Boston High School: Eric Green

NEPSAC: St. Mark's 59, Tilton (N.H.) 53

March, 4, 2012
BEVERLY, Mass. -- Nik Stauskas wrapped his arms around Eli Lubick, as his St. Mark's teammate approached the free throw line to shoot the game-clinching free throws.

It was poetic in a way: the son of St. Mark’s coach David Lubick had the opportunity to put an exclamation point on the season and secure the NEPSAC Class AA Championship that had eluded this senior class the last two seasons.

His older brother Nate, now a starting forward at Georgetown, watched in the right corner, hoping his brother would have the opportunity to feel the championship feeling he had when he won the same title at St. Mark’s years ago.

Eli hit them both. The clock hit zero, and the whole team rejoiced at center court, celebrating the Lions’ 59-53 victory over the Tilton Rams. It was an unknown feeling for Tilton, which had previously won four straight NEPSAC championships -- three straight Class B titles from 2008-10, and last year's Class AA title against these same Lions.

“This is so crazy for us, because after last year’s loss to them, for like, a year exactly to this day, we’ve been thinking about this rematch against Tilton,” said Stauskas, who finished with 19 points and has signed with Michigan for next season. “There’s no better feeling in the world than just working hard and achieving your goals.”

St. Mark’s (26-1) jumped out to an early lead behind the shooting of players like Jaymie Spears (eight points, four steals), Aaron Falzon (eight points, five rebounds), and Lubick (12 points).

While Stauskas and Arizona-bound 7-footer Kaleb Tarczewski get their share of publicity, and rightfully so, it was the contributions of the players around them that allowed them to end their high school careers on such a high note.

“Those are all big-time players,” said Stauskas. “A guy like Jaymie has been working so hard this year and really stepped up big for us today. Eric Green (four points, five rebounds) stepped up big, Aaron is only a freshman so he’s definitely going to have some big years ahead of him.”

As the crowd thinned outside the Endicott College gymnasium, players trickled out of the locker room and into the lobby to board their respective buses back to their campuses. The Tilton (27-5) players were gone just moments after Lubick entered the St. Mark’s locker room.

Months from now, the St. Mark’s starting five will be at different colleges around the country beginning a new chapter in their lives. Who knows where their basketball careers will take them. No matter, they will always be able to look back and know they went out a champion.

Neutralizing Nerlens: St. Mark’s accomplished what so many teams want to do when playing Tilton: keeping the ball away from Nerlens Noel on offense. The nation's No. 1 overall senior can single-handedly change a game with his defense. St. Mark’s has it’s own big man in Kaleb Tarczewski, the No. 5 overall player in the Class of 2012.

When looking at the scorebook and seeing Tarczewski’s eight points and nine rebounds, one can think it was because Noel neutralized him. It had more to do with Lubick’s decision to play his offense out on the perimeter.

The team took advantage, hitting 10 three-pointers. Twelve of Stauskas’ 19 points came from behind the 3-point line.

“We know Nerlens and Goodluck (Okonoboh) are big-time shot blockers,” he said. “Our main goal today was to get a lot of drive-and-kicks for threes. We have a lot of guys that can shoot the ball. Our real key was to get into the key as far as we could and kick it right back out for open three’s.”

Noel’s shot-blocking is so feared that in one possession in the first half, Eric Green caught an outlet pass and saw Noel separating him from the basket. Rather than going at the 6-foot-11 center and risk getting his shot blocked, Green circled back to the perimeter and waited for his teammates to set up the offense.

“We wanted to not challenge them at their strength, which is the rim,” said David Lubick. “We thought if Kaleb could challenge Nerlens and get into his body and get him into foul trouble, that’s great. He used a couple of nice up-fakes and stuff like that, but we didn’t want the rest of our guys attacking the basket. Even an athletic guy like Eric Green or Nik Stauskas who can attack the basket, we didn’t want them to do it because we were afraid we’d get our shots blocked, then they’d go off to the races the other way.”

“Our focus was on making plays on the perimeter and getting into the paint in order to find somebody,” he added. “Consequently, they had to take Goodluck out of the game and adjust to us. If we had gotten behind, they wouldn’t have had to do that. Our guys doing what the gameplan dictated allowed us to dictate the terms on personnel.”

Loss of Selden hurt: Tilton appeared to struggle at times without its starting point guard Wayne Selden. The Boston resident and one of the nation's top sophomore players in the country, has been sidelined for weeks with an ankle injury. He had no choice but to watch the game from the bench in street clothes holding crutches.

“Him playing definitely makes a big difference for them,” said Stauskas. “We wish he could have played because it’s obviously not the same without him, but injuries happen. You just have to deal with them, so it is what it is. He’s probably one of the guys that creates most off the dribble for them, so he’s definitely a huge difference-maker.

"Georges Niang played a huge game for them (19 points, six rebounds) so he definitely stepped up. Everyone else was doing their normal job. They’re a heck of a team, so we feel blessed just to beat them.”

Warm surprise: Lubick received a nice surprise just moments before tipoff. As he was standing on the sideline during team warmups, he turned around and was noticeably taken aback when he saw his son Nate, a sophomore at Georgetown, standing their to greet him.

He was not expecting him to be there, since he had played against Marquette the previous night, but he flew up to surprise his dad and cheer him on during the important game.

“That was a huge surprise for me,” he said. “I was a little steamed and perturbed that my wife didn’t show up early and on time. I was thinking, ‘Where is she?’ We’ve been through this together for a long time, and then I figured out why she was late: she was picking up Nate. It was great, just unbelievable.”

St. Mark's makes thrilling comeback over NMH

February, 25, 2011
SOUTHBOROUGH, Mass. -- Alex Murphy was still trying to wrap his head around what happened moments earlier.

“Right now I’m trying to go through everything in my head and the events that lead up to that outcome, but I really can’t right now,” said the Duke commit and the No. 15. recruit in the Class of 2012, according to ESPN. “I just want to think about the win and how great of an environment it was. It was just a great win against a great team.”

The outcome? A double overtime, 82-74 St. Mark’s victory over Northfield-Mount Hermon. The events leading up to it? You had to see them to believe them.

With 22 seconds left in overtime Friday, NMH’s Armani Cotton drained two free throws to extend the Hoggers' lead over St. Mark’s to 64-58. Maybe it just wasn’t the Independent School League champion’s night. Murphy wouldn’t allow that.

He took the ensuing inbounds pass and charged up the floor, stopping at the three-point line. He let a shot go as the rest of the gym held its collective breath. And when they exhaled, it was a three-point game with 19.2 left.

All NMH (20-6) had to do was have a successful inbounds pass to send the Lions (25-2) into desperation foul mode. Joe Sharkey looked left, but everyone was covered. He looked back to the right, same thing: everyone was covered. Then he saw a teammate heading towards his offensive zone and launched a pass like a quarterback trying to convert a Hail Mary, but it was intercepted by St. Mark’s guard Jaymie Spears.

He passed the ball back into his offensive zone and Peter Kazickas was waiting in the corner for a spot-up three pointer. He missed, but Eric Green (14 points, five rebounds) elevated over opponents four inches taller than him to bat the ball out of the paint, to make sure his teammates had another shot to tie it.

There was Kevin Zabo, a freshman, taking a crucial shot in a game that may have been too big for some other freshmen. Zabo drained the three, tying the game at 64, sending it into another overtime.

“That was only the best basketball game that’s ever been played in this gym,” St. Mark’s head coach David Lubick said. “We were able to win because we were mentally tough, and that’s something that we talk about all the time.”

“There was a lot of good players on that floor today,” he added. “When it came time, we were tough. We talk every day about it’s one thing to be tough when you’re ahead, it’s another thing to be tough when you’re not ahead and your back is against the wall. We had guys make plays with extra effort and focus at a time when we were beaten. We were beaten, and our guys didn’t quit.”

For the first three minutes and 20 seconds of the first overtime, the Lions did not score a basket, only making one free throw. When it needed it the most, the team’s big time players made big time plays.

In the second overtime period, NMH was the team that had a hard time hitting shots. Halfway through the extra frame, it was down 71-66, but the St. Mark’s lead continued to grow to as much as nine before it finally ended 82-74.

Murphy had a quiet first half for the Lions, putting up only four points and five rebounds. He exploded in the second half, however, ending with 27 points and 10 rebounds.

In one sequence in the middle of the second half, the two teams were trading baskets and took turns taking over the lead until Alex scored three consecutive baskets and had a block and a steal, giving his team a six-point lead. He appeared to be in a totally different gear than he was in in the first half.

“I don’t think I was being assertive enough in the first half,” he said. “I was trying to get my teammates involved, which isn’t a bad thing. They made a push at the end of the first half and I knew for my team to be able to stay in the game and for us to win the game I was going to have to assert myself and do whatever I had to do to help my team win.”

Aaron Crosby, NMH’s Seton Hall-bound senior, came into the game averaging 22.1 points per game, but was noticeably absent for most, if not all of the second half. It is unknown if he injured himself in the game or if his ineffectiveness earned him a spot on the bench. He reentered the game towards the end of the second overtime, but could not help lead his team to victory. He ended with two points and one rebound.

One eye-popping statistic was the number of free throws each team had. As a team, St. Mark’s had 24 to NMH’s three in the first half alone. In the entire game, St. Mark’s went to the line 56 times while NMH only went to the line 21 times. While those numbers are staggering, it should be noted that the Lions converted 39, or almost 70 percent. NMH converted 18 of their attempts.

“They’re a very aggressive team,” said Lubick when asked about the difference. “I’m sure their coach is thinking they got home-jobbed, but our guys were tough.”

Kaleb Tarczewski, St. Mark’s 7-footer and No. 8 recruit in the Class of 2012, had nine points and nine rebounds, and fouled out with over a minute left in the first overtime.