D2 EMass Boys Final: New Mission 71, Milton 62

March, 12, 2014
Mar 12
1:36
AM ET
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BOSTON -- One game.

That is all that was left separating New Mission or Milton from the Division 2 state championship game. The game that if won, could validate months of hard work. The game that could finally prove the doubters wrong, prove a team’s success is not simply a product of its schedule, and prove you are just as good as you believe you are.

And, oh yeah, you have to do it on the TD Garden parquet, where some of the best players in the world succeed on a nightly basis. It was New Mission, the team from Hyde Park, that came away with the 71-63 victory to move on to the state championship game.

“I told the kids there’s a bunch of pro basketball players that sign a bunch of 10-day contracts that never get to play in the Garden, and they got to play a full game,” said New Mission coach Cory McCarthy. “Because they understand how huge that is, they were able to step up in a big moment on the parquet floor in front of their fans.”

It was Mission’s 20th victory in a row, setting up a collision with Concord-Carlisle Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester. C-C beat Longmeadow 65-55 Tuesday night for the right to advance to the state championship game.

“This feels incredible,” said Shaquan Murray (18 points). “To actually be able to play, represent for the city, my fans, my family, my teammates.. it’s really great. We have to bring it back home. We have to.”

The Titans jumped out to an early lead in the first quarter, but Milton’s Keyon Jones (18 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists) three-pointer took it away.

Mission’s defensive pressure in the second allowed it to extend its lead to double digits. It went on a 14-3 run that helped it go into halftime with a five-point lead.

Murray had the kind of second half senior leaders have in big games to get their team over the hump and on to victory. He scored 16 of his 18 points after halftime and he did scored from all over the floor. He scored from the free throw line (9 of 12 in the game), from beyond the three-point line, and in the lane drawing contact.

“In the fourth quarter we can always depend on Shaquan,” said Fred “Bam” Rivers (13 points, 11 rebounds). “Shaq, he’s always the fourth quarter guy. That makes us want to keep pushing the action to get the win. Shaq always gets that big shot, so once he gets that big shot everyone’s always screaming ‘Let’s go! Let’s go!’ That’s when we actually want to push and keep going and get the win.”

Zoned up: In the third quarter, Milton switched into a 2-3 zone defense, looking for any way to confuse the offense and keep New Mission out of the paint. Early in the quarter it worked well. The Milton defense held the offense to only three points over the first four minutes of the quarter.

“My point guard decided that he wanted to become innovative,” said McCarthy. “He tried to create against a stable zone that was built for the kind of things he wanted to do. Not to put it on him because he made the adjustment. Once we were able to use our timeouts and get the right sets to execute against the zone, they went back to the man-to-man and I feel like that’s where our advantage was.”

Milton was able to cut the lead to 40-38 by the middle of the quarter. As the quarter progressed, Mission started to solve the defense and get the kind of run-outs and transition baskets that have came to exemplify what is so cleverly called “New Mission Basketball.”

With two minutes left in the quarter, Mission grabbed a defensive rebound and quickly pushed the ball up the floor to Murray. He saw the oncoming Juwan Gooding out of the corner of his eye. As he approached the basket, he up-faked, which caused Gooding to leave his feet and get out of Murray’s look at the basket. He made the lay-in to bring his team’s lead back to five.

“We prepared for the 2-3, but I guess we were a little confused on how they were playing it, so that caused us to milk the shot clock down to four or five seconds and we just kind of threw up a shot,” said Murray. “Luckily, one of those plays I actually made one. We just had to adjust more and be more aware of what defense our opponents are playing.”

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A good reunion: Tuesday's game had a personal side to it, beyond just its state title ramifications. Coming off the bench for Milton High was Juwan Gooding, who played last season for New Mission. After the season, he transferred back to Milton, and Mission fan base did not let him forget it Tuesday.

Gooding made his mark early and often Tuesday night, finishing with 17 points and four rebounds. He was aggressive enough around the basket to draw fouls. He shot 12 free throws in the game and made nine.

He was on the floor in the final minutes of the game watching his former team beat his new team to move on to the state championship game. He made back-to-back baskets with two minutes to go to cut the New Mission lead to five, but it was simply not enough to win the game.

“This game definitely was personal,” said Murray. “Juwan’s a great player. When we had him last year, we thought we were going to take it all, but that didn’t happen unfortunately. We were really excited to play him. He came out really aggressive and it was a good game. We dapped up towards the end and wished him luck next year.”

After the final buzzer sounded, Gooding went back to the Milton bench graciously, but not before exchanging high-fives and hugs with McCarthy, Rivers, Murray, and others. When the dust had settled, those small gestures showed even though he might not play for the team anymore, Murray is still respected amongst the New Mission basketball family.

“We felt like it was just another game,” said Rivers. “Juwan, he felt like he needed to leave, like it was the best move for him. We’re not going to, like...hate him just because he left us. He did what he had to do, so it was no personal thing. It was a regular game for us, we just wanted to get out and get the win.”
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