Boston High School: Nick Simpson

Final Thoughts from 2012-13, and looking ahead

March, 27, 2013
Some final thoughts as we put a close on the 2012-13 high school basketball season...



After committing to Vanderbilt last August, Lynn English's Ben Bowden told he was leaning towards not coming back out for basketball his senior year, saying "it delayed my pitching", that he lost "alot of interest" from some colleges "because I didn't throw hard as they wanted me to."

"I'm leaning that way so I can be fully prepared, because we've got the [MLB] draft and everything," Bowden told us at the time. "Where it's at right now, I don't see myself playing. But it was fun while it lasted."

Bowden, a 6-foot-4 lefty flreballer, is one of the state's most heralded prospects following his junior season, which started with a perfect game against Marblehead and ended with a spot on ESPN Boston's All-State Team and whispers of draft potential. He was 10 minutes away from spending his winter in the gym sharpening his craft, on his own; but a chance encounter on the first day of basketball tryouts changed all that.

The school was conducting flu shots that day, and the location just happened to be near basketball coach Mike Carr's office. As Bowden's girlfriend was getting her shot, Carr light-heartedly ribbed him about spurning one last winter with the team. After Bowden wished Carr good luck and the two parted ways, Bowden bumped into a half-dozen Bulldogs players, who gave him even more ribbing.

Bowden went home, thought about it, and by 5 p.m. had changed his mind.

And boy, was he glad. The Bulldogs captivated the City of Lynn over the second half of the season and throughout their sudden run to the MIAA Division 1 North finals, with Bowden starting at power forwrad, drawing fans from all four of the high schools to come see their wildly-entertaining brand of run-and-gun. He called the Bulldogs' wild 94-87 win over Everett in the D1 North semifinals "the best atmosphere I've ever played in any sport", and doesn't regret a minute of his time this winter.

"It got me into very good shape, obviously I have no regrets at all," he said. "Even if I got hurt, I wouldn’t have regretted playing at all. It was an awesome experience."

Vandy head coach Tim Corbin encourages multi-sport activity out of his high school recruits, a sentiment many high school baseball coaches support for a multitude of reasons -- primarily, that it encourages competitive spirit, and also works different muscle groups to keep the body in prime shape.

Carr heavily emphasized conditioning this year with his team, concluding practice each day with a grueling 10-minute session up and down the school's four flights of stairs, and it's paid off for Bowden. Headed into his first start of the spring, currently slated for April 10, he says this is the "best I've ever felt going into a baseball season."

"I feel my legs are stronger, I'm pushing off the mound better," Bowden said. "My core has gotten stronger. Everything we did for basketball has helped me in a positive way for baseball."

Talking about keeping his arm loose, he added, "I feel the best I've ever felt going into a baseball seasons, and I think it's because I've lost quite a bit of weight. I'm feeling a lot better and a lot lighter, and also because I was throwing more...By the time baseball started [this season] I was on my seventh week of throwing. I was a lot more ready than I was in any other season. I was smart about my decision to play basketball because I knew I had to get throws in."

As basketball becomes more individualized at younger and younger ages in this AAU-ized era of specialization, we sometimes forget that these sports can bleed into each other. Notre Dame hoop coach Mike Brey first heard about Pat Connaughton after a tip from the Irish's baseball coach. Soccer prowess helped Danvers' Eric Martin and Melrose's Frantdzy Pierrot become more elusive runners in the open floor. And some are quietly wondering if football may end up being the meal ticket for Wakefield super-sophomore Bruce Brown, who excels with the Boston Amateur Basketball Club (BABC) but also turned in a pretty nice campaign last fall at wide receiver. Same with another budding BABC star, Brendan Hill of Mansfield.

Unless you're one of the top players in the country at your position, I'll never understand why some physically-mature high school guards don't at least give an additional sport a try -- but that's a probably a topic for a whole other day. Know that for as much accolades as we've all poured on English's talented trio of guards, Bowden may have played the most important position of all -- the Joey Dorsey, the rock-solid post player down low counted on for rebounds that can keep possessions alive, and facilitate a whip-quick fast break going the other way.

And to think, if his girlfriend hadn't gone to get a flu shot that first day of tryouts, we might be talking about a whole different story in Lynn.



You have to think long and hard to find the last time a kid in the Merrimack Valley Conference went from benchwarmer on one team in one season, to league MVP on another team the next.

Chris Bardwell's transformation from garbage-time go-getter at Central Catholic in 2012 to an ESPN Boston Super Team selection at North Andover in 2013 is one that will be held up as a model example of will power. At least, that was the rhetoric being told this winter -- that if you want it bad enough as Bardwell, if you train hard enough, you can make the jump.

Sure, some of this transformation has to do with the mental element. But Mansfield wanted it just as bad as Putnam in the Division 1 state title game, and was unable to prevent the Beavers from continuously leaking out for some uncontested fast break points. Scituate wanted to just as bad as Brighton in the Division 2 Eastern Mass. title game at the Garden, but couldn't cleanly escape on-ball pressure from Nate Hogan long enough to prevent Malik James' last-second heroics.

I think of Bardwell -- also a lefty pitcher with reportedly mid to high-80's velocity -- and I think back to my first months at, in the summer of 2010, when St. John's Prep star Pat Connaughton was one of the hottest names nationally on the recruiting front. In basketball, he was an ESPN 100 prospect with a lengthy list of suitors east of the Mississippi. On the mound, he was an overpowering righty with first five round potential, named by Baseball America as one of the nation's top 100 high school prospects.

Connaughton had big hype, and in turn put in a legendary summer workout regimen to back it up, sometimes putting in eight hours of training a day -- quite literally, treating it like a 9-to-5. After signing with Notre Dame, the results spoke for themselves -- a state championship, All-State recognition in both sports, and a Day 3 selection by the San Diego Padres.

OK, so Bardwell's not Connaughton. The point is, situations like Bardwell's are the product of both opportunity and preparation, and all that will power is for naught if you're not training right. Bardwell came into the last offseason more determined, but he also upped his daily cardio, played more basketball, and changed his diet, cutting out junk and carbonated beverages and increasing his protein intake. Training for both basketball and baseball certainly helped him stay sharp.

Let's not forget had Bardwell stayed at Central, he would have been battling for playing time among a deep stable of forwards, duking it out with the likes of Doug Gemmell, Nick Cambio, Joel Berroa and Aaron Hall. At North Andover, he could fit in snugly as a terrific compliment to one of the state's best bigs in Isaiah Nelsen -- though in the end, obviously, Bardwell turned out to be the star of the show.

Success stories come from anywhere. Just take a look at another former Central Catholic baseball product, Dennis Torres, who was cut four times by the varsity during his high school years yet was drafted by the Orioles last June after walking-on at UMass.

Like Bardwell, he wanted it badly. Clearly, Torres was sick and tired of being sick and tired. But as usual, it's never as simple as pure will power and mental maturation. There's a method, and Bardwell played it right.



When you think of the MIAA's most dominant running teams of the 21st century, there are two programs that come to mind. One is the Charlestown juggernaut of the early 2000's, ranked nationally by USA Today and led by electric scorers like Rashid Al-Kaleem, Tony Chatman, Ridley Johnson and Tony Lee. The other is Newton North, winners of back-to-back D1 state titles behind one of the East Coast's best backcourts in Anthony Gurley and Corey Lowe.

