BOSTON -- By the end of the game, you would not have been able to tell it was a four-point game heading into the fourth quarter.
The press defense of No. 3 Everett wore down the University (Conn.) offense and ran away with a 78-62 victory at the BABC Winter Classic, at the Reggie Lewis Center.
“If we’re playing the way we should, we tend to wear people down,” said Everett (9-0) coach John DiBiaso. “We’re using 10, 12 guys. Pressuring the whole game tends to become better as the game wears on. I thought we kept it pretty intense with the pressure. They [University] are a young team and started turning the ball over and we converted some layups and I think that was the difference.”
University’s Will Hardie started off the game hot from the outside. He finished the game with 25 points and four rebounds. He hit three three-pointers in the first half, but then cooled off as the game went on. In the fourth quarter, Everett’s defense made it difficult for University to set up in its halfcourt offense. The opportunities the team did get resulted in transition baskets.
“We told our kids at the end of the first quarter and even at halftime that they were shooting pretty lights-out,” said DiBiaso. “It was going to be hard for them to continue that if we get a hand in their face. I thought in the second half, not that they didn’t shoot well, they just came back down to Earth. We did a little better job on screens of getting through them and getting a hand up.”
For the first time seeing the Crimson Tide, University came away impressed and understanding why they are ranked No. 4 in the ESPN Boston statewide poll.
“They’re tough, they’re strong, they’re big, they’re physical, they’re really aggressive,” said University coach Jay Riccitelli. “I think their pressure rushed us into making some mistakes that I wish we didn’t make. We were playing too fast. We were traveling with the ball and forcing turnovers by ourselves.”
In the first 90 seconds of the fourth quarter, Everett stretched its lead from four points to 14. To try and create turnovers and get points back, University (6-2) amped up its own defensive pressure and started using a full court press. Everett got its share of run outs and easy baskets. Its main beneficiaries around the basket were junior Gary Clark (18 points, 8 rebounds) and senior Timmance McKinney (19 points).
It was not enough as Everett continued to separate itself and come way with the victory.
Walters holds his own: Jaqhawn Walters, University’s 6-foot-4 big man, finished the game with 20 rebounds. His activity on the glass neutralized Everett’s offense in the first quarter by not allowing many second-chance opportunities. He is also skilled enough with the ball in his hands that he would occasionally push the ball up the floor himself and attack the Everett defense himself in transition.
“He’s a good player,” said DiBiaso. “We had to give something up today. We didn’t think he could shoot from the outside, we weren’t expecting that. We were trying to get our big guys off the screens with the shooters, and that freed him up. So you have to pick your poison. I thought we did a good job of keeping him off the boards in the second half.”
He finished the game with 19 points. He was so active and effective under the basket that he got to the free throw line on seven different occasions.
“He played hard from the beginning until the end,” said Riccitelli. “He’s 6-4, he pushes the ball up the floor. He has great court vision. He attacks the rim, he gets boards, he gets to the basket, he does a little bit of everything. He plays all five positions.”
Watch the clock: It was the first time all season that University played a game with a shot clock. Connecticut high school basketball does not have a shot clock, so the team was forced to move the basketball and shoot earlier in their possessions than they were used to.
“I think my kids did a pretty good job of adjusting to the shot clock,” said Riccitelli. “We had three really good quarters. The fourth quarter we kind of let it get away a little bit. I think playing with a shot clock is something we have to practice with more than once.”
Riccitelli also said the game was officiated differently than he was used to from Connecticut referees. He said the physicality would have resulted in more fouls being called in Connecticut than there were Monday. Add in the relentless pressure from the Everett defense, and the team was out of its element.