Saturday, January 25, 2014
Good Sports: Lexington 49, A-B 48
By John Botelho
BOSTON -- It became very clear on Saturday afternoon at TD Garden during the Good Sports 2014 Invitational that the Lexington Minutemen should never be counted out.
They proved it first by surging back from a 15-point first half deficit. After climbing back into the contest, things seemed to be slipping away for the Minutemen again, as Acton-Boxborough took a four-point lead with just over a minute to go.
As the clock ticked under a minute, Hugh O’Neil made sure Lexington would once again beat the long odds as he slid beyond the three-point line and connected on his third trey of the night to cut the lead to just one point, setting up the Minutemen’s eventual 49-48 win over the Colonials.
“My brother set me an incredible screen and I came off it strong, saw the opening and I took it,” said O’Neil. “I’m a captain, that’s my job.”
Added Lexington coach Reggie Hobbs: “That’s a huge shot, and that’s a senior captain stepping up in a big way.”
After forcing a defensive turnover, Lexington took the lead for good when fellow senior captain James Laurenzi grabbed an offensive rebound and followed with a put-back lay-in for the go-ahead score.
A-B wasn’t able to get their designed offensive play off, Lexington’s pressure caused a loose ball, and the Minutemen were able to secure the ball and the improbable come from behind win at the same time.
In the early going it was all A-B, which used a 16-1 near the end of the first and into the second to open up an impressive 24-9 lead. The Colonials offense went completely cold though after the first, making just seven field goals in the second, third and fourth quarters combined.
Michael Mundowa had 12 of his 15 points before halftime for A-B, while Ryan Graziano netted nine of his 14 before the break. Only Nnamdi Udokwu had more than one second half field in the loss as he poured in all eight of his points from the beginning of the third quarter on.
“We tend to be an up-and-down team scoring, and sometimes we just struggle scoring for long amounts of time,” said A-B coach Rick Kilpatrick. “They did a good job pressuring the ball and taking some of our options away. We had some turnovers. They took a three or four point lead in the second half, and I was happy with how responded and took a lead of our own again, but they just made a few plays down the stretch than we did.”
Led by O’Neil’s game-high 15 points, his brother Harry’s 10 and David Barner’s nine were able to slowly work back into the game -- closing the gap more quickly after the half when the trio combined on 21 of their points.
Many things had to break right for Lexington to forge it’s comeback, but leaving TD Garden with a win was hardly the product of luck, but rather never giving in, especially on the defensive end.
Never was that more evident than when Mundowa picked off a pass at midcourt with just over three minutes to play. As he went in for what looked to be an easy lay-up, Barner chased him down from behind and the 5-foot-11 guard blocked the shot off the backboard to prevent the easy score.
When the Colonials grabbed an offensive rebound, Darius Mathis -- who was racing behind the fast break -- took from just inside the free throw line and swatted the ball out of bounds, allowing Lexington to set up in the defensive zone, eventually forcing a turnover.
“That was an energy play, and we talked about that a lot at halftime,” said Hobbs. “One thing we really stressed was transition defense, and that’s the epitome of it. (David) gets that block, then Darius comes down and follows with another block, and it’s just guys running the floor and sprinting the floor. Absolutely love to see them playing like that.”
Lexington improved to to 6-8 with the win, while A-B fell to 6-4.