Not about to call it a renaissance, but if there's one thing I'll take away more than anything else from this MIAA season, it's the return of quality running teams to the upper echelon. The two best running teams we saw this season represented two different styles.

There was Lynn English, pushing a white-knuckle pace, using more than 15 seconds of the shot clock only sparingly, and blitzing the opposition coming the other way with in-your-grill, full court man-to-man pressure. It took about half a season for Mike Carr's unique system to click -- but once it did, they were firing on all cylinders. The Bulldogs' backcourt of Freddy Hogan, Stevie Collins and Erick Rosario was as good as any in the state the second half of the season, with the former two earning ESPN Boston All-State honors earlier this week.

With just one real post pivot, senior Ben Bowden, the Bulldogs relied on their guards to generate transiton by forcing turnovers, sometimes flat out ripping the ball out of players' grips for easy fast break points. Carr's emphasis on conditioning was well-known, the the Bulldogs never looked tired.

Many will point to Central Catholic's stark rebounding advantage as to why they were able to lay a dump truck on English in the D1 North Final (they held a 28-7 advantage at the half), but -- follow me here -- that was practically by design. The Bulldogs flat out bailed on offensive possessions once the shot went up, surrendering the advantage and forcing Central's guards to make plays (they did, and did often).

That philosophy stood in contrast to what I felt was the state's best running team this year, Division 1 state champion Putnam. They seemed to play a physical brand of basketball in the City of Springfield this year, and nobody exemplified this better than the Beavers, who made up for lack of height with plenty of linebacker-like bulk in forwards KayJuan Bynum and David Murrell, both ESPN Boston All-State selections.

Throughout the season, Putnam coach William Shepard demonstrated enough faith in Bynum and Murrell's ability to get defensive rebounds that the Beavers' guards could continually leak out of possessions early to get fast break after fast break (Bynum and Murrell combined for 11.4 defensive rebounds, and 19.6 overall, per game this season). When an opposing team's shot went up, guards started strafing up the sidelines in anticipation of a long outlet pass. This led to a slew of production in the D1 state title game from guards Ty Nichols, Dizel Wright, Ki-Shawn Monroe and Jonathan Garcia.

Best of all, these two squads return a ton of talent to keep them in Top 10 consideration for the next two seasons. Both teams must find a replacement for their best big (English with Bowden, Putnam with Bynum), but feature a slew of talented backcourt and wing players to keep the tempo frenetic and the opposition uncomfortable.



My personal favorites for interviews of the year. First, the short category...

And now, the long category...



After Brighton won its first ever state title, Bengals coach Hugh Coleman held court in the media room at the DCU Center, dedicating the state title trophy and season to his lifelong mentor, legendary former Charlestown boss Jack O'Brien.

Anyone familiar with the bond between O'Brien and Coleman knows it is strong. O'Brien came into Coleman's life at a very hectic time -- being born when his mother was 20, becoming the man of the house at just 6 years old, and watching a number of his family members get rung up on drug arrests. He was under supervision of the Department of Social Services when he first met O'Brien as a freshman at Charlestown in 1993.

O'Brien is probably most known for his run of five D2 state titles in six seasons from 1999-2005 at Charlestown, and Coleman was an assistant on the last three. It's worth noting the 2003 squad, which Coleman's brother Derek captained, was the last squad to win both a city and state championship before Brighton did it this year.

"The way Jack O’Brien came into my life...He never recruited me, no one ever said I was going to Charlestown, I ended up going there by chance, he ended up going to Charlestown and it was special," Coleman said. "I lucked out and got the Brighton job four years ago. I probably wasn’t supposed to get it, but I did. A lot of people recruited him out of middle school to go to different schools, but he ended up at Brighton with me. So I think that’s such a great blessing. I’m glad that I’ve been able to be a part of his life, and him a part of my life. He’s made me a stronger person and I hope that I was able to rub off on him. He led us to victory this entire season, including today.

"I definitely want to dedicate this to Jack O’Brien. He should be coaching. He should be coaching, and I have no idea why he’s not coaching in the state of Massachusetts. In my opinion, he is the best coach in the state of Massachusetts. He is, and not just because he won games. He changed the lives of so many of us young men at Charlestown during that time. We went on to go to college. We went on to be great men, fathers, husbands, and you know what? It’s because of what he helped us do from the inside out. He helped us to be great men.

"I’ll be honest with you, I coach and I took the coaching job because he’s not coaching. I couldn’t allow that to...When they said he couldn’t coach, or they wouldn’t allow him to coach for whatever reason, I said I’ve got to keep the legacy going. He’s healthy, he’s a 10 times better man, whatever lesson I guess he was supposed to learn. It’s a shame he’s not coaching, because he is all that and then some."

Wherever he has gone, O'Brien has had dramatic results, producing McDonald's All-Americans at Salem High and nationally-ranked squads at Charlestown. But he has remained out of coaching since his 11th-hour departure from Lynn English hours before the first practice of the 2006-07 season. His name has been linked to jobs throughout Eastern Mass. over the years, most notably Somerville in 2008, but it's unclear when he'll return to coaching.

Still, with 400-plus wins, six state titles, some of the Bay State's most captivating running teams of the last quarter-century, and his age (he just turned 55 last month), there remains faith that he will turn up somewhere. Just where is anyone's guess.


HALL'S TOP 10 FOR 2013-14

1. Mansfield
Hornets lost just one senior from their 2013 Division 1 state championship run and return the most talent of anyone in the state, including reigning Hockomock MVP Brendan Hill. A healthier Michael Hershman should bolster an already-deep lineup featuring Rocky DeAndrade, Michael Boen, Ryan Boulter, Kevin Conner and Kyle Wisniewski.

2. Lynn English
The returning backcourt of Freddy Hogan, Stevie Collins and Erick Rosario, along with wing Danny Lukanda, makes this team a preseason Top 5. Key will be the development of promising 6-foot-6 sophomore Johnny Hilaire, whose pogo-like leaping ability has begun to draw comparisons to former All-Stater Keandre Stanton.

3. St. John’s (Shrewsbury)
Pioneers return arguably the state’s best backcourt in Davon Jones and Adham Floyd, along with a dynamic frontcourt of T.J. Kelley, Drew Vittum and Charlie Murray. Next year gets interesting in D1 Central, with stalwarts such as Franklin, Westford and Acton-Boxborough joining the fray.

4. Central Catholic
A returning core of Tyler Nelson and Nick Cambio makes the Raiders one of the premier perimeter teams in Eastern Mass once again. Six-foot-6 junior Aaron Hall has big shoes to fill in the frontcourt, with the graduation of center Doug Gemmell.

5. Brookline
If all goes as planned and everyone returns, you’re looking at a coach’s dream. Elijah Rogers is a virtuoso at the point, and a supporting cast of Obi Obiora, Anthony Jennings, Tyler Patterson and Mark Gasperini makes them a formidable foe on size and skill alone.

6. Springfield Putnam
Beavers stand a legitimate chance at going back-to-back as D1 state champs as long as they can find an able replacement for graduating senior post KayJuan Bynum. By season’s end this was the best running team in the state –- who knows what another season of David Murrell, Dizel Wright, Jonathan Garcia, Ty Nichols and Ki-Shawn Monroe will bring?

7. Brighton
All signs point to Malik James having played his last game as a Bengal in the state championship game, but freshman Javaughn Edmonds shows promise to potentially fill the point guard role. Should All-State forward Nick Simpson return, you’re looking at a front line of Simpson and 6-foot-5 sophomore Jason Jones that is as good as any across Division 2.

