NEEDHAM, Mass. -– Sometimes a square peg fits in a round hole.
With the game tied at 11 after the first quarter, and Durfee's zone providing his offense fits, Needham coach Paul Liner changed up his offense: he ran his man-to-man offensive sets. The audible worked as the Rockets outscored the Hilltoppers 14-4 in the second quarter and cruised to a 58-40 win in a Division 1 South first round game.
“We just couldn't get the movement that we liked, and we were settling for outside shots,” Liner said. “We just liked similar man sets to swing the ball side to side, reverse the ball, and look for gaps, and it seemed to present more openings for us.”
The Rockets used their size and length inside, they outrebounded Durfee 36-27, to keep possessions alive and have multiple cracks at a bucket. The biggest beneficiary of this was Ryan Charter.
Charter pumped in seven threes and scored a game-high 27 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter to close the show. Charter accounted for 27.5 percent of all the scoring in the game.
“We played with a ton of confidence tonight,” Charter said. “We pride ourselves on being the best defensive team in the state, in our eyes, and I think we showed that especially in the first half.”
The Rockets defense wasn't able to stop Durfee's Tyree Robinson from adding to his highlight reel, but they were able to contain him. Robinson, who was in and out of the game after suffering a leg injury in the first quarter and aggravating it late in the game, had 14 points, nine rebounds, and four blocks.
Robinson had a highlight sequence in the first quarter when he poked away a steal and finished on the other end with a 360 dunk. He followed that with a volleyball spike of a block on the other end.
Despite racking up the moments, Robinson and the Durfee offense were checked by Needham's precise zone for much of the game.
“The most they can do in one play is score two points or three points; they can't score 10 points at a time regardless of how he dunks it or whatever,” Charter said. “That was our mindset going in: just move on and whatever happens happens.”
Needham played some form of a zone the entire game and pressed as far out as it could every time. Durfee's guards were unable to get going and start an offense for much of the game.
“They had a nice 1-2-2 zone; they extended it pretty far out,” Durfee coach Jameson Guimond said. “They're big. They probably start four guys over 6-foot-2, so when you have that type of length they played a great zone. We tried different guys at different spots on the floor, but I didn't put them in good enough position to make plays tonight.”
Nine different Rockets scored and the players it seemed that Liner was rotating players in at a hockey-like pace.
A BRIGHT FUTURE
Durfee kept the game within striking distance until the fourth quarter. A lot of that was due to a strong performance by freshman Nick Salmon. Salmon scored nine points, including a stretch in the third quarter when he scored seven and to be Durfee's entire offense.
Salmon's success underscored something bigger: Durfee will be back.
“The good news is we return just about everyone on the team,” Guimond said. “We have three seniors who did a lot of the program and played hard for four years, but we return just about everybody. I look forward to the future.
“I give the season a B. We won games that we were supposed to win, but I think that we exceeded some expectations. This is a program that has been down for the past few years and the kids won 13 games, won the Big 3 championship, won a state tournament game. I'm proud of them; I think they did excellent.”
Robinson said that, looking towards the future, there is no reason to be angry about the past.
“We can work hard and we can win a lot of games,” Robinson said. “We can shock a lot of people. People didn't think we could come this far but we did. I'm proud for that and I'm proud of my team. I can't do anything else but be happy.”
BIGS GET BIG
Much of Needham's success on the glass was due to the play seniors Mike Elcock and Jack Winston. The pair combined for nine rebounds and 11 points, but more than that they used their size, both are north of 6-foot-4, to trap Durfee's smaller guards in the paint.
“They're so tough underneath and they box [out] first which is really important and crash hard for rebounds,” Liner said. “We're able to go play zone with Mikey up top, and he's 6-foot-4 and able to play the top of the zone and get back and box out. Jack Winston is 6-foot-5; they did a great job controlling the glass.”