LOWELL, Mass. -– Spurred by an early effort from Malik James (18 points, six rebounds, five assists), Brighton jumped out to an early 11-2 lead in the first quarter and held the lead the length of the game, winning 66-59 in the Division 2 North Boys’ Championship.
Although the margin of victory was only seven, the Bengals led by as much as fourteen in the fourth quarter, but could not open up the match.
“We [brought] intensity going into the game because we know if we had never came out, we could have been on the other of that scoreboard and we could have lost” James said after Brighton’s victory. “We were in this predicament last year, so we had to rebound, we had to play defense, run our sets like coach said. Knowing that our big man [Tre Dowman] was out, the intensity just won us the game.”
Not only did the Bengals’ usual suspects -- James, and junior shooting guard Daivon Edwards -- come up big for the Bengals, but underclassmen, some who started the year on junior varsity but due to ineligibility of others, these young guns were able to shine on the big stage, but they got dirty doing it.
The Bengals held their largest lead at 14 numerous times during the game, even in the fourth quarter. While Brighton held the lead, there were times -- like the last four minutes of the game -- that Wakefield would show life, such as senior Keyon Armstrong’s 5-for-5 campaign from the line in a matter of possessions, the final cutting the lead to 7 with 1:20 left in the game. Two free throws from junior forward Kendall Hamilton cut the margin to five at 63-58.
Close Cut: Brighton head coach Hugh Coleman believes in some way, that his team had an advantage with the Warriors when within five points, as opposed to maintaining that fourteen point lead or opening up the game for a definitive win.
“Anybody could be up by 14, you know, it eases the stress," Coleman said. "But what happens with us sometimes is we get complacent, and we think the game’s over, and it causes us to shift the momentum to a team that’s going to play hard for 32 minutes and get back in the game. So, sometimes, being up five is a little more comfortable.”
Spread Out: Getting this late into the playoffs, close games can go either way very fast. Top notch shooters, defensive specialists, pure energy players all have the possibility to turn a five point margin upside down within a minute, so how does Coleman believe that his squadron will survive their highest peak yet?
“We have enough experience of being up and being down and understanding the difference to stress time and situation," Coleman said. "How to work a clock, keep that lead going and have teams come after us and follow us so we can increase that lead.
Show Discipline: “Damani Carter, No. 24, JV guy that comes up, just comes out, get some big rebounds, gets a layup, hits a three, just a great job,” Coleman said of the 6-foot-2 sophomore. “I’m proud of our young guys and our bench because they’ve done a great job of just doing their part… If everyone takes care of their responsibility, as a whole, we’ll come out on top.”