HYDE PARK, Mass. -– They were just too big and too deep.
Even with star player Nate Anderson forced to the bench with foul trouble, the New Mission frontline still boasted no player under six-foot-four. The Titans’ bigs dominated the paint throughout and kept East Boston from getting into its offense.
Senior forward Isshiah Coleman picked up the slack for Anderson with a game-high 17 points and nine rebounds to lead No. 3 New Mission to a 66-42 victory over No. 10 East Boston in Wednesday night’s City League clash.
New Mission’s performance was even more impressive considering that it had not played a game in 11 days. Head coach Cory McCarthy had his team prepared, and the Titans (5-3) jumped out to a 12-0 lead in the opening four minutes.
“We practiced hard and that’s all it really comes down to,” he explained. “I think that tonight we stuck with the game plan. Today, they played a smart game. We stayed in the passing lanes, we tried not to let them reverse the ball, and we did what we’re supposed to do.”
East Boston (5-3) came into the game shorthanded. Senior forward Kenny Ramos and leading scorer Rasheed Bell were both out injured, which left the team with limited options on the post. This was a situation that the Titans were happy to exploit.
He said, “We have height for days. I know the whole game people heard me screaming to get the ball inside, but when you have arguably the biggest team in MIAA, why not?”
Despite falling behind 12-0, despite being shorthanded, and despite turning the ball over 15 times in the first half against New Mission’s punishing 1-2-2 zone, East Boston managed to get themselves back into the game.
A pair of layups by senior guard Pat Santos, who led the team in scoring with 14 points, and a three from sophomore Dion Knight pulled Eastie to within six points at 22-16. Just when it seemed that the visitors might go into halftime with momentum, New Mission rattled off seven straight points including a three at the buzzer by Shaquan Murray.
East Boston head coach Shawn Brown was disappointed in how his team started, but was impressed by its ability to get itself back into the game in the first half.
“We got some stops but we couldn’t score,” said Brown. “I thought they weathered the storm in the first half. I thought the three at the end of the half was tough, but it always felt like a 10-point game. I was pleased with the effort of my guys in the first half.”
The difference in the game was New Mission’s ability to create turnovers on defense. By using the six-foot-seven Anderson at the point of the 1-2-2 zone, it seemed as though the trapping and pressing extended from halfcourt to the baseline and sideline to sideline. There seemed to be no passing lanes for East Boston, which ended the game with 29 turnovers.
“Nate is such an athletic freak and he had no idea how good he could be,” said McCarthy. “You just have to put him in a position where he can do the right thing by accident. We put him at the top of our halfcourt set and he took away one whole side of the court on the ball reversal.”
He added, “I thought we really defended well. Once you start forcing turnovers without getting stretched, you’re in good shape. I think we left a lot of points out there but...hey, we won the game.”
Brown also pointed to his team’s turnovers as the key component to the loss and a problem that his team needs to fix going forward this season.
He said, “With 29 turnovers you’re not going to beat anybody, let alone a team like that. There was a worry coming in about their length and it definitely affected us.”
New Mission controlled the second half with Coleman and Anderson (eight points) adding to their highlight reels with several powerful dunks. Sophomore point guard Juwan Gooding scored seven of his nine points in the third quarter to help build the lead while Murray finished with 11, including six in the second half.
Knight joined Santos in double figures for East Boston with 11 points and senior guard Stanley Harris added six. Brown gave several players called up from the JV squad a chance to get experience in the fourth quarter.
The game threatened to get out of control early in the fourth quarter after Coleman received his second technical foul of the game for a dunk after the whistle. A later incident followed a whistle in the lane and saw a player from each team sent to the locker rooms. Gratefully the game ended without any further issues.