BOSTON -- Charlestown jumped out to an 11-0 lead, but East Boston returned with a 9-0 set immediately after, setting the stage for a match where the Townies made their runs just in time to keep East Boston at bay, defeating the Jets 74-68 in Boston North play tonight.
“The Eastie-Charlestown rivalry is a 30-year rivalry,” said Charlestown coach Edson Cardoso. “So we knew that they were going to come out to play to win. All I told my guys was to stay mentally tough throughout the game. When they get aggressive, we get aggressive, but to also stick with the game plan, which we did for most of the game.”
“These kids have resolve,” East Boston coach Malcolm Smith said of his team’s early recovery to remain in the game until the last buzzer. “I’ve got tough kids, but we weren’t physical enough, especially on the boards and making layups when it counted. We missed 17 shots from within four feet of the basket, and you’re just not going to win that way.”
Leading Charlestown with 19 points, 5 rebounds and two assists, C.J. Dowdell admitted that the game was trying.
“We had to go hard. If we didn’t go hard, they would’ve taken over the game. We were able to play hard, but also maintain our composure.”
Composure is not always easy to maintain, especially against an East Boston team that is notorious for their persistent defense, hustle and overall aggression.
With 2:04 left in the game and Charlestown up by only four, Akosa Maduegbunam (15 points, seven rebounds, block) plastered the backboard with an Eastie player’s attempted layup. The gymnasium was filled with tension from chants between the Townie and Jet fanfare and the bragging rights until February 1st, when the teams meet again was at stake with every play. A tussle for the rebound became extremely physical, resulting in a technical for each team, but neither was able to capitalize on the extra shots.
Charlestown had the lead, East Boston stayed at their heels, but the Townies did not back down at this point, something Maduegbunam thought was key to holding on for the win.
“East Boston likes to play aggressive, but we tried to stay focused, avoid getting a technical [foul], which we did eventually get," he said. "We couldn’t let them dictate our game, all we could do was match their intensity. But when someone throws a punch, you’ve got to react. I think that we reacted really well.”
Rony Fernandes (10 points, four rebounds) hit two free throws to put Charlestown up 68-62 with 1:30 left after coasting from one end of the court to the other, but the tenacious rebounding of sixth man Tyrik Jackson (10, including seven in the second half) kept the Jets from taking off with the game and allowed Charlestown to close out the game relatively comfortably.
“They weren’t boxing out at all,” said Jackson of his reflection on the Jets play at the half. “So I just went to the lane every time and just jumped.”