MALDEN, Mass. — It wasn’t a situation that Tre Dowman has been put in, or one that is really expected of the 6-foot-7-inch center for the Brighton boys basketball team.
But there he was, on the free throw line with huge shots that could force Melrose to take a last-possession 3-pointer with less than 17 seconds on the clock for a chance to force overtime in the Div. 2 North semifinals.
With the entire Melrose section swaying the crowd against him, and a couple of those fans pushing the limits by going under the basket to try and dissuade the big man, Dowman drained the first and capped off the second as the No. 3 seed Bengals (19-3) held on to head to their second straight Div. 2 North finals in exciting fashion with a 65-59 victory Tuesday night at Malden High.
Dowman was confident that he could get the job done despite not scoring a point in the entire second half.
“I practice my free throws in practice, you know,” he said. “I feel like I’ve got ice water in my veins and I just keep practicing them. Practicing is easy for me. Every time I shoot free throws I feel like I can make 100 in a row.”
Dowman was quick to point out that he hasn’t conquered the feat yet, but for head coach Hugh Coleman, the two his senior center hit were more than enough.
“That’s not a spot that he’s normally in,” said Coleman with a big smile on his face. “He asks me to shoot 3’s and all this other stuff. I tease him and said no you are a big guy. But he’s got a nice little touch...Tre stepped up with a lot of confidence and knocked him down. I’m very proud of him.”
The Red Raiders (20-3) got a good look on a potential game-tying 3-pointer in the corner from Matt Sherlock, but his attempt was a little bit too strong and Malik James handled the rebound and subsequently knocked down a pair of freebies to further extend the lead for the Bengals.
Third Quarter Shooting: The Bengals were a woeful 0-for-7 from distance in the first half until Daivon Edwards got going in the third quarter.
Edwards canned three 3-pointers in the third period and Brighton started to race away from the Red Raiders 15-2 run to end the quarter for a 53-39 lead.
Edwards finished with 16 points and also hit a big 3-pointer in the fourth quarter to stretch the lead to nine with two minutes to go in the game before Jalen Adams fueled a comeback, most notably with a three to bring the deficit to one with under 30 seconds left, for Melrose.
Pressure Brings Red Raiders Back: James was clearly the most prolific ball-handler on the court between the two teams, but even he was having a hard time dealing with the Red Raiders defense in the fourth quarter. Melrose finally switched to a suffocating full-court man press in to fuel a 12-0 run to climb back into the game in the early parts of the fourth quarter.
“That is how we play it,” said Melrose head coach Mike Kasprzak. “We are usually in a way better situation in that point and then we put it on and it’s a different story. When you have to come down from three or four possessions down, it’s tough.”
James felt a heavy burden of bringing the ball up, especially with Nick Simpson on the sidelines living and dying with every made bucket, and the sophomore made up for several turnovers with three clutch free throws at the end of the game.
“There was a lot of pressure on my shoulders that I had to carry,” said James, who finished with a game-high 29 points. “I couldn’t let nobody down, it was all on my shoulders.”