8. Melrose
Scary as his junior season was, reigning Middlesex League MVP Frantdzy Pierrot could turn in an even more monstrous senior campaign in 2013-14 for the Red Raiders. With realignment shifting many teams in the North, and a quality stable of underclassmen led by freshman point guard Sherron Harris, next year is as good a time as any to strike.

9. Wakefield
Sophomore Bruce Brown is expected to return next season, and that alone makes the Warriors a favorite in D2 North. The question will be whether they can turn their early-season promise into deep playoff production, and whether they can get past the semifinal round.

10. Springfield Central
The Golden Eagles are not without talent, with one of the state's most promising big men in sophomore Chris Baldwin. The question will be if the guards and forwards can get on the same page, and we think after some growing pains this year, cousins Ju'uan and Cody Williams will make this team sharper coming off a disappointing Division 1 state title defense.

Others to watch: Acton-Boxborough, Andover, Braintree, Boston English, Catholic Memorial, Danvers, Haverhill, Holyoke, New Bedford, New Mission, Newton North, St. John’s Prep, Wachusett, Watertown

Our MIAA All-State Boys Hoops Team

March, 26, 2013

All-StateG – Malik James, Jr., Brighton
The 6-foot-1 point guard was named ESPN Boston’s “Mr. Basketball” last week after an explosive playoff campaign that saw him average 20 points in six games and deliver the Bengals the MIAA Division 2 state championship, their first state title in school history. James is expected to finish up his high school playing career at a prep school next season.

All-StateG – Darien Fernandez, Sr., Wareham
One of the state’s flashiest lead guards, the 5-foot-7 Fernandez once again took the South Coast Conference by storm with his no-look passes and rainbow jumpers. He averaged 23 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and five steals as the Vikings went unbeaten through the SCC for the second straight year, and returned to the D3 South title game for the third time in four seasons.

All-StateF – KayJuan Bynum, Sr., Springfield Putnam
The 6-foot-3 Bynum was a physical presence on the boards, leading the Beavers in rebounds in the MIAA Division 1 state title game as they downed Mansfield in an overtime thriller. For the season, Bynum led the Beavers in scoring (15.7 points), ranked second in steals (2.5) and rebounds (9.6), and shot 39 percent from three-point range (40-for-103). Bynum is headed to Southern Connecticut State in the fall, where he will play linebacker on the football team.

All-StateF – Chris Bardwell, Sr., North Andover
In one of the most remarkable transformations in years, the 6-foot-5 Bardwell went from a benchwarmer on Central Catholic as a junior last year, to MVP of the state’s most competitive league, the Merrimack Valley Conference, as a senior at North Andover. For the season, Bardwell averaged 21 points, nine rebounds and 1.5 blocks as the Knights reached their first Division 2 North title game in six seasons.

All-StateC – Tyler Gibson, Sr., Rockland
The 6-foot-6 senior lived up to the hype garnered after an explosive summer, leading the Bulldogs to a South Shore League title and D3 South semifinal appearance. He averaged 21.4 points, 15.3 rebounds, 4.8 blocks and 2.1 assists per game while seeing many a double-team. That includes at least eight games with 20 points and 20 rebounds. Gibson is signed with UMass-Lowell for next season.


All-StateRiyadh Asad, Sr. G, West Springfield
One of the most talented lead guards outside of the Eastern Mass. region, Asad led a deep and talented West Side backcourt to one of the top seeds in Division 1 West, where they lost to eventual state champion Putnam in the semifinals. For the season, he averaged 19.4 points per game.

All-StateJaleel Bell, Sr. G, Wayland
One of the most decorated players in school history, the 6-foot Bell leaves Wayland as a two-time Dual County League Small MVP, and three-time DCL Small champion. The four-year starter led the state in scoring average this season (27.4 points per game), and leaves Wayland with 1,244 career points.

All-StateZack Berman, Sr. G, Wachusett
The Mountaineers won respect around the state with a challenging non-conference slate, taking down squads such as Cambridge and Brockton, and leading the way was the 6-foot Berman. The two-time Mid-Wach A MVP and three-year captain averaged 14 points, six assists and four rebounds as the Mountaineers reached the semifinals of the Division 1 Central tournament.
All-StateJoel Berroa, Sr. F, Central Catholic
One of the state’s premier rebounders, the 6-foot-5 Berroa picked up the slack as injuries piled up for the Raiders, helping them to a second Division 1 North title in four seasons. He averaged 14.6 points, 9.4 rebounds and 2.7 blocks this season. Berroa is currently considering Northeast-10 interest as well as post-graduate options.

All-StateA.J. Brodeur, Soph. C, Algonquin
The 6-foot-8 Brodeur is one of the most promising young stars in Massachusetts, and played a big part in the Tomahawks capturing the No. 1 overall seed in Division 1 Central this season. He averaged 17.5 points, 14.4 rebounds, 8.5 blocks and 4.5 assists; that also includes four triple-doubles of points, rebounds and blocks. Brodeur is headed to NEPSAC powerhouse Northfield Mount Hermon next season.

All-StateStevie Collins, Soph. G, Lynn English
The Bulldogs were one of the state’s most fascinating teams to watch in the second half, and the 5-foot-9 Collins was the catalyst in their run. English’s run to its first D1 North Final since 2009 included a monster 38-point performance from Collins in the semifinals against Everett. For the season, Collins averaged 14.5 points and six assists per game.

All-StateBrendan Hill, Soph. F, Mansfield
Playing in the competitive Hockomock League, the 6-foot-5 Hill came away as the league’s MVP as just a sophomore, as the Hornets made their first Division 1 state final appearance in school history. He averaged 13.4 points and was the league’s leading rebounder. Hill is also a standout wide receiver on the Hornets’ football team.

All-StateFreddy Hogan, Jr. G, Lynn English
The Bulldogs’ most consistent player from the get-go, he averaged 20 points per game over the first 12 games of the season before English hit full throttle en route to the D1 North finals. For the season Hogan led the team in scoring (16.9 points), and also averaged six assists.

All-StateJameilen Jones, Sr. G, BC High
Another returning All-Stater, the 6-foot-3 Jones navigated the Eagles through a tough Catholic Conference en route to one of the top seeds in Division 1 South. For the season, Jones averaged 18 points, seven rebounds and five assists as the Eagles took a surprise first round exit in the playoffs. Jones will be pursuing post-graduate options for next season.

All-StateEric Martin, Sr. G, Danvers
One of several point guards making the list primarily for their distribution, the 6-foot Martin was the Northeastern Conference’s MVP this season after averaging 8.8 points, 7.2 assists and 3.7 steals per game. The two-time NEC All-Star led the Falcons to their second straight MIAA Division 3 state championship this season, and also has over 100 career goals for the Falcons’ soccer team, good enough for best all-time in the school.

All-StateTommy Mobley, Soph. G, Newton North
One of the state’s premier shooters made headlines throughout the season for his marksmanship, hitting 94 three-pointers and twice hitting nine in a game. He was named MVP of the Bay State Conference’s Carey division after averaging 18.4 points and five rebounds per game. He was also named to the All-Tournament Team of the Comcast IAABO Board 27 Classic.

All-StateBrian Mukasa, Jr. G, Sharon
The 6-foot Mukasa navigated the Eagles through a wide-open Division 2 South, losing to district champ Scituate in the semifinals. For the season, he was the Hockomock League’s leading scorer at 18.1 points per game, to go along with 4.7 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.9 steals.

