BROOKLINE, Mass. -- The Boston College High Eagles continue to win in grind-it-out fashion.
Just like their season-opening win over Brockton, the points were hard to come by Monday afternoon at Brookline High. But just like the win over the Boxers, the No. 8 Eagles managed to get great defensive rotations on the blocks when they needed most, to maintain control of this game from start to finish, beating the talented but young No. 15 Warriors, 53-48.
For BC High (2-1), the backcourt of juniors Charles Collins (13 points) and Jameilen Jones (12) provided the bulk of the scoring again, while Brookline (1-1) was led by junior guard Lake Berry (15 points).
Simply put, the Warriors would not go away in this one, even as the Eagles continued to make things difficult in the half-court with a 1-3-1 defense that looked improved from Saturday's 15-point loss to No. 2 Charlestown. The Warriors frustrated at several points of the night with full-court presses.
After the Eagles went up 21-15 midway through the second quarter on a Jameilen Jones strip-and-slam on the breakaway, Brookline responded with an 8-0 run, taking the lead on a Berry three from the right wing. The Eagles were able to close out, heading into the break with a 27-23 lead.
BC was at its best, however, in the opening minutes of the third quarter, coming out of the gates on an 11-0 run to take its largest lead of the night at 38-23. The Eagles went high-low, getting multiple touches out of a possession with either Oderah Obukwelu or Justin Roberts, be it entry passes or shots from mid-range that they were able to position for an offensive rebound. The two combined for seven points and seven rebounds in the first five minutes of the quarter.
"We knew we had to attack the boards on them," Eagles head coach Bill Loughnane said. "They [Brookline] are very quick, and strong inside, but our strength is trying to get second or third shots. We knew the more we could get, the better off we'd be tonight."
Staying calm: One couldn't blame Obukwelu if he seemed frustrated in the game's earlygoings. The senior found himself on the bench in the first half with four fouls. But instead, he came back in the second half and played some of his most poised low-post defense of the early season, avoiding that fifth and final four for the rest of the game.
"The second half, he came out and he was strong," Loughnane said. "That's what we need from him if we're going to be a good team."
Filling the lanes: As noted above, one of the things that makes BC High's 1-3-1 zone defense so efficient is the length it has at its arsenal.
Last season, Division 3 state champion Whitinsville Christian boasted one of the state's tallest starting fives, led by wing Taylor Bajema (6-foot-5) and center Hans Miersma (6-foot-9). Flexing Miersma under the basket or in the middle of the zone, the Crusaders made things difficult for any team looking to attack the lanes. Its masterstroke was the state championship game, in which the Crusaders held Watertown to 11-of-54 shooting from the field -- connecting on more three's (6 for 39) than two's (5 for 15).
Loughnane's personnel grouping is obviously different, but it's the same concept: disrupt the routes on entry passes, trap in the corners, and generally keep one's hands and feet wide and active.
"One of the things we want to do with that is pressure the ball," Loughnane said. "Big teams make good plays. They made some big plays, they made some open shots, but we're hoping that they don't make too many."
Said Brookline head coach Mark Fiedor, "I think the first half, you're adjusting to seeing the guys and their length. BC's a long, athletic team, so those passes have to be at the right angle when you throw them. It's hard to simulate that at practice."
Promise on the horizon: As much fight as Brookline showed tonight, and as much height and athleticism they already display, this could be a different team come February.
At 6-foot-6, senior Zeev Gray-Mandell demonstrates tremendous jumping ability, and came up with four blocks. There were possessions where he was caught out of position, but the room for growth is evident.
Sophomore Anthony Jennings, a transplant who just moved here from Cleveland a year ago, uses his lanky 6-foot-3 frame well. Tonight, he came up with eight rebounds, six blocks and three steals harrassing the inbounder at the front of the press.
Berry and sophomore Elijah Rogers bring spunk in the backcourt, but the key may be the health of 6-foot-6 sophomore Obi Obiora, who is out with plantar fasciitis and was in a walking boot on the bench tonight. If he is healthy and in shape at the end of the year, that's another big body to throw into the fire -- and at this level of competition, size can have a significant influence on the playing field.
"Anthony's a heck of a rebounder, he really is," Fiedor said. "Zeev is a heck of a shot blocker, and I think when we get Obi back that'll help us up front, able to put another 6-6 guy in there. But they [BC High] are a little bit ahead of us developmentally. They showed a little more mental toughness than we did tonight, especially to start the second half."