DORCHESTER, Mass. -- Guarding a deeply-talented Northfield Mount Hermon boys' basketball team can be a challenge on its own, but when the Hoggers charge the court it is a whole new beast.
An afternoon matchup against Worcester Academy was further proof of this method for NMH coach John Carroll on Sunday.
Rushing the ball to its big men off turnovers and using pressure to create mistake, Northfield rolled past Worcester 64-49 in BABC Prep Classic at the Kroc Center in Dorchester.
“You always want to give a change of pace,” said NMH coach John Carroll. “When teams score they tend to settle for a few seconds and that is when we are looking to attack. We know they try to burn the (clock) when they have the ball.”
The Hoggers (14-1) pulled ahead in the game off a pair of runs late in the first half and never looked back.
Mounting their streak down 15-13 with ten minutes left in the first half, Northfield senior Spike Albrecht drained a 3-pointer in motion then set up teammate Sam Donahue for five more points off counter-attack jumpers. Forcing slip-ups with the press, Northfield's Evan Cummins drew contact underneath to close off the tear three minutes later with a 25-15 lead and a free throw.
“We are more conditioned than most teams so we are always looking to run,” said Ethan O'Day, a NHM senior and a Vermont commit. “We have been having trouble getting off to strong starts lately, but we eventually started knocking down shots.”
Nine straight points slipped in during the final three minutes of the half put the game out of reach for Worcester Academy (6-5).
Aided by an in-motion trey by senior Ryan Oliver, Albrecht broke a low-post one-on-one layup then stole the inbound for points to send NMH into half up 34-19.
“We wanted to crowd their shooters and make them put the ball on the deck”, said Hilltoppers coach Jamie Sullivan. “We tried a 2-1-2 against their 1-2-2 defense, but they were succeeding in slowing us down. They used a three-quarter court press to prevent us from rushing and with their length were able to get deflections.”
Worcester Academy came out intense in the second with four points off turnovers from junior Rene Castro, but were unable to mount a strong enough run to topple a 15-point deficit. Senior Andrew Scocca's six points and five rebounds were a positive for the Hilltoppers in the final half.
O'Day and Albrecht each tallied 13 points for the Hoggers, while O'Day also grappled eight rebounds. Cummins, a Harvard commit, scored ten points and ripped down seven rebounds.
Castro, who scored 10, was the only Hilltopper to reach double digits.
“We had a huge size advantage down low that Evan and I were able to take advantage of,” said O'Day
NHM played without starters senior and Dartmouth commit Tommy Carpenter, who faced a separated shoulder, and junior DeKeeba Battee, who suffered a bruised knee.