All-StateDavid Murrell, Jr. F, Springfield Putnam
An athletic slasher, the 6-foot-3 Murrell was another defensive stalwart for a Beavers squad that earned their first MIAA Division 1 state championship in school history. For the season, he averaged 14.9 points and a team-best 10 rebounds, and also shot 53 percent from the field.

All-StateIsaiah Nelsen, Sr. F, North Andover
The 6-foot-6 post leaves North Andover as a two-time All-Star, and one of the program’s all-time leading scorers and rebounders. For his senior season he averaged 18.9 points, 10.1 rebounds and two blocks as the Knights made their first D2 North Final appearance since 2007. Nelsen is signed with St. Anselm College for next season.

All-StateTyler Nelson, Jr. G, Central Catholic
Another one of the state’s premier shooters, and one of several returning All-Staters, Nelson shot 41 percent from three-point range as the Raiders captured their second Division 1 North title in four seasons. For the season, he averaged 17.2 points and 4.7 assists, and shot 89 percent from the free throw line.

All-StateFrantdzy Pierrot, Jr. G, Melrose
The Red Raiders were the state’s final remaining unbeaten before they fell to state champ Brighton in the D2 North semifinals, and the 6-foot-3 Pierrot was the catalyst. He was named MVP of the Middlesex League after averaging 21 points, 11 rebounds and five assists; that number includes averages of 18 points, 10 rebounds and four steals in the playoffs, with an injured ankle. Pierrot is also a highly-regarded soccer player for Melrose during the fall.

All-StateKamari Robinson, Sr. F, Springfield Central
Another returning All-Stater, the 6-foot-5 Robinson slid over to the wing position after leading the Golden Eagles to a Division 1 state championship in 2012 as a power forward. The move produced dramatic results, as he averaged 20.8 points per game and was named the Western Mass. Player of the Year.

All-StateElijah Rogers, Jr. G, Brookline
The 6-foot Rogers controlled everything for the Warriors in surprise blowouts of New Bedford and Marshfield, en route to the program’s first Division 1 South semifinal appearance since 2004. For the season he averaged 14.9 points, 5.4 assists and 3.4 rebounds. Rogers has been receiving varied amounts of interest across Divisions 1 and 2.

All-StateNick Simpson, Jr., Brighton
In his first run through the Division 2 playoffs, the 6-foot-5 Simpson was instrumental, helping the Bengals earn some dramatic wins throughout the tournament. For the season, he averaged 25 points, eight rebounds and three assists as the Bengals won their first Division 2 state title in school history.

All-StateJustin White, Jr. F, Holyoke
Also a star quarterback for the football team, the 6-foot-3 White brought that toughness underneath to impressive results, as the Purple Knights reached the Division 1 West semifinals. For the season, White averaged 16.3 points, 13.2 rebounds and 2.5 blocks.

All-StateJoel Berroa, Central Catholic
As injuries to key frontcourt players continued to pile up, Berroa saddled up and took on the brunt of the duties down low, marking the best forwards and keeping them in check. He was one of the Merrimack Valley Conference’s leading rebounders (9.4 per game) as the Raiders reached their second Division 1 Eastern Mass. Final in four seasons.

Mike McVeigh, North Andover

Long a Cape Ann League stalwart, the Knights began their first season in the state’s best league, the Merrimack Valley Conference, and made their presence felt immediately by capturing a share of the MVC Large title. The Knights also reached their first Division 2 North final since 2007 in the process, putting a nice bow on what has been a storybook career for the long-time coach. After 31 years on the sideline, one of the truest class acts in the game is calling it a career, with an overall record of 497-176 and a playoff appearance in every season.

All-Defensive Team
Lucas Hammel, Sr. G, Central Catholic
Joel Berroa, Sr. F, Central Catholic
Prince Unaegbu, Sr. F, Brighton
Tyler Gibson, Sr. F/C, Rockland
Obi Obiora, Jr. C, Brookline

All-Shooters Team
Tommy Mobley, Soph. G, Newton North
Tyler Nelson, Sr. G, Central Catholic
Tim Dufficy, Sr. G, Whitinsville Christian
Tyler Desrosiers, Sr. G, Agawam
Daivon Edwards, Sr. G, Brighton

Justin White photo is courtesy of and the Springfield Republican

Brian Mukasa photo is courtesy of

D2 Boys Final: Brighton 59, South Hadley 41

March, 17, 2013

WORCESTER, Mass. -– After a season that at many points could have been compared to a roller coaster ride, Brighton left nothing for question in their most important game of the year.

Behind 16 points from point guard Malik James, Brighton (21-6) captured the Division 2 state championship, knocking off Western Mass. champion South Hadley (17-8), 59-41.

James saved some of his best performances for the biggest stages -- take, for instance, his storming comeback in the state semifinal game against Scituate, Tuesday night at TD Garden. Today, he was unstoppable in the second and third quarters thanks to his ability to get to the rim and hit mid-range jumpers.

Brighton got out to a quick lead in the first half, something that hasn’t often been said this year about the Bengals. Known for their slow starts and ability to turn it on in the fourth quarter, Brighton jumped out to a 19-10 first quarter lead, and never looked back. South Hadley made their runs in the second half, but the Bengals were always there to slam the door shut.

A year after the heavily-favored Bengals came up short in the state title game, and months after many question Brighton’s toughness and hunger to want to get back to the state finals, they did just that -- sending James, who scored his 1000th point in today’s game, off in style to finish his career at prep school.

“It feels awesome to leave on a good note...and to just leave with a state championship and a ring,” James said. "It was more about being more mature...[last year] we were young-minded, we really didn’t know what to do on the court. We just listened to our coach, and everything was good.”

James’ progression: Bengals coach Hugh Coleman said James’ leadership is a big reason why the Bengals were able to make a run to the state title game. Teammate Jason Jones said after the Boston City League championship game, a game Brighton won, that James’ business-trip type attitude was infectious to the rest of the team -— giving them motivation and helping them focus on beating New Mission for the Boston City League title.

It was a comment that had Coleman glowing, and a factor that made the coach reflect on James’ progression as a leader.

“A lot of times I’ve been wondering how much he’s listened to me, how much he’s growing off the court," Coleman said. "What I’ve realized from this season and these playoffs is that he takes it in, but it shows a lot more on the court. That’s meant everything for us.

"His maturity has come so much more on the court. I’m proud of him for that—he’s a special, special young man.”

Coleman still expresses his appreciation for getting the Brighton job four years ago. James enrolled at Brighton by chance, the same year that Coleman began his duties as the head-man of the Bengals.

“I lucked up and got the job at Brighton four years ago, I probably wasn’t supposed to get it, but I did," he said. "A lot of people recruited him out of middle school to go to different schools, but he ended up at Brighton with me.

"I’m glad I’ve been able to be a part of his life, and him a part of my life -- he’s made me a stronger person, and I hope I was able to rub off on him.”

Learning from O’Brien: Coleman announced after the game that he would be dedicating the victory to his good friend and mentor Jack O’Brien, the famed former Charlestown coach who won five Division 2 state championships over a period of six seasons from 2000 to 2005. Coleman’s squad this year was the first team since O’Brien’s 2003 Townies team to win both the Boston City League title and the state title. Coleman was an assistant on O’Brien’s staff for that unprecedented run, while his younger brother Derek was a captain on that 2003 squad.

