- Scott Barboza, ESPN Staff Writer
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WORCESTER, Mass. -- The idea came back to Cory McCarthy on the bus ride home from Lowell after his New Mission team wrapped up the Division 2 North title last week.
Instead of the taking the long ride to the game hours before its start, McCarthy had the idea to have a sleepover of sorts.
“I was thinking, why don’t we just stay there overnight,” the Titans head coach said.
McCarthy implemented his idea before New Mission’s 67-57 win over Central champion Northbridge on Sunday at the DCU Center. It paid off.
The only caveat was that the Titans didn’t stay in downtown Worcester, they stayed overnight at a hotel a couple of minutes away from McCarthy’s Dorchester home. To McCarthy, it didn’t really matter where they stayed, he just needed a little time away from home.
“Hey, I needed to be my team’s sixth best player today,” McCarthy said, followed by his trademark self-deprecating guttural laugh. “I had to get my mind right and make sure my mind was clear. I wanted to have my defensive and offensive game plans down.”
It was evident McCarthy had clarity of min and his players executed the game plan flawlessly. By the start of the fourth quarter, the Titans held a 21- point lead, after Kachi Nzerem’s three-pointer to close the third.
“All we worked on this week is defense,” said Nzerem, who poured in 15 points. “All we wanted to do is try and stop them … We know that if we play good defense, our offense will open up.”
The victory capped New Mission’s meteoric rise from the Division 4 ranks. Although an odds-on favorite wire-to-wire to win the Division 2 crown this season, it was just a year ago that the Titans completed a successful Division 4 title run. A year before that, they didn’t even reach double digits in wins — five to be exact.
It’s all a credit to the man his players simply call Cory.
“Cory’s a straight line,” said senior Charles Gunter who chipped in eight points, “if you cross the line, he was there to remind you. He didn’t want to you fail. He wants to see you succeed as young men and as players.”
His players have also repaid the favor, time and time again.
With about a minute to play in the first quarter, Gunter hit the floor hard going after a rebound. It took a few moments for Gunter to regain his wind, sauntering toward the bench after a stoppage of play down the offensive end.
McCarthy greeted him, saying, “Are you for real?”
“He’s on the floor all the time,” McCarthy added.
Gunter knew exactly how to respond: “I got this Cory.”
Gunter got back on the floor. He, along with New Mission’s fellow senior starters Darius Davis (team-leading 17 points) and Samir McDaniels (16 points), seemed as though they never left the floor. They finally went to the bench with less than a minute to play, when the game was well in hand.
“I love those guys,” McCarthy said of his seniors.
He paused, “I don’t really say that to anybody.”
Maybe it’s because of their character, or their work ethic, their skill or their personality.
It’s easy to see why McCarthy talks of his team with such affection.
When asked how he was going to celebrate the Titans’ latest title, McDaniels responded that he was going to hit the gym tomorrow.
Satisfaction only comes with accomplishment.
21hJohn McGuirk, Special to ESPNBoston.com
4dBrendan C. Hall
4dJohn McGuirk, Special to ESPNBoston.com
5dBrendan C. Hall
5dBrendan C. Hall
8dBrendan C. Hall
11dNate Weitzer, Special to ESPNBoston.com
12dJohn McGuirk, Special to ESPNBoston.com