ROXBURY, Mass. -- It’s not easy to beat East Boston in boys basketball, but twice in one week? Try attaining Nirvana. New Mission fought to the last second to attempt this feat, but Eastie had a little more on the ball in the 64-59 win at Madison Park High, to advance to tomorrow’s city championship match against Charlestown.
“They got us Monday, but we got them today,” said Jets senior guard Walter Smith. He said that the talk around the state and in the city about Monday’s loss did not deter his squad from going head to head with New Mission. “We’ve got eleven guys in the locker room, along with coach Malcolm Smith, and we all believed that we could win.”
Through the first half, the Titans (15-4) kept the lead, but they got caught in Eastie’s undertow late in the second quarter. Up 24-13 at the three minute mark, Mission’s lead fell to six with 2:14 left in the quarter, and by the time the buzzer sounded, it had dwindled to just three points.
“We got outplayed in the second half,” said New Mission coach Cory McCarthy. “The foul trouble hurt, but we’ve got to play through that.”
Within the first minute of the third quarter, Eastie (16-4) overtook the lead at 32-30, and McCarthy and the boys were never able to get back on solid ground. Unable to move the ball due to Eastie’s full court man-to-man play, the New Mission team could not make first attempts, relying on second chance points and free throws.
With the taste of Monday’s loss still bitter on their taste buds, Eastie crashed the boards hard. 6-foot-3 sophomore Kenny Ramos (nine rebounds, six points) helped cement the third quarter takeover, getting three rebounds and scoring three of his five points in the quarter from the free throw line.
“We didn’t box out in key situations, we thought the game was going to come to us, instead of making an impact on it,” added McCarthy. “That’s how it was. They did a good job, the other team fought all the way til the end, and we fought about 95 percent. That’s the game of basketball, that’s East Boston-New Mission.”
“I told myself that I’ve got to play a lot more aggressive,” Ramos said to himself at halftime. “I’ve got to come out and help my team do whatever I can to win.”
The entire second half though belonged to Walter Lewis, who is comfortable at Madison Park and kept his feet up, grabbing rebounds, hustling after loose balls and shaking defenders, determined to make it to the hole.
“Over the last six games, Walter’s been averaging 26 points,” said Smith. “Me and Walter go back and forth, but it was just his time today. It’s been his time actually all season, but you know this is a neighborhood battle. A lot of these guys live in the area, and Madison Park is where everybody [who plays basketball] comes. This is the pinnacle.”
Lewis ended the game with 25 points, including 19 in the second half. Crafty ball skills, relentless hustle and a tough shot to stop, he said coach Smith gives him the green light to play at times, but with the game so close, he took that green light and shifted into fourth gear.
“He gives me the leeway,” said Lewis. “But at the end I felt that I had to do it to keep us in the game.”