“He should be coaching," Coleman. "In my opinion he’s the best coach in the state of Massachusetts. Not just because he won games, he changed the lives of so many of us young men at Charlestown."

Coleman and his coaching staff constantly express their pride in having the opportunity to shape young men. Forward Nick Simpson (11 points), who failed off the team last year, is now the Bengals’ best student -— making the honor roll in each of the first two quarters of this year. James, a player with tons of talent whose motor has sometimes been questioned, played better in the state tournament than almost any other player in the state.

“My coaching staff...the Bengal five: those guys, we strategize after every game, we talk about not just basketball, we talk about what’s going on with these guys in their lives off the court," Coleman said. "It was really special to accomplish those things, but it never would have happened without the hard work of those guys."

O’Brien was long known for being a father-figure in the lives of his players—whether it was making sure they were fed, getting on them about their grades, teaching them about integrity, or introducing his players to goal-setting, his example is one that Coleman energetically replicates at Brighton.

“What I learned from Jack O’Brien at Charlestown was winning was a compliment to the young men [becoming] better people," Coleman said. "That’s my passion, helping these young men become better people—and through that process, we were able to be successful today. I’m very, very proud.”

Tale of the Tape: Brighton vs. South Hadley

March, 14, 2013
PM ET online sports producer Jay King and I break down each of the three MIAA boys basketball State Championships taking place Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester. I'll be providing Eastern Mass. perspective, while Jay handles Western Mass.



School: Brighton
Record: 20-6
Region: North

Boy, do the Bengals have a flair for the dramatic. In Tuesday night’s Eastern Mass. Final with Scituate, at TD Garden, Brighton trailed by 11 with four minutes to go, then took the lead with 1.8 seconds left after Malik James scooped up a Nate Hogan deflection and converted a three-point play. James’ fourth-quarter effort – 14 of his 21 points, all with four fouls – is something they’ll be talking about for years. And yet, it was just the latest episode of one of the most dramatic playoff runs in years, scoring last-second victories in wins over Burlington, Melrose and North Andover en route to that Scituate win.

The Bengals were a heavy favorite over Mahar in last year’s state final, but fell behind 17-3 in the first quarter before losing by four. Yet here they are again, supercharged behind James and getting added boost from wing Nick Simpson, who was ruled academically ineligible shortly before last year’s playoff run.

Should Brighton win on Saturday, the Bengals would be the first team from Boston Public Schools to win both a Boston City Championship and MIAA State Championship in the same season since 2003. That, of course, was one of Jack O’Brien’s five state title squads at Charlestown. The legendary O’Brien is a lifelong mentor to Brighton head coach Hugh Coleman, who was also an assistant on those nationally-ranked Townies squads.

-- Brendan Hall

Key Players:
Malik James, 6-2 Jr. G (21 points, eight assists) – When in his element, simply the best point guard in the MIAA. His 14-point fourth quarter with four fouls at the Garden, punctuated with his steal and game-winning layup, was something of beauty.
Nick Simpson, 6-4 Jr. G (16 points, seven rebounds) – Ruled ineligible shortly before the 2011-12 postseason, some wonder if he could have been the difference in the Mahar game last year.
Prince Unaegbu, 6-6 Jr. C (12 rebounds, seven blocks) – Also a menace as a two-way edge player in football, Unaegbu is the muscle down below. Also the cousin of future UMass defensive end Peter Ngobidi.
Daivon Edwards, 6-0 Sr. G (13 points) – One of the state’s best long-distance shooters, has hit 92 three-pointers so far this season. Give him an inch, it will feel like a mile.

Road through the playoffs
North First Round: beat Burlington, 62-60
North Quarterfinal: beat Salem, 82-61
North Semifinal: beat Melrose, 65-62
North Final: beat North Andover, 64-59
Eastern Mass. Final: beat Scituate, 55-52


School: South Hadley
Record: 17-7
Region: West

When South Hadley dropped to 7-5 with a 26-point loss to Sabis at the Hoophall Classic in mid-January, coach Jeff Guiel kept the team in the locker room for about a half an hour. He told his players they needed to be mentally tougher. He implored them to use their assistant coaches, former South Hadley players, as examples. He didn’t really know what else to do. He felt his team could play much better, but he saw an underachieving bunch sitting in front of him.

South Hadley lost its next two games after that speech (maybe drawing similar ones), but hasn’t lost since. The Tigers won their last six regular season contests, captured a Western Mass. title with three more victories, and then beat St. Bernard’s by 15 points in the Division II state semifinals.

Underachieving no more. Not even close.

-- Jay King

Key players:
Evan Marcus, 5-11 Sr. G (16 points) – Depending when you pay attention during a game, Marcus will either be: shooting a 3-pointer, posting up, doggedly chasing an opponent, quarterbacking the South Hadley offense or slashing to the paint for two. So yes, he provides quite a bit. And yes, at least during the latter stages of the Western Mass. tournament, South Hadley’s Mr. Everything wore his hair in a mullet.
T.J. Fitzell, 5-10 Jr. G (11.3 points) – Fitzell’s like that bad movie about an underground fight club starring Sean Faris –- he’ll Never Back Down. Capable of extended hot streaks, he hit five 3-pointers in the first quarter against St. Bernard’s and leads South Hadley with 46 triples on the season.
Avon White, 5-10 Jr. G (10.7 points) – South Hadley’s quickest player and best ball-handler, White is adept at breaking down defenses with the dribble.
Anthony Bullough, 6-2 Sr. F (8.2 points) – Though he scored 14 points in the Western Mass. final, Bullough isn’t one to post impressive numbers. What he does provide for South Hadley, though: toughness and a bit of length for a team mostly devoid of the latter.

Road through the playoffs
West Round 1: beat Belchertown, 73-51
West Semifinals: beat Sabis, 52-40
West Final: beat Greenfield, 55-49
State Semifinals: beat St. Bernard’s, 63-48

D2 EMass: Brighton 55, Scituate 52

March, 13, 2013

BOSTON -- No way, no how was Malik James going to let his team go down without a fight. Even if that meant taking the risk of performing in crunch time with four fouls.

The Brighton guard had picked up that foul with 15 seconds remaining in the third quarter and went to the bench. Meanwhile, Scituate was in the process of trying to blow the game open, continuing a big run at the start of the fourth quarter that saw them take what seemed like a commanding, 47-36 lead.

After spending most of his time on the bench demanding to be put back in, James came back on the floor and promptly made his mark with a bucket on a putback with 4:37 remaining. The junior took control of the game from that point on, scoring 14 of his 21 points over those final minutes as the Bengals roared back to life with a 14-3 run, capped by a Daivon Edwards 3-pointer and a James free throw which tied the game at 50-50 with 1:13 left to play.

[+] EnlargeBrighton Hoops
Brendan Hall/ESPNMalik James scored 14 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter -- all with four fouls -- and converted a three-point play with 1.8 seconds left to cap an unforgettable finish. Brighton trailed by 11 with four minutes to go.
The Sailors next, and last, points came on a pair of David Cox foul shots, but James wasn't done yet. He calmly sank two free throws with 8.4 seconds on the clock, then knocked the ball loose as Scituate tried to come upcourt. The ball landed in the hands of Bengals teammate Nate Hogan, who quickly sent it right back to James, who raced in for what would end up as the game-winning layup.

James was also fouled on the play, but he sank the freebie and Scituate's desperation heave fell way short, allowing Brighton to escape with a 55-52 victory in the Div. 2 state semifinals at TD Garden.

