QUINCY, Mass. -– All season long, Solomon Umoren has been a defensive stalwart for the North Quincy stalwart. So naturally, he turned in perhaps the biggest offensive play of the season as the top-seeded Red Raiders downed crosstown rival Quincy, 65-54, in a Division 1 South Sectional quarterfinal match-up.
As the clock fell under three minutes to play, Quincy was surging and had cut North’s lead to just five points. The Presidents were on the verge of forcing a turnover as the shot clock neared zero. Point guard Kyle Richardson hit Umoren with a pass on the wing. The junior forward caught the pass and sent the pass toward the hoop as he was falling out of bounds.
“I just threw it up. It’s been a while since I hit a 3, I usually just attack,” said Umoren. “I didn’t know it was going in.”
The shot couldn’t have been more true, and it snapped through the twine to push North Quincy’s lead up to eight. From there, the Red Raiders just needed to hit free throws down the stretch to advance to a semifinal rematch with Newton North.
“We’ve got a hand in his face, the shot clock was on one, that was just a heck of a shot,” said Quincy coach Dave Parry. “From that time on, we really had a hard time. To me, that was the play of the game.”
Added NQ senior Efthim Butka: “That shot was incredible. It was better than any shot I’ve hit in my life. He was fading away, shot clock winding down, falling into coach’s arms, and then, nothing but net. It’s like there was a boulder on our back and Solo was just like ‘I’m Superman’ and took it away."
Super sidekicks: Umoren, who scored all seven of his points in the fourth, might have hit the biggest shot on the night, but throughout the contest Butka and Anthony Green shouldered much of the offensive load for the Red Raiders.
Butka was held scoreless in the first quarter but heated up in the second, notching seven points. He caught fire in the third, pouring in another 11 on his way to a game-high 23, including five 3-pointers, in the win.
“He’s tough to keep down,” said Barrett. “You can contain him for a little while but he’s an inside-out guy so he’s going to find ways to score. He’s going to manufacture points. The ones he missed early on, he didn’t miss by much. I told him to keep shooting the basketball and they started dropping.”
Butka was especially happy with both the win and his performance after Quincy handed North it’s first and only loss of the season just a couple weeks ago.
“We were just unbelievably motivated. They took the undefeated season away from us,” said Butka. “That was stuck in my head. I played really bad in that game, and it wasn’t just shooting, it was all aspects of the game. I made it my mission to come out defensively and play as hard as I could. The offense just came as the game went on.”
Green was impressive on both ends of the floor for NQ, finishing with 19 points and 10 rebounds. He flashed solid athleticism throughout the contest, best showcased in the waning seconds of the first quarter. He caught a pass beyond the free throw line, used a couple dribbles and a spin move and exploded by his defender, finishing with a thunderous two-handed slam that ignited the already boisterous NQ crowd.
“It happened a couple of times tonight, where he alleviated some pressure by putting the ball on the deck two, three, four times,” said Barrett. “He’s capable of doing that. He didn’t shoot the ball particularly well from the perimeter tonight, but he’s been a consistent elbow jump shooter for us all year.
"He’s a skilled kid. People are fooling themselves if they think he’s just a back to the basket player. He can pass the ball, he reads the double team really well, he throws out of it really well. He’s the full package.”
Both players benefitted from the sound play of Richardson throughout the game. He finished with nine points, six assists, five rebounds and three steals in the win.
Callahan for President: On the other side, Quincy was led by Christian Callahan, a Swiss Army Knife kind of player with an impressive approval rating. He came off the bench to give the Presidents a 20 point, 12 rebound, maximum-effort kind of performance.
“Just an incredible, incredible athletic specimen,” said Parry. “He does thing a lot of guys don’t. I like the energy coming off the bench, and he can play all five positions. Whether it’s the point, forward, the off guard position, he can come in for anybody and play anywhere.”
Bouncing all over the floor, he certainly caused fits for North Quincy’s defense. His ability to get to the hoop and finish, coupled with his ability to generate second chances (he had nine offensive rebounds) allowed Quincy to keep pace all night.
“We talked about it during several timeouts and certainly at halftime,” Barrett said. “He’s just an aggressive, tenacious kid when the ball goes up. We weren’t doing a great job of locating him and boxing him out, but he makes it hard.”