WELLESLEY, Mass. -– It happened in a flash. One minute all the discussion was about the efficient execution of the Danvers half-court offense; the next minute all anyone could talk about was the explosiveness of Brighton in the full-court.
The Bengals (14-5) scored 30 points in the third quarter against Danvers (18-1) in the first round of the IAABO Comcast Board 27 Comcast tournament at Babson College. Brighton turned a halftime deficit into a 74-66 win over the previously unbeaten Falcons.
Malik James was the catalyst for the Brighton turnaround. The junior point guard scored 16 points and dished out seven assists in the second half (he finished with 22 and eight for the game), while shooting 8-10 from the floor. Junior Nick Simpson chipped in as well with 14 of his game-high 23 points after halftime.
The offensive explosion by the stars was impressive, but Brighton head coach Hugh Coleman pointed to the full-court defense of a reserve guard for giving his team a third quarter spark.
“This was a good step up for Malik tonight, but Nate Hogan, our senior guard off the bench, just played phenomenal D on their point guard and I think that really set the tone for us,” said Coleman. “That was a real key for us tonight.”
The second half started with an 18-4 for the Bengals, which turned it from a seven-point deficit into a 46-39 lead. Hogan hounded Danvers point guard Eric Martin up and down the court and the Falcons had no answer for James’ penetration. In addition to his defense, Hogan also knocked down two big three-pointers to extend the Brighton lead in the third quarter.
Danvers continued to hang around thanks to top scorers Nick Bates (21 points, nine rebounds) and Dan Connors (23 points, five rebounds). Connors had a three-point play that pulled Danvers back within five at 60-55, but Brighton answered.
Junior guard Mark Mojica dove to secure an offensive rebound right under the basket. He scrambled to his feet and James found him open in the corner. Mojica buried a dagger three that put Danvers away for good.
Falcons head coach John Walsh gave Brighton credit for the result, but also noted that his point guard was limited in the second half.
He remarked, “Our point guard is everything for us and when he got hurt it made him a lot slower and it really, really hurt us. We don’t have anyone to step in his place. I don’t know that it was a disruption...They hit shots and Malik James is a Division 1 player. It’s more of a credit to them.”
The first half was a much different game.
The Falcons demonstrated a prolific half-court attack that led to easy shots at the rim for both Connors and Bates. Constant movement, multiple screens, and the ability of guards Martin and Nick McKenna to get into the lane opened up the Bengals defense almost every trip down floor. Bates had the highlight of the first half with a two-hand slam over a Brighton defender.
On the other end, Brighton struggled from the floor. In stark contrast to how the game developed after halftime, the Bengals were only 12-32 in the opening half. Brighton stayed in the game by dominating the offensive glass. Sophomore center Jason Jones scored eight points and pulled down nine rebounds (seven offensive) in the first half alone and Simpson added five boards.
“They killed us. All the second chance points seemed to lead to kick outs for three’s,” said Walsh.
Coleman noted that rebounding has been a point of emphasis for the team all season.
“We’ve really been on our big guys all year about being active down there and not getting boxed out, and not just sitting behind somebody, and it worked for us today’” he said. “I know they’ve got a big team so I was really worried about the boards, but I think our weakside guards rebounding helped out as well.”
It was only the first loss of the season for the defending Division 3 state champions and Walsh believes that having a tough test like Brighton on the schedule will help the Falcons prepare for the tournament.
“It can’t hurt,” he mused. “They’re so good that it’s going to prepare you. When that kid [Malik James] is in the lineup, they are as good as any team in the state.”
Brighton will play in the finals of the tournament on Monday night against B.C. High, which beat Newton North comfortably in the opener. Danvers will face the Tigers on Monday afternoon.