"I wasn’t supposed to be in the game but I told my coach to put me in because if we were going to lose, we were going to lose with me on the court,” James said, describing the final play. “At first there was confusion because coach was saying zone, but it was eight seconds so I was like, ‘What are we in?’ He finally said man and I had four (fouls) so he said don’t reach."

“I played defense on the baseline and I tried to turn the guard and actually he did turn," James went on. "He spun around and, not listening obviously, I reached and I got the steal this time, a deflection to my teammate who passed it for the outlet, and I finished.”

What got the Bengals (20-6) back in the game was a combination of a shift away from their beloved three-point shot and a collection of players doing the little things. Guards Edwards and Mark Mojica each contributed key steals in the run, while Nick Simpson (16 points) and Prince Unaegbu controlled the glass. Once James returned to the floor, Brighton began attacking the basket rather than settling for outside shots.

"I appreciate every little thing that the guys do," praised Brighton coach Hugh Coleman. "And it is about the little things. It's not if (James) scores 20 or someone hits five threes. It's the charges, the loose balls, the steals. Those are the little things that make the difference and you know what? It proved right today."

It was Simpson who did the bulk of the work in the first half, scoring ten of his points. Edwards (11 points) contributed a pair of 3-pointers and Mojica scored his four points in the second as the Bengals took a 27-21 lead.

Scituate (21-4) turned things around the third, holding Brighton to just six points while putting in 18 of its own with Noma Okundaye getting nine of 17 points in the frame to lead the charge. The Sailors caught and passed Brighton, taking a 39-33 lead into the fourth, which they extended to an 11-point lead before James sparked the comeback.

"We just did not take care of the ball at the end of that game. No one lost that game. We've won together, we've lost together. We lost our first game of the season by 25. All we did was work hard. All I've ever asked these people to do is sacrifice and give everything they have all the time. I've never had better practices, I've never had better people, I've never had a better experience."

A year ago, Brighton fell just short of its dream of bringing a state trophy back to the city for the first time in school history. This time, they hope to finish the job.

"The goal is absolutely to win it," Coleman stated emphatically. "From the jump, from practice starting tomorrow, everything we do - game film, game prep. Us coaches really like to give things to God. We feel like, if we do what we're asked to do in His eyes, He is going to give us what we deserve and what we're blessed with."

D2 North: Brighton 64, North Andover 59

March, 9, 2013

LOWELL, Mass. -– Brighton is used to making second-half comebacks. On Saturday they added North Andover to the long list of teams who couldn’t close the them out, winning the Division 2 North championship game 64-59.

[+] EnlargeBrighton's Nick Simpson
Brendan Hall for ESPNBrighton's Nick Simpson (23 points, 15 rebounds) came alive for the Bengals as they earned their second straight D2 North title.
Nick Simpson (23 points, 15 rebounds) carried the Bengals’ offense for the vast majority of the game, especially in the first half when co-star Malik James was struggling to hit shots. James, who led the Bengals to the state championship game last year as a sophomore—shot just 1-for-10 from the field in the first half.

The Scarlet Knights were anchored in the first half by senior forward Chris Bardwell (16 points, 12 rebounds) and guard Derek Collins (16 points, 5 rebounds). In the first half alone, Bardwell had a double-double and had a huge presence in holding Brighton off the glass. Despite his efforts though, the Bengals were able to keep the game within striking distance at halftime, 34-27, thanks to a dominant team offensive rebounding performance.

“I’m really trying to get the guys to have a sense of urgency and realize that we can’t wait like sometimes you wait to get a feel, you want to feel a team out," Brighton coach Hugh Coleman said. "I’ve been stressing, since the playoffs started: get up, get after it, even from the opening tip, attack.”

James’ slump didn’t last long though, he kept driving into the paint in the third quarter—and that finally started to pay off, as he scored 10 of his 12 points in the third quarter. Thanks in part to James and Simpson attacking the rim, Bardwell spent a decent amount of time on the bench late in the third and in the fourth quarter.

“Malik was very frustrated because he felt like his jumper wasn’t going down, he tried to take a couple lay-ups that missed and I let him know to stay with it. Sometimes that’s the way the ball bounces, unfortunately,” Coleman said. “I wanted him to keep staying going to the basket, even though he didn’t get a few of the foul calls. And eventually it kind of gets going, so that’s what happens for him. And that’s big, because once that happens for him, then it opens stuff for Nick and Daivon.”

Edwards bounces back: Daivon Edwards almost didn’t make it to the Tsongas Center for the game because he had to take the SAT’s, but Coleman reiterated after the game that contact had been made with College Board, the administrator of the test, as well as the schools Edwards is applying to, to ensure that he could send in his SAT scores at a later date.

In return, Edwards had one of his best games of the season for the Bengals, nailing four three-pointers and forcing North Andover’s defense to constantly get a hand in his face and keep an eye on him. It was the type of game that Edwards needed, Coleman said, to re-gather his confidence going into the Eastern Mass. championship game.

“I have a lot of confidence in him," Coleman said. "Late in the season, he struggled. He wasn’t hitting anything, he wasn’t rebounding, he wasn’t playing defense -— so we had to take him out of a lot of games and not play him.

“But you know, I talked to him and I said ‘I know what you’re capable of, you’ve proven you can do it—stick with it’. Now the last few games, that stroke has been going—and it’s mean a lot for his confidence and that meant a lot for our team.”

Preparing for the worst, hoping for the best: Coleman is no stranger to North Andover’s talented lineup, they scrimmaged the Knights before the season and Coleman watched North Andover blow out a very talented Wakefield team earlier in the week. After seeing the Knights’ play in the semifinal match, Coleman was worried -- to say the least. He said the player that the Bengals prepared most for was Derek Collins, who drained 7 three-pointers in the win.

“[Collins] literally sparked his team, motivated his team. I’ll be honest, I kept saying ‘I don’t know what I’m gonna’ do with North Andover . They’re tough, I know they’re a well-coached team, they’re organized,” Coleman said, praising the Knights’ discipline and attention to detail, “They’re disciplined. And when I watched them at Wakefield, I could see it in their eyes that they were listening to their coach’s every word. That’s a dangerous team to play.”

Brighton rotated 10 players into the game on a consistent basis, and Coleman said that was done in particular to wear down Collins, who can get hot from three-point range on the drop of a dime. Collins, as mentioned, finished with 16 points, but had to work hard for his points and was harassed all afternoon by the Bengals’ on-ball defenders.

McVeigh announces retirement: A teary-eyed Mike McVeigh announced after the game that he would be retiring as head coach at North Andover after 31 years running the program. McVeigh said it was a decision that he made in his own mind two months ago, and one that, in a way, helped him enjoy the season and the team that will be the last he ever coaches.

“The feeling I’ve had for North Andover, for the players I’ve had for 31 years, all the assistant coaches, the booster program that we have in town, the school administration, the pep band -- you see it, and I think it’s pretty darn good here," McVeigh said. "The number of former players is so precious to me, a big part of my life.”

Captain Isaiah Nelsen (14 points) praised his coach after the game, hinting that while coming together and gelling as a team wasn’t easy, the Knights were motivated by their coach:

“If you told me in November that this team would be Co-MVC champs and make it to the finals at the Tsongas, I’d tell you that you
were crazy," he said. "Everyone made sacrifices, we sacrificed shots, and we did it for the better of the team.”

