BOSTON -- New Mission and Brighton stepped firmly into the power position for Division A's two City League tournament spots on Tuesday.
Despite the two squads falling in the semifinals to finalist Madison Park and East Boston last year, No. 12 Brighton boys' basketball (5-3, 3-1) slid itself even with division leader and former South rival No. 2 New Mission (6-3, 3-1) last night as it rolled host No. 15 East Boston (6-4, 1-3), 52-43, in the programs' first matchup as division foes.
Both squads have now defeated each of the former finalists once this season.
“We hope to make the cities (and) ultimately the state tournament so every game counts.” said Brighton coach Hugh Coleman. “It is important for us to get the league wins and to stay up there.”
Senior shooting guard Daivon Edwards lead the Bengals with 23 points (including five 3-pointers) and nine rebounds, while junior forward Nick Simpson added 16 points and five rebounds in the win.
Edwards sealed the victory for the defending Division 2 Eastern Mass champs with three treys to open the third, that helped prompt a 15-0 run. Edwards hit a top-corner three at 6:20 in the third quarter to start the tear at 33-22.
After a trey by Eastie sophomore Marcus Shaw, Edwards stole the ball and quickly nailed a shot from behind the arc to settle the Bengals at 41-27 with 4:20 left in the quarter. Edwards tallied 11 points in the third, while Simpson scored the remaining four as the Bengals lead 45-27 entering the fourth.
“(Coach) tells me all the time if I have a little bit of space just to take the shot,” said Edwards. “We do dribble penetration and kick out (to) look for me so I can get open and get reps. Sometimes I stay after practice just to work on my shot.”
Brighton, who lead all but the first 2:40, never trailed as it score nine straight points between the first and second quarters to break away from a slim 13-11 lead with 1:24 remaining in the first quarter. The Bengals scored six quick baskets in the final minute of the first quarter, including a steal by Nick Simpson turned into an open court dunk by senior Prince Unaegbu for a 19-11 advantage at the break.
Simpson lost his defender with a crossover dribble and nailed a three at the top of the arc to give Brighton a 22-11 lead seconds into the second quarter.
“This is the first game I think we have played from start to finish,” said Coleman. “It was isolation plays to get either our shooter an open shot or our swing guy a shot situation or a one-on-one.”
Senior forward Xavier Green led the Jets with 11 points, while sophomores Shaw and Dion Knight both tallied nine points.
Green put back in a pair of offensive rebounds, then pitched a defensive rebound under the Bengals' basket to force a free throw score by teammate sophomore Kevin Sinatra, to cut the deficit to 49-36 with 1:32 remaining in the game
Shaw nailed Eastie's first shot of the game on a jumper from behind the arc at 6:55 and swung around the top of the arc to hit a planted three-pointer to cut the Jets' deficit to 13-10 with two minute left in the first quarter.
“It is just about confidence,” said East Boston coach Shawn Brown. “We have not been at full strength. Once we get back to full strength, I think we will be OK.”
East Boston struggled from the foul line as it hit only four of 12 in the first half and nine of 19 total.
“We run a lot of practice because of missed free throws,” said Brown. “We spend literally hours (on free throws).”
Breaking Down the Defenses: The Bengals switched between man and zone defenses throughout the game in hopes of forcing outside shooting from the Jets.
East Boston tried to push Brighton away from the three point line with its man-to-man defense. The Bengals tallied seven three-pointers with all efforts coming from Edwards or Simpson.
“We know they struggled shooting a bit so the zone helped us out,” said Coleman. “We played good defense from start to finish.”
“We tried a zone one time and it resulted in three points so we went away from it,” added Brown.
Incomplete Eastie: East Boston has been missing key players throughout the season.
Senior Kenny Ramos played limited time on Tuesday due to an ankle injury, while former sophomore leading scoring Rasheed Bell is expected to miss the remainder of the season with an injury. Senior Pat Santos also did not dress for the game.
“Kenny is day to day,” said Brown. “He has been getting physical therapy. We gave it a shot today and he did not look good out there so we are just going to play it game by game.”
Junior Malik James, who is one of Brighton's top scorers, did not dress for personal reason, but is expected to return on Thursday.