor-3 Ferreira comes as a positive.
The Denver Nuggets have Chris “Birdman” Andersen. The Knights have Ferreira, a lanky, wild-looking ball of energy equipped with a thick Mohawk and sleeve of tattoos running down his right arm –- including his nickname, “Nuke”, inked boldly in Olde English lettering along his outer forearm. In the first quarter against New Mission, Ferreira had three blocks on Mission’s touted forward Isshiah Coleman, and had some overall terrific rotations in the low post.
Ferreira’s emergence could be just what the Knights need to divert attention, and could be a nice story to boot. He came up through the Stoughton youth system, moved to Worcester at the start of high school, only to return last year and inch along, in the words of head coach John Gallivan “very slowly.”
“We sorta saw a light come on in his eyes this year,” Gallivan said. “He’s playing with unbelievable passion and confidence, and as you saw tonight, he gets up quick. He’s about 6-2, but he plays like he’s 6-6. I thought he was the most dominant player out there for the first four minutes tonight.”
Also of notice was the emergence of senior forward Steffan Jackson, who hasn’t played since his freshman year due to academic troubles. Jackson drew the biggest crowd reaction in the first quarter when he made a block on the defensive end, then came down in transition and shifted his torso 180 degrees mid-air for a reverse layup over the 6-foot-4 Coleman.
“He obviously made some mistakes out there like he was in his freshman season two and a half years ago,” Gallivan said. “But still, he made some unbelievable athletic plays.”
Angle pursuit: If you followed our football coverage this fall, you've probably heard us mention a few times about the skill crossover between lacrosse and football, especially with skill positions. Stoughton had success this fall in football, especially in the secondary with Middleton and Calixte, and that closing speed translated nicely in the Knights' 2-2-1 press.
"Aaron and Marcus have been playing together since the fifth grade in football, basketball," Gallivan said. "They know each other, they know what the other one's doing, and they were really effective."
Coleman gets his work: New Mission head coach Cory McCarthy said the scrimmage with KP was a game "they had circled on their calendars for a while", and it might have something to do with the above video. That's Coleman dunking on two Warriors players last September at the Beantown Hoops Shootout.
Against KP, Coleman was saddled with the task of posting up Jake Layman, the Warriors' Maryland-bound superstar forward. In the first quarter, Layman came up with a block of Coleman, then played a smart rotation by cutting off his driving lane; when Coleman tried to go opposite baseline, Layman stretched out just long enough for a help defender to cut in and help stuff the forward as he tried to hit a reverse layup.
Then in the second quarter, Coleman returned the favor. He forced Layman into a bad shot, then took a charge on the next possession. Then for good measure, Coleman took one more charge the next trip down, before capping it off with another vicious block.
"I thought we played Layman well tonight," McCarthy said. "But we weren't consistent with it. We weren't learning from our lessons."
Said KP head coach Sean McInnis of Coleman, "This has been an ongoing thing, this matchup, and hopefully we get to see them one more time [in March]. I thought Isshiah is tremendous, and has come a long way since August alone. He's a tremendous player."
Growing pains: At 6-foot-8 and a gifted skill set, and already ranked in the Top 50 for the Class of 2012 by ESPNU, Layman will inevitably win games with his length at this level. But no matter his star power, McInnis said Layman "has a long way to go."
Layman came up with back-to-back steals of entry passes on the wing, but he also had some struggles around the rim and turned the ball over when bringing it up. Ballhandling no doubt will be an area of improvement going forward.
"We're definitely going to be working on ballhandling, and being able to shoot up off the dribble," McInnis said. "I think those two things right there will make Jake a better player. But he'll make all of us better players, as we get Jake to be able to do that."