Video: Boston City Championship recap

February, 22, 2013
ESPN Boston High Schools editor Brendan Hall and Cristo Rey head coach Malcolm Smith break down last night's Boston City Championship action, won by Brighton for the first time in the program's history. Hall and Smith also give quick thoughts on the forthcoming MIAA State Tournament, on the eve of Friday's seedings.

(Video by Derek Malloy)

Comcast: No. 6 Brighton 74, No. 4 Danvers 66

February, 17, 2013
WELLESLEY, Mass. -– It happened in a flash. One minute all the discussion was about the efficient execution of the Danvers half-court offense; the next minute all anyone could talk about was the explosiveness of Brighton in the full-court.

The Bengals (14-5) scored 30 points in the third quarter against Danvers (18-1) in the first round of the IAABO Comcast Board 27 Comcast tournament at Babson College. Brighton turned a halftime deficit into a 74-66 win over the previously unbeaten Falcons.

Malik James was the catalyst for the Brighton turnaround. The junior point guard scored 16 points and dished out seven assists in the second half (he finished with 22 and eight for the game), while shooting 8-10 from the floor. Junior Nick Simpson chipped in as well with 14 of his game-high 23 points after halftime.

The offensive explosion by the stars was impressive, but Brighton head coach Hugh Coleman pointed to the full-court defense of a reserve guard for giving his team a third quarter spark.

“This was a good step up for Malik tonight, but Nate Hogan, our senior guard off the bench, just played phenomenal D on their point guard and I think that really set the tone for us,” said Coleman. “That was a real key for us tonight.”

The second half started with an 18-4 for the Bengals, which turned it from a seven-point deficit into a 46-39 lead. Hogan hounded Danvers point guard Eric Martin up and down the court and the Falcons had no answer for James’ penetration. In addition to his defense, Hogan also knocked down two big three-pointers to extend the Brighton lead in the third quarter.

Danvers continued to hang around thanks to top scorers Nick Bates (21 points, nine rebounds) and Dan Connors (23 points, five rebounds). Connors had a three-point play that pulled Danvers back within five at 60-55, but Brighton answered.

Junior guard Mark Mojica dove to secure an offensive rebound right under the basket. He scrambled to his feet and James found him open in the corner. Mojica buried a dagger three that put Danvers away for good.

Falcons head coach John Walsh gave Brighton credit for the result, but also noted that his point guard was limited in the second half.

He remarked, “Our point guard is everything for us and when he got hurt it made him a lot slower and it really, really hurt us. We don’t have anyone to step in his place. I don’t know that it was a disruption...They hit shots and Malik James is a Division 1 player. It’s more of a credit to them.”

The first half was a much different game.

The Falcons demonstrated a prolific half-court attack that led to easy shots at the rim for both Connors and Bates. Constant movement, multiple screens, and the ability of guards Martin and Nick McKenna to get into the lane opened up the Bengals defense almost every trip down floor. Bates had the highlight of the first half with a two-hand slam over a Brighton defender.

On the other end, Brighton struggled from the floor. In stark contrast to how the game developed after halftime, the Bengals were only 12-32 in the opening half. Brighton stayed in the game by dominating the offensive glass. Sophomore center Jason Jones scored eight points and pulled down nine rebounds (seven offensive) in the first half alone and Simpson added five boards.

“They killed us. All the second chance points seemed to lead to kick outs for three’s,” said Walsh.

Coleman noted that rebounding has been a point of emphasis for the team all season.

“We’ve really been on our big guys all year about being active down there and not getting boxed out, and not just sitting behind somebody, and it worked for us today’” he said. “I know they’ve got a big team so I was really worried about the boards, but I think our weakside guards rebounding helped out as well.”

It was only the first loss of the season for the defending Division 3 state champions and Walsh believes that having a tough test like Brighton on the schedule will help the Falcons prepare for the tournament.

“It can’t hurt,” he mused. “They’re so good that it’s going to prepare you. When that kid [Malik James] is in the lineup, they are as good as any team in the state.”

Brighton will play in the finals of the tournament on Monday night against B.C. High, which beat Newton North comfortably in the opener. Danvers will face the Tigers on Monday afternoon.

Recap: No. 6 Brighton 57, No. 2 New Mission 52

February, 1, 2013

HYDE PARK, Mass. –- Call it the biggest comeback of the season.

Sixth-ranked Brighton (10-3) was down by 19 going into the fourth quarter of their showdown with favored New Mission on Thursday night, but behind near-perfect offensive execution in the fourth quarter, the Bengals were able to pull out a 57-52 victory.

Mission (10-3) came out of the gates on a tear, with a 16-2 run to start the game and building up what seemed to be an insurmountable 36-22 halftime lead. Behind 12 points from Percio Gomez and 11 from Juwan Gooding over the first two quarters, the Titans’ young guards combined to outscore Brighton by halftime.

Staring down an even larger deficit going into the fourth quarter, Brighton never backed down, even being down by 19 points and getting severely outrebounded over the course of the entire game.

“We just kept pressing on the guys that we just have to keep pressing, keep working, and just keep chipping away," Brighton coach Hugh Coleman said. "I told them at halftime, ‘One possession at a time’, and we switched up the lineup a little bit, put in a couple different guys who gave us some energy, and it was one possession at a time.”

Mojica comes up big: Junior guard Mark Mojica certainly wasn’t expected to be the guy down the stretch for Brighton. Mojica was 0-for-6 on from behind the three-point arc through the first 30 minutes of the game, but knocked down two huge threes in the final two minutes, including two critical steals that helped seal what is perhaps the most impressive come-from-behind win in MIAA hoops this year.

Late in the first half, after Mojica had missed three pointers on two of the previous four Brighton possessions, he hesitated and passed up on a wide open three from the top of the arc. The ball tipped off a Brighton rebounder and went out of bounds, and Coleman berated Mojica while he got back on defense for not taking the shot, especially from a spot on the floor where he likes to shoot the most.

[+] EnlargeMark Mojica
Brendan Hall for ESPNBrighton's Mark Mojica was miserable from the field through the first 30 minutes, but nailed two 3-pointers in the final two minutes to complete the Bengals' wild comeback.
“Mark struggled shooting the ball, he got down on himself. At the end of the first half he hesitated because I guess he had missed a couple in a row. So I took him out of the game, because he didn’t shoot the ball,” Coleman said.

“I told him, ‘I’ve got confidence in you to shoot the ball, and you need to have confidence in you shooting the ball. I don’t take you out when you miss two in a row, but I’m going to take you out when you don’t take the next one. You have to think as a shooter I’m going to hit the next two or three’.”

Beating the press: New Mission’s 1-2-2 zone press was completely overwhelming for Brighton in the first half. Playing far out of character, Malik James turned the ball over four times in the first half—mainly due to the amount of pressure and swarming that was coming from New Mission’s defenders. Even when Brighton didn’t turn the ball over, though, they often took quick shots and rarely worked the ball around to get the best shot. It was a problem that Coleman said he addressed with his team at halftime.

“I told Malik to slow down," Coleman said. "Early in with the press they were running at him and making him speed up, and he was turning it over. I told him to slow down, let them come, and then find the open guys. In the second half, they adjusted, they stopped approaching and they laid back. So at that point, we had to try to pick them apart.”

Pick them apart they certainly did, Brighton finished with four different scorers in double figures, Mojica, Nick Simpson, James, and Daivon Edwards. Senior forward Nickerson Succes also came up big for the Bengals, coming off the bench with Mojica, Succes scored six points and at times anchored Brighton defensively and on the glass.

