READING, Mass. -- With less than one minute to go in Charlestown’s Division 1 North tournament quarterfinal game against Central Catholic Thursday, Tyrese Hoxter stepped to the free throw line.
Charlestown was ahead by four points, so if he made both, Hoxter (12 points) could have forced Central to shoot desperation three’s as their only way to get back in the game.
He made the first. If he missed the second, Central could still race down and get a quick basket and make it a one-possession game. His second shot hit the rim and bounced away, keeping Central’s hope temporarily alive.
However, Charlestown’s Tyrik Jackson (10 points, 11 rebounds) came away with the offensive board and passed it out to teammate Rony Fernandez on the perimeter. Central was forced to foul Fernandez, allowing Charlestown (19-4) to hold on for a 54-47 victory.
“I feel like we’re playing great basketball right now,” said Charlestown coach Edson Cardoso. “After the Comcast Tournament (win in February), we just went on a personal vendetta and said, ‘You know what? Every team we play, we’re going to leave it on the court, and that’s what they did tonight.”
Central (22-2) would not go away quietly though. On its next possession, Tyler Nelson (12 points) got a look at a three-pointer, but it missed. His teammate Shawn McCoy got the rebound and tried for the put-back, but that too was off the mark. Finally, it was up to Nick Cambio (10 points, 10 rebounds, 3 blocks) to grab the offensive rebound, but his shot from the baseline missed too.
Taris Wilson came down with the rebound, and he was quickly fouled. As Wilson got to the free throw line, the Central fans began to file out of the gymnasium in mass.
They knew, as the seconds ticked away, that it was not their team’s night. Charlestown will be the team fighting for the Division 1 North title Saturday at the Tsongas Center, not Central Catholic.
“It feels like this team beats us every year, so it feels good to get one on them,” said Fernandez (12 points).
Open And Shut: Over a three-minute span in the middle of the fourth quarter, Charlestown went on a 12-0 run to take back the momentum that seemed to be building in Central’s favor up to that point.
After being down as much as seven in the third quarter, Central came back to take the lead late in the quarter, and maintained it by a slim margin early in the fourth. Charlestown showed its resiliency, taking the lead and then some.
In one sequence during that stretch, Central had to call a timeout because Charlestown scored a basket, then got a steal on the next Central possession, allowing Hoxter to throw down an uncontested dunk. The Townies' faithful erupted in excitement, and Central coach Rick Nault called a timeout before things could get out of hand.
“I wanted to excite the crowd and just give my team a boost because the game was just a seesaw battle, going up and going down,” said Hoxter.
Cardoso will take any momentum in the state tournament, no matter how his team can get it.
“I thought once Hoxter got on that breakaway, throws it down, we get more energy,” he said. “Whatever it takes to motivate these guys. These guys are teenagers, so whatever it takes to motivate them, we’ve got to do it.”
Nullifying Nelson: A large part of the Charlestown defensive gameplan focused on Tyler Nelson. The team was very aware of what the sophomore guard could do when he is given open space to drive or shoot the basketball.
“We wanted to take out (Nelson),” said Fernandez. “We know he’s their shooter, so we had eyes on him and followed him everywhere. We knew he could shoot so we wanted to stop him.”
“I thought with Nelson, every time he caught the ball, get a hand up,” said Cardoso. “When he comes off screens, stay on his hip. We scouted Central and had so many notes on them and saw how many plays they run for him, so I thought we needed to have eyes on him, and I thought Tyrese did a good job on him.”
Few And Proud: As teams get deeper and deeper in the playoffs, it is often the teams with the most depth that advance on. When relying on any one player to carry a team, it can become easy to defend.
That is not the case with Charlestown. It does not rely on any one player to shoulder the load, but instead can depend on multiple players to contribute effectively.
Thursday, six players scored, with four reaching double-digits. That balance will be trouble for the remaining teams in the Division 1 tournament.
“We knew this was going to be a low-scoring game, we didn’t expect to score 85 points against a team like Central,” said Cardoso. “No way are you going to score 85 against a great defensive team like that. We thought that maybe if we moved the ball and some guys got eight, some guys got nine, and we started chipping away, that maybe we’d have a chance to win this game. We didn’t think anybody was going to have a standout, 25 to 30 point game.”