Boston High School: Jalen Brown

D2 North: Lynn Classical 66, Beverly 60

February, 27, 2013

BEVERLY, Mass. –- If the game had gone five minutes longer, there may have been a different result, but Lynn Classical was able to pull out a 66-60 road win over Beverly on Tuesday night -— a matchup that truly was a game of runs.

After Beverly took a 25-22 lead with 4:30 to go in the second quarter, Lynn Classical went on a 10-2 run to finish the second half. They were able to maintain the lead until late in the second half.

“We really know how to make it interesting huh? Every time we had a little bit of breathing room, they came right back. We have turnovers in clusters, one point we were up 11 and then had four consecutive turnovers and Beverly converted each time," Classical coach Tom Grassa said. “They’re a good team and I give them a lot of credit, we just beat them three weeks ago by 22.”

The Rams used a balanced attack both on the glass and in the scoring column, and because of that were able to pull out a close victory. Jorge Perez (10 points), Phillip Rogers (16), Eraldo Custodio (14), and Jalen Brown (14) were all in double figures for Classical -— which really only managed to let one Beverly player hurt them in the scoring column all night.

Totaling 23 points on 4-6 from behind the three point line, Nick Cross led the way for Beverly. Classical was able to hold John Berchoff to 12 points on 14 shots from the field, while Jonangel Franco managed just five points on eleven shots. Even despite having some offensive woes at times, Beverly was able to march all the way back to tie the game up with under four minutes to go -—thanks to a steal and lay-up by Chris Sinclair. On the next possession, Cross hit a turn-around jumper a la Kevin McHale to put Beverly up 55-53 with three minutes to go.

Grassa said Classical had a hard time, at some points, with choosing who to key on defensively.

“Oh take your pick," Grassa said. "Cross we know, has been very effective, Berchoff and [Cam] Rogers too. We tried to focus our attention on those three, and I think [Beverly coach] Scott [Lewis] was telling his guards to take my guys to the hole. Because as soon as you go to help, they kick it, and Cross...he had a big game [because of that]. He’s a terrific player."

Rogers, Custodio continue strong play: When senior Jalen Brown went down with an injury seven games ago, it was on the sophomore forward Phillip Rogers to step up for Lynn Classical and continue the production that the Rams were used to getting from Brown. So far, Grassa says, the 6-foot-3 Rogers hasn’t disappointed.

“He’s been terrific for us all year, a lot of times he takes a back seat to Eraldo [Custodio] and Jalen," Grassa said. "What happened was: seven games ago, Jalen got a real bad high ankle sprain, and during his seven game absence I think we went 6-1.

“But with Phillip we asked him to really step up his game and be more assertive on offense. A lot of times he’s so unselfish that he won’t become assertive."

Grassa wanted to make so much of an impression on Rogers, that he refused to take the sophomore out of the starting lineup even after Brown was back from injury. In fairness to how Rogers stepped up in Brown’s absence, the coach didn’t want to attempt to fix something that wasn’t broken. It’s a plan that Brown backed up, Classical’s size and presence on the glass was, at many points in the game, too much for Beverly thanks to the contributions from Rogers and Custodio.

“It was real important because we knew [Beverly] can jump just as high as we can, so we figured that if we dominate the boards and keep them shooting from the three-point line, that we can easily beat them from the inside,” Brown said. “They’re some of our better players, bigger players, they really help us out on the boards. Whenever we need it they can go down low, they can get that easy two points pick up a foul and get a nice free throw—all that.”

Custodio came out on an absolute roll in the first quarter, scoring ten points in the period—mostly on mid-range jumpers, and setting an aggressive tone early for Classical. Also finishing with seven rebounds for the Rams, who won the rebounding battle 32-26, he still kept his motor up after getting a scolding from his coach in the second half.

“He did get it going, but then I managed to ice him after an ill-advised shot," Grassa said with a laugh, enforcing the Rams’ gameplan to shoot as few jumpers as possible. "It was a shot he made the previous six [times], in the third quarter he was wide open from 14 feet, and he front-rimmed it. I screamed at him ‘That’s it with the outside shots’. So blame me for icing him.

"We emphasized all week that this is one of the most difficult places to shoot because of the backdrop. We weren’t going to take any threes. I think we only took three, made two. The last time we played here, we took three threes, everything was in the paint."

Pentucket, D3 girls hoop, not to be treaded lightly

January, 8, 2013
Some thoughts and observations from the first week of MIAA basketball in 2013:

Guardians on a roll –- again: Just when you thought St. Peter-Marian was done, ready to be written off as a one-year wonder, the Guardians come out swinging again. Sunday’s 54-49 upset of Catholic Memorial wasn’t glamorous, but it’s the program’s biggest win since trouncing Charlestown 61-46 some 12 months ago.