“Nick Simpson, Daivon Edwards, and Malik are our nucleus. We rely on them to show up and give what they’re supposed to give us, but then guys like Nick Succes and with Mark Mojica, we know what he’s capable of,” Coleman said.

“Tonight was a great example of those two guys stepping up when we needed it the most. We just want to build up our role players so that they can step up in situations like this.”

Foreshadowing of Round 3? New Mission outrebounded Brighton 34-21, but their defensive lapses down the stretch ultimately cost them the game. New Mission head coach Cory McCarthy was adamant to his team after the game about learning from the loss and moving on. After all, New Mission could potentially see Brighton again, either at the Boston City League championships or in the Division 2 North tournament -- or both.

“I’m not ashamed of my kids at all," McCarthy said. "I told my kids that if they’re going to go home and read social media, then yeah, feel that [pain], but the season’s not over. We’ll be there in the end. We’re not going anywhere, I still believe we’re the best team in the state.

“We lost, so what, we still have the best kids. Those guys (Brighton) are good, they’re good for a reason. They’ll be there in the end, and so will we. It’s going to be tough to beat a team three times, believe me.”

McCarthy was making a reference to the fact that with the win, Brighton got their second consecutive regular season sweep over the Titans. New Mission hasn’t beaten Brighton since the 2011 Division 2 North Final, a 55-53 Titans win. Mission went on to capture their second consecutive state title following that win.

“[Tonight] was a total mental breakdown, a mental collapse," McCarthy said. "We didn’t execute the way we did in the first half. We may have run out of energy, we were a little bit too amped like we were for the first game. There’s still a lot of youth out there, and we don’t have one guy that can take over a game and carry us to where we want them to carry us.

“I don’t care what happened tonight. We could have lost by 80, but we’re still the model program in the city. They get up to play us, they always play well against us. Some teams are just a bad matchup…they’re a matchup problem for us.”

Roundtable: Midseason All-State, Superlatives

January, 25, 2013
At the midpoint of the MIAA basketball season, we've asked our panel of experts to submit their picks for ESPN Boston All-State, as well as Mr. and Miss Basketball along with a number of superlatives:


Brendan Hall
ESPN Boston High Schools Editor

All-State Super Team
G – Tyler Nelson, Jr., Central Catholic
G – Darien Fernandez, Sr., Wareham
G – Jameilen Jones, Sr., BC High
G/F – Kamari Robinson, Sr., Springfield Central
F/C – Tyler Gibson, Sr., Rockland

Second Team
G – Jaylen Blakely, Sr., Brockton
G – Nick McKenna, Sr., Danvers
F – Nick Cambio, Jr., Central Catholic
F – Brendan Hill, Soph., Mansfield
F – Isaiah Nelsen, Sr., North Andover

Third Team
G – Riyadh Asad, Sr., West Springfield
G – Juwan Gooding, Soph., New Mission
F - Sam Dowden, Sr., Andover
C - Dakari Wornum, Sr., Dorchester
C – Chris Baldwin, Soph., Springfield Central

Girls Super Team
G - Infiniti Thomas-Waheed, Jr., Newton North
G - Donnaizha Fountain, Sr., Cambridge
F - Olivia Healy, Sr., Reading
F - Caitlyn Abela, Sr., Oliver Ames
C - Molly Reagan, Soph., Braintree

Mr. Basketball Finalists
Tyler Nelson, Jr., Central Catholic – WINNER
Darien Fernandez, Sr., Wareham
Jameilen Jones, Sr., BC High
Tyler Gibson, Sr., Rockland
Kamari Robinson, Sr., Springfield Central

Defensive Player of the Year – Drew Healy, Lowell
Coach of the Year – John Walsh, Danvers
Best Shooter – Tyler Nelson, Central Catholic
Biggest surprise (player) – Dakari Wornum, Dorchester
Biggest surprise (team) – St. Peter-Marian
Most underrated (player) – David Stewart, Madison Park
Most underrated (team) – Melrose

G – Tyree Weston, Soph., New Bedford
G – Marcus Middleton, Sr., Stoughton
F – Isshiah Coleman, Sr., New Mission
F – Prince Unaegbu, Sr., Brighton
C – Drew Healy, Sr., Lowell

Tyler Nelson, Jr., Central Catholic
Tommy Mobley, Soph., Newton North
Daivon Edwards, Sr., Brighton
Giulien Smith, Soph., Catholic Memorial
Ben Judson, Soph., St. John's Prep

Second half sleepers to watch

The Bears are a streaky team, but also a gritty one, as shown in their 58-57 loss to East Boston on Wednesday. Dakari Wornum has been one of the breakout stars of the first half of the season, but a number of athletic shooters -- including Jeduan Langston, Khalil Newson, Ceejae Agnew-Carter and Dean Lee -- can make this team explode at any moment. The expected return of 6-foot-7 junior D'Bryant Coraprez should bolser the frontcourt too.

We knew junior point guard Brian Mukasa (18.8 points per game) was good, and we though he had potential to be this good, but we had questions about the Eagles' supporting cast. Jimmy Fritzon (14.2 points per game) has some answers.

Hawks are my favorite to win the Dual County League's Large division, in a year of parity across the board. Keep an eye on Mike Gelineau, one of the area's more underrated shooters.

Most expected Wareham to run away with the South Coast Conference (again), but guess who's sitting at 11-2 and 8-1 in the league? The Cardinals are allowing a league-best 46 points per game, and face Wareham on Wednesday for a first-place battle in the SCC. Keep an eye on 6-foot-8 senior center Matt Plante.


Chris Bradley
ESPN Boston correspondent

All-State Super Team
G - Darien Fernandez, Sr., Wareham
G - Tyler Nelson, Jr., Central Catholic
F - Jameilen Jones, Sr., BC High
F - Kamari Robinson, Sr., Springfield Central
C - Tyler Gibson, Sr., Rockland

Second Team
G - Jaylen Blakely, Sr., Brockton
G - Riyadh Asad, Sr., West Springfield
F - Nick Simpson, Sr., Brighton
F - Nick Cambio, Sr., Central Catholic
F - Brendan Hill, Soph., Mansfield

Third Team
G - Nick McKenna, Sr., Danvers
G - Rod Milton, Sr., Worcester South
F - Sam Dowden, Sr., Andover
F - Isaiah Nelsen, Sr., North Andover
C - Chris Baldwin, Soph., Springfield Central

Girls Super Team
G - Kayla Burton, Sr., Newton South
G/F - Donnaizha Fountain, Sr., Cambridge
G/F - Olivia Healy, Sr., Reading
F - Morgan Lumb, Sr., North Andover
C - Molly Reagan, Soph., Braintree

Mr. Basketball Finalists
Tyler Nelson, Central Catholic - WINNER
Darien Fernandez, Wareham
Jameilen Jones, BC High
Tyler Gibson, Rockland
Kamari Robinson, Springfield Central

Defensive Player of the Year - Isshiah Coleman, New Mission
Coach of the Year - Sean Connolly, St. John’s Prep
Best Shooter - Tyler Nelson, Central Catholic
Biggest Surprise (Team) – Wachusett
Biggest Surprise (Player) – KayJuan Bynum, Springfield Putnam
Most Underrated (Player) – Sam Dowden, Andover
Most Underrated (Team) – Dorchester

G - Marