BOSTON -— When push came to shove, it was Cambridge’s seamless transition offense that got them past Central Mass. power St. Peter-Marian on Monday at the BABC Winter Classic.
Forwards Diandre Shoulder-Williams (18 points) and Fredens Deneus (13 points, 10 rebounds) led the Falcons in scoring as they quickly pulled away from the Guardians (5-4) in the fourth quarter to knock off SPM 69-55.
Despite being down just five points at halftime, the Guardians struggled to put the ball in the basket in the second half and had a hard time getting back on defense and stopping Cambridge’s (6-3) high-octane attack.
“Offensively we have some weapons—people that can score the basketball," Cambridge coach Lance Dottin said. "Obviously after a defeat to a league opponent [Somerville], it was good to come over here today and play a quality team and be able to come out with a victory. That was very satisfying, but we still have a lot of work to do."
Guardians’ sophomore forward Greg Kuakumensah spent a majority of the first half on the bench with foul trouble, and in that time Shoulder-Williams and Deneus dominated on the glass and scored nearly at will around the rim. Shoulder-Williams, who has quickly become the Falcons’ most consistent offensive presence, saw a change of position following Cambridge’s recent loss to Somerville.
“After the Somerville game we made a couple adjustments and we moved Diandre down to the four position," Dottin said. "He’s like a hybrid four for us: he’s athletic, obviously he can shoot the three, so for us it was good to see him be able to score like he did because he’s able to do that every night."
Dottin a name to remember: Cambridge freshman Jakigh Dottin scored 12 points off the bench for the Falcons. A 5-foot-11 freshman point guard who plays AAU basketball in the offseason for BABC, Dottin has cemented his name as one of the best freshmen in the Boston area this year. When the Falcons needed him to pick up the slack in the scoring column on Monday, Dottin, son of coach Lance Dottin, stepped up to the challenge.
“[Jakigh] did an excellent job for us tonight, we feel like he’s one of the better freshmen in the area. For a freshman to come out and play with that kind of poise against a quality opponent says a lot about him,” Lance Dottin said. “For him it’s just about continuing to get better, playing with great confidence, and obviously we think he’s going to be one heck of a point guard over the next three years. For us, to see him play that well, I was very happy.”
Slowing down Makai: A big part of Dottin playing so much was that he had the speed to help slow down Guardians’ star sophomore point guard Makai Ashton-Langford. Ashton-Langford, who has shown the promise to be one of New England’s best young talents, finished with just 13 points and struggled to get into the paint on Cambridge’s defense.
Dottin was very complimentary of Ashton-Langford after the game.
“He’s just unbelievably quick and a very good ball handler. But that was a change we made, we inserted [Shoulder-Williams] into the starting lineup so that we didn’t get caught behind when [Ashton-Langford] does what he does well: dribble by people and get to the basket,” Dottin said. “It helped us because we were able to at least contain him, it’s hard to stop a kid like that with his quickness and his ball handling skills—but at least we were able to slow him down a little bit.”
Even despite the offensive struggles, Guardians’ coach Marcus Watson isn’t ready to panic yet. Though SPM has lost 5 of their last 6 games, those losses have come to No. 1 Putnam, No. 6 Catholic Memorial, No. 8 St. John’s, No. 14 Cambridge, and St. Bernard’s.
“Sometimes we don’t play together. A lot of experience as far as age, but not as much experience in terms of playing together in this type of stage. I’m happy with the kids I have, I just need to do a better job to get a rise out of them and prepare their transition defense,” Watson said. “We have seven games in ten days. We just have to play together. We’re talented enough to be in the districts, we’ll be a tough out once we get there…but we do have to get there first. We have eleven games to get five wins, I like our chances.”
Demetrius Woodson canned four treys for Cambridge, totaling 14 points. Jamal Smith was the only other Guardian in double-figures besides Ashton-Langford, finishing with 11 points.