EVERETT, Mass. –- It seemed as if whenever Cambridge made a run on Friday night, it was Everett’s ball pressure and high-octane offense that got the Crimson Tide the lead back.
Despite being down after three quarters, Everett (6-0) was able to overcome Greater Boston League rival Cambridge, 74-63, thanks to an outstanding second half from sophomore Ernie Chatman (16 points) and forward Gary Clark (15 points, 8 rebounds).
Trailing 42-36 at the beginning of the third quarter, it was Chatman -- playing with a hurt ankle -- who had a major hand in bringing the Crimson Tide back into the game. A flashy point guard with a quick crossover, Chatman nearly blew the roof off the gym when he crossed up a defender and finished an acrobatic lay-up early in the third. A few minutes later Chatman pulled up and swooshed a three-pointer from 28 feet out.
Chatman, who transferred to Everett from Boston English in the offseason, has had a smooth transition to the Crimson Tide program.
“[Ernie] has done well, the kids have accepted him," Everett coach John DiBiaso said. "We’ve got some great senior leadership -- our seniors are a great group. They wanted to build it to the next step, we went to the semis last year and our goal is to go a little bit further this year."
With his team down a point to Cambridge (4-2) after three quarters, Clark came up big for the Crimson Tide in the fourth, scoring 8 of his 12 second half points during a three-minute span in the final period. It came of little surprise to his coach.
“Gary’s one of the best players in the state. We’re very fortunate to have him, but the thing that epitomizes us is that we’re a team," DiBiaso said. "The scorebook says that about nine guys scored, you don’t see that in high school...It looks like an NBA box score."
With Clark sitting out injured in the first half, as well as Chatman struggling to move around at first on his hurt ankle, it was Everett’s depth that helped them stay in the game in the early going. Timmance McKinney (12 points), Rodwell Blanc, and Debrien Cora-Perez all managed to score, force turnovers in the halfcourt, as well as assert their power on the defensive glass.
“I thought it was our depth, we went 12 deep on the bench tonight. We had guys in foul trouble, we had guys hurt,” DiBiaso said. “Everybody I thought stepped up and came to play.”
Slowing down McLeod, Deneus: Cambridge point guard Isaiah McLeod and 6-foot-5 center Fredens Deneus have been as good as any inside-out punch in the MIAA this year. McLeod, a playmaking point guard who has taken on a primary scoring role for the Falcons, was contained to just 12 points -- with a couple of those baskets coming in garbage time at the end of the game.
“They’re a good team. [McLeod] is a good guard, they churn the momentum around, they broke the press and got some lay-ups, but to our credit we bounced back and stayed true to what we were trying to do," DiBiaso said. "We were going to press until the end and that wore them down at the end I thought."
The longtime coach at Everett, DiBiaso always enjoys playing Cambridge because of the talent that coach Lance Dottin’s Falcons always seem to bring to the table in the Greater Boston League (Cambridge is moving from the GBL into the Dual County League next season).
“The great part about having Cambridge in the league, they came in the [Greater Boston League] in 1991. It upped the ante for everybody; it made everybody in the league better," he said. "Before they came, teams were going to the tournament one-and-done because we didn’t play anybody during the season of their caliber. By having them in the league it raises the bar for everybody.”
Deneus (10 points, 13 rebounds), who has been drumming up plenty of interest from college coaches since the start of his senior season, was dominant on the glass despite a rather inconsistent offensive performance.
Athletic big men like Deneus come at a premium at the MIAA, but DiBiaso said that Deneus’ length, skill, and athleticism didn’t force Everett -- a team known for attacking the rim -- to change up its gameplan much offensively.
“All we said was that on offense we were going to take the ball right to him—we weren’t going to let him change the game,” DiBiaso said. “We were going to the basket, and I thought we did a good job of going to the basket."