NEW BEDFORD, Mass. -- There was no messing around for Brockton boys' basketball in a rematch of last year's Division 1 South Sectional quarterfinals on Tuesday.
A season removed from letting a one-point lead slip to rivals New Bedford in the final minutes of their tournament run, a matured Boxers team grabbed control in the fourth quarter and never surrendered it. Led by a dominant performance from senior Sayvonn Houston, Brockton shipwrecked the Whalers, 52-45, to open the first half of its conference schedule undefeated.
“We learned that we cannot come in here and not be ready to play 100 percent like last year,” said Brockton coach Bob Boen. “Our whole game plan was to get Houston the ball. We would have given him the ball every play if we could have.”
Brockton's offensive rhythm reflected the success of Houston, who scored 22 points and brought down 11 rebounds. Playing especially strong at the two ends of the game, the 6-foot-6 center scored nine points in the first and 12 in the fourth.
The two teams traded punches throughout, but Brockton (7-1, 2-0) maintained a lead for the entire fourth quarter as Houston had a response to any New Bedford (7-3, 1-0) scoring.
“I had the size advantage and just needed to put the man on my back,” said Houston. “Since the guy is smaller than me, I have to get as low as him without falling over, then post up and put the ball high. We were looking for mismatches.”
Entering the final quarter up 34-32, Houston opened with six straight low-post points. However a backline trey from junior Josh Pontes and a top-of-the-paint jumper by senior guard Cameron Walker brought the score to 42-40.
Controlling the paint and shooting over his opponents, Houston buried an assist from Jamal Reuben then tipped in a rebound to spread the lead to 46-40. A smooth three-pointer at the top of the arc by junior Rylin Collazo with 1:30 remaining proved the Whalers' last breath, as the Boxers' center again quickly answered with a putback.
“We wanted to push (Houston) out and not let him get the ball under the basket,” said New Bedford coach Tom Tarpey. “In the second half, we let him do what he wanted and we are just to small so it becomes a layup for him.”
The Boxers jumped out early in the game with a 10-5 lead, but struggled without Houston who along with teammate senior Jahleel Moise scored Brockton's first 14 points. Walker scored eight first half points, including a fade-away alley-oop of an inbound to help send New Bedford into half up 25-22.
Walker lead his team in scoring with 12 points and nine rebounds.
“Cameron can score from all over the floor, so he is tough to stop,” said Tarpey. “We were pushing the ball in the first half. We have to make hard cuts and we were not doing that in the second.”
Brockton, who dropped the conference and a 69-65 postseason loss to New Bedford last year, now has the upper hand in the Big Three. This is the second straight conference win for Brockton, who defeated a 3-7 Durfee team 80-61 last Friday. The two teams will rematch at Brockton in exactly four weeks.
“There were no second-chance opportunities this time around,” said Houston. “This was an important confidence boost for our team after a hard week in practice.”