BOSTON -– When Max Burt pulled up for a potential game winning three from the corner with only seconds left on the clock, it was a bit of a flashback for Coach Glen Magpiong from the Raiders’ buzzer-beater loss to Brookline.
The attempt by Burt (13 points, six rebounds) was just off the mark, rolling halfway down the hoop before bouncing out before the final buzzer sounded. The win gave the Raiders a much-needed victory over St. John’s Prep (10-2) on Saturday morning at the Good Sports TD Garden Invitational, 53-51.
“We didn’t know they were going for a three, we said we didn’t want to give up a three because we got burned by Brookline with two seconds left on the clock a couple weeks ago. Quite frankly, we didn’t defend it the way we wanted to, I actually wanted our big on the ball guarding,” Magpiong said. “We talked about switching everything, not letting them lob on us, and not let them seal us. At the end of the day, the shot didn’t go in and we got a win.”
Senior captain Aidan James played hero for the Raiders (9-3) down the stretch. Only moments before Burt’s final shot attempt, James came up with one of the biggest shots of his career, rebounding a Ryan Noel (18 points, six rebounds) jumper attempt and putting the shot back up off the glass before his feet hit the ground.
“As a coach I’m constantly talking to them about grabbing a rebound, bringing it down on two feet and putting it back up. I think we were about 4-for-36 on those put-backs where we tried to put the ball up without touching the floor,” Magpiong said with a laugh.
James helped trigger the Wellesley run midway through the fourth quarter too, knocking down three-pointers on consecutive possessions to give the Raiders their first lead of the game at 47-46.
“We’ve had a lot of close games this year," James said. "I worked too hard in the offseason and throughout the season to not win this game. I felt like as a senior captain my team needed me, I needed to find something within myself to stay calm and confident –- I felt like I did that on those two threes and the putback."
Hitting those big shots on the same floor that the Boston Celtics play on, of course, only made the eventual win that much sweeter for James.
“It’s amazing, I’m never gonna forget it," James said.
Noel does it all for Wellesley: Noel, a 6-foot-6 forward, led the Raiders in scoring with 18 points. Whether it was making both his three-point attempts, making a presence on the offensive glass, or scoring around the rim, Noel seemed to be there every time the Raiders needed a good look in the closing minutes. He also did his share to keep Prep’s forwards off the glass.
“Rebounding is something that we normally take pride in, at the end of the game we didn’t get the rebounds that we needed to get,” St. John’s Prep coach John Dullea said. “We could never pull away, obviously credit to them—they’re a tough team. We expected that, we’ve seen them play, they’re very well-coached…they made plays when they needed to, especially in the end.”
Raiders rebound: Wellesley got torched by Newton North on Friday night, backed by Tigers’ star guard Tommy Mobley’s 32 points. Coming into Saturday, Magpiong emphasized that his team put Friday night behind them and enjoy the experience of playing at the Garden.
“This win was very important, we had a tough battle last night against Newton North –- we got outplayed and lost by 14. Our guys could have quit, we’ve been talking about this game for months and it took our whole team to do what they had to do for us to win,” Magpiong said. “We got everybody at least four minutes in the first half, I guaranteed that everybody was gonna’ play today. I really wanted today to be a good day, a fun day.”