(Video courtesy of Lucas Shapiro)
DORCHESTER, Mass. -- What do you tell your star player after he goes 2-for-9 in the opening stanza of a game where buckets were hard to come by?
BC High junior forward and captain Jameilen Jones started the night off sour, but finished strong, totaling 16 points and six rebounds as the No. 8 Eagles downed rival Brockton, 56-41, in its season-opener in front of its home crowd at McNeice Pavilion.
Jones, a 6-foot-3 combo guard considered one of the top pure scorers in the Catholic Conference, got off to a rocky start. Facing tight man-to-man pressure in the lane from Brockton (1-1), and met immediately by his man when he brought the ball up, Jones was forced into some poor shooting decisions to start the night off. But he adjusted to the pressure well as the game endured, finishing the night nearly perfect through the final three quarters, going 7 of 8 from the field.
"I told Jameilen, we need you to shoot the ball," Eagles head coach Bill Loughnane said. "Even if it doesn't go in, it's a good shot for us. And it'll help other people along in the long run."
Said Jones, "Coach was telling me to just be confident with the ball and take the shots. I've got to bring it so that everyone else can get their confidence, too. I was just trying to keep shooting, don't let it get me down in the first quarter."
But it wasn't just about what he did with the ball that kept the Eagles ahead on a physical night where points were tough to come by. It was about what he did off the ball as well, creating open shots for teammates with his movement around the perimeter and across the baseline.
Trailing 29-18 at the break, the Boxers opened the third quarter on a 9-2 run to cut the Eagles' lead to 31-27, capped by a rare five-point play. Brockton's Jamal Reuben was knocked into his own bench as he nailed a three-pointer from the baseline; his ensuing errant free throw was scooped up by Sayvonn Houston (12 points, 12 rebounds, three blocks), and Jean Thomas was there for the put-back when the 6-foot-6 senior missed.
But the Eagles immediately responded, closing out the quarter on a 12-4 run. Jones came back on the next possession with a 12-foot leaner in the lane, and then followed up on the next possession down with a nice dish to Jared Collins from the elbow, setting up an easy 10-footer.
Closing out the run with a big block was Standy Merizier, leading to a silky transition three from Charles Collins (nine points).
"He's gonna see a lot of that this year, people keying on him," Loughnane said of Jones. "One of the things, he's very unselfish. If he has it, we want him to go. If he doesn't, he's willing to let a teammate go. That's one of his strengths."
Football mentality on the blocks: One of the Eagles' strength is its communication in the defensive end. BC High confused the Boxers at times with its 3-2 zone, efficiently trapped ballhandlers in the corners, and played some stifling rotations in man-to-man.
Dictating that physicality down low are forwards Oderah Obukwelu and Justin Roberts, no strangers to an elbow or two after playing key roles in the Eagles' Division 1 football Super Bowl championship run. At both ends of the court, they made things difficult for Houston, Reuben and forward Jerrod Shelby; in one key first-half possession, Roberts spun in front of two Brockton defenders and cleared out a wide-open 15-foot shot on the baseline for Pete Timmons, which he sank.
"They're really rough down there, real rough," Jones smiled. "They just finished playing varsity football, so they're still in that kind of football mode. It's good, because if they're tough down low and they've got the big man worried about the [physicality], then we're going to straight going to the basket."
Boen not satisfied: Brockton head coach Bob Boen came away disappointed with his team's play, calling it "bad from every part of the game", specifically with the effort down low.
"We got ourselves in a hole early by not boxing out and rebounding well," he said. "We played pretty good defense, but they got so many second shots that we were in a big hole at halftime. Offensively, they confused us with their zone defense again."
Boen did credit Shelby, a star wide receiver on the football team, with giving the Boxers some lift off the bench.
"I think he's going to help us out a lot, with his rebounding and his work on defense," Boen said.
Central provides tune-up: Loughnane conceded that a preseason scrimmage with Central Catholic last week helped them get prepared for tonight's physical tone. Central, which begins the season at No. 1 in ESPN Boston's statewide poll, is considered one of the state's best defensive teams; the Raiders also looked exceptionally efficient in a scrimmage last Sunday with St. Peter-Marian, one of the top teams in the Central Mass. region this winter.
"Central's a real physical, tough-minded team, and I really thought that helped us for a game like this," Loughnane said.
Said Jones, "That was a tough one, but we learned from it. We weren't too down about it, because they're a top team. It helped us out."