BROCKTON, Mass. -– Slowing down the No. 6 Wachusett boys basketball team’s offense isn’t a matter of stopping one guy.
The Mountaineers made that clear on Thursday night in a win over defending EMass. champ and host No. 14 Brockton, 66-52, as they had four different reach double figures. A fifth player tallied nine points in the win.
Senior Zack Berman led the way with a game-high 16 points –- including 11 in the first half, classmate Jesse Maresca chipped in with 16, both Justin Bowker and Jeremiah Perez added 11 and Alex Cooper pour in nine to pace the Mountaineers (12-1).
“That’s our story all year,” said Wachusett coach Tom Gibbons, “We really have balanced scoring. In Central Mass., we really don’t have any of the leading scorers. Our scoring is typically balanced with an inside/outside kind of look.”
The Boxers (8-3) struggled to get anything going offensively –- despite pulling down 21 offensive rebounds –- in large part because Wachusett did a good job altering shots all night.
“I think our length maybe bothered them a bit,” said Gibbons. “We go 6-6, 6-5 up front and those guys have some long arms. I’m really not happy with that aspect, good teams will make those shots –- you have to limit them to one shot only.”
Fortunately for the Mountaineers, the Boxers put forth perhaps their worst shooting effort of the season.
“It was a very funny night -– we really shot the ball badly everywhere,” said Brockton coach Bob Boen. “Our 3-point shots, yeah, they were getting to bother us on those, but I was really puzzled tonight. We had a lot of good rebounds, but we couldn’t put it back in.
"People were trying to force things, and we tried to difficult things instead of doing the easy things. We knew this was going to be low-scoring, because they’re a tough team to play against in the scoring department.”
Wachusett used an early second quarter surge to open the game up, taking a 24-15 lead before the Boxers netted their first field goal of the quarter – with 1:40 to go in the half.
Jermal Murray -– who finished with 13 points –- knocked down a deep 3-pointer to halt the Mountaineers momentum. He added another 3, and the Boxers poured in the final eight points of the quarter, sending the game to the break at 24-20.
“I thought we had outplayed them in the first half, but we only had a four point lead,” said Gibbons. “We did hold them to 20 though, and we felt if we could hold them into the 40s, we could win this game. We controlled the tempo, and that was Berman – he just controlled everything.”
Added Berman: “We played a really first half of the second quarter but at the end of it we gave up some uncontested 3’s, some easy second-chance points –- at one point, they got four rebounds on one play and then hit an open three. We just addressed it and said that can’t happen.”
The Boxers were able to slow Berman in the second, holding him to just five more points. Maresca, a fellow four-year starter, picked up where he left off and poured in 12 second half points to help the Mountaineers pull away for the easy win.
“We have a deep team this year and we all rely on each other,” said Maresca. “We don’t really have one scoring option. When someone is struggling, someone else always just picks it up. We don’t have a lot of set plays, we just set screens for each other and get open and that guy gets the ball.”
Murray came off the bench in the second half and looked like he might be kick-starting another rally, but the Boxers ran out of time despite him knocking down another three-pointer and pouring in seven second half points.
“He’s just started to come around here,” said Boen. “He’s really quick and he’s really good off the dribble. I said to my coach in the first half, ‘I should’ve put Jermal in quicker.’ He said to me in the second half, ‘you should’ve put Jermal in quicker.’”