BOSTON –- As the No. 1 Scituate boys basketball team bested No. 15 Milton, 58-53, in Div. 3 South Sectional on the hardwood at the Clark Center at UMass-Boston on Saturday afternoon, its success began and ended with junior forward Noma Okundaye.
With the win, Scituate advances to a Tuesday night game at TD Garden against North Sectional champ Brighton, who won the EMass. crown last season.
Okundaye had a game-high 17 points for the Sailors (21-4), igniting Scituate with nine of their 16 first quarter points.
“I always try to put the work in and work hard for my team,” said Okundaye.
He tallied his final eight points all in a fourth quarter that saw the teams trade baskets back-and-forth, see-sawing the lead from one to the other. The game featured 26 lead changes in all –- 16 of which came in the final quarter.
“Coach always tells us to be ready for everything,” said Okundaye. “It’s like we’re going to battle a when their out. Coach told us to stay strong and be ready.”
Okundaye made sure the final swing went the way of Scituate with 33 seconds left. Following a Sailors timeout, he came around the elbow off a screen and took off toward the hoop.
The 6-2 junior caught a perfect inbounds pass in midair, promptly laying the ball off the glass and in for a two point advantage.
He drew a foul as he went up and turned it into a three-point play before all was said and done.
“One of our players tried to call that play in the first quarter and I almost killed him,” laughed Scituate coach Matt Porier. “That’s something we had in our back pockets. Noma has worked on that. It’s a one-time thing.
“It’s sort of called ‘once,’ because you can only run it one time.”
After a rushed Milton attempt, senior John Foster (12 points, 15 rebounds) was fouled and sent to the line with a chance to extend the Sailors’ lead.
He delivered on both –- a welcome relief to him after missing three free throws earlier in the contest. He finished the day 6-for-9 from the line.
“This is my senior year and I’ve been on the team since I was a freshman and I knew that was my time to step up,” said Foster. “I didn’t play well today, but the team did and that’s what matters. All that matters is getting that ‘W’.”
Added Porier: “In high school, you win your games on foul shots and lay-ups. Everyone knows that. Its’ not the Xs and Os, or the Jims and Joes, it comes down to the foul shots and lay-ups.”
Scituate certainly did that down stretch, going 8-for-12 from the free throw line in the fourth in the midst of the lead bouncing back and forth. The Sailors also made sure they escaped with a win by getting back to the basics.
“A game like that goes back to what you did in November,” said Porier. “It goes back to what these guys did in AAU 10 years ago, it goes back to just playing basketball. That’s what both teams were doing. They really were. It wasn’t fancy stuff. Just teams playing basketball –- dribble and driving, passing to the block, that kind of stuff.”
Added Milton coach Sean LoPresti: “They absolutely did the little things better tonight. Little things include rebounding, boxing out, contesting shots, fighting for loose balls. They just did those things better than we did tonight. When other teams do the little things better than you do, you deserve to lose.”
David Cox added nine points, eight rebounds, two assists, two blocks and two steals in the win while Dan Buckley chipped in with 11 points -– nine from 3-point land -– for the Sailors.
On the other side, Milton got 14 points from Keyon Jones, 11 points and seven rebounds from Kyle Padmore, and 10 points from Myles McDermott.