(That game, for those unfamiliar, ended up leading Charlestown coach Edson Cardoso to scrap their man-to-man defense altogether. The result was a Division 1 North title)

The Guardians have snuck under the radar for the first half of the 2012-13 season, and for good reason. After graduating stars Steve Flynn, Tre Watson, Brian Foley or ESPN Boston All-Stater Matt Mobley, there were questions abound in the talent department. Make no mistake, there’s no superstars in this year’s squad, but it’s a unit head coach Marcus Watson is very satisfied with, led by a senior-laden starting five of Tim Berry, Kevin Riley, Jaylen Ashton, Terrence Watson and Anthony Manzello.

“We’re fine with that, we don’t want to be ranked,” Watson said. “We just go out and battle. You look at us one-on-one, there’s not one kid you look at and say, ‘He’s a stud’. Yet if you look at us collectively they all do their job, they take charges, they box out. We’ve got absolutely no outside interference this year.”

CM figured to be rusty out of the gates, but caught fire in its 7-0 start with the emergence of sophomore shooting guard Giulien Smith (26 points per game). Not only did the Guardians keep him a non-factor, holding him to four points, but they mirrored the Knights’ vaunted 2-2-1 press with some of their own wrinkles added in, giving some man and diamond-and-one variants as well.

It’s a faster pace, a higher intensity of playing style, but it’s one Watson feels his team is conditioned for after a rigorous offseason. Players went through some dynamic strength training over the offseason, among the highlights in typical sessions: one-legged box drills; wrapping 45-pound plates in towels and pushing them the length of the floor; suicides on hills; wheelbarrow runs the length of the court, ending with pushups; all of it sprinkled over with deadlifts, calf raises, pull-downs, and two-mile runs.

The Guardians come into our poll this week at No. 25, its first appearance since the final 2011-12 poll, but tonight’s litmus test against rival St. John’s of Shrewsbury will give us a better measurement of where they’re at right now. The progress of underclassmen such as Connor Brown, Mike Boateng, George Anan and freshman Makai Ashton-Langford will be key, but they have shown great strides this first half of the season.

“We’re not even close to peaking, hopefully we just want to get better,” Marcus Watson said. “The kids believe in each other. They’ve never been a problem as a team, they all know their role. You can see them getting on each other, they all know what they’re supposed to be doing. We call them our ‘Fab Five’ -– not one of them is a stud, but they all do their job.”

Nobody’s yawning at Division 3: Interesting comments from Pentucket coach John McNamara following the Sachems’ 59-39 defeat of Billerica last Wednesday, saying flatly “We get tired of hearing we’re a D3 school. We can play with anybody. D3’s can play with anybody, there’s a lot of good teams.”

If that’s truly the whisper going around Eastern Mass., then it’s a circumventing one. With the Sachems’ win over the Indians, that will put three D3 squads in the top five of’s girls basketball poll: Archbishop Williams (3), St. Mary’s of Lynn (4) and the aforementioned Sachems (5). Say what you want about the dominance of Braintree in D1 and Reading in D2 – and at the end of the day, D1 has the most depth – but the teams atop D3 can hang with anyone. I don’t think that’s an axiom.

Pentucket has a slew of quality shooters this year, but as usual it’s defense that’s the calling card. It starts with 6-foot senior Tess Nogueira, whom McNamara feels is underrated for her talents. It’s plausible to see why – she doesn’t fit into a natural position on the floor, and doesn’t always light up the scoreboard – but suffice it to say she’s one of the state’s better defenders.

“She’s a unique player for a six-footer,” McNamara said. “She’s not a natural post player, but she can do anything. She can defend the point if we want her to, but unfortunately we don’t have any other bigs. If we press, we put her at the top of the press [and] she’s long and lanky and quick, with great habits.”

In the Sachems’ 2-2-1 and diamond-and-one press looks, it’s often Nogueira that comes flying up the floor to trap. With her length, and he tenaciousness, she can create some havoc out there.

“We have had her cover point guards, if we have other matchups we think we can survive, we’ll put her our front, or if we do a zone press we’ll put her at the point,” McNamara said. “She’s got good instincts, she’s long, lanky, makes good decisions on doubling and when not to double.

“She’s one of what I think the most unsung players in the state, because she doesn’t score 20 points a game. She does a lot of other things.”

Miscellaneous: One of the more interesting stats has be Hockomock League newcomer Milford. Off to a 7-0 start, the Scarlet Hawks sit atop the Davenport division and lead the league in team scoring at 70 points per game. Yet not one player sits in the top five in league scoring average. ... We’ve mentioned New Mission, Brighton, Wakefield and North Andover as heavyweight favorites in Division 2 North. Perhaps we’ve found a sleeper in Lynn Classical, which sits at 4-5 overall but with a two-point Everett loss, overtime St. John’s Prep loss, and a win over Lynn English on its resume. Keep an eye on the Brown brothers, senior Jalen and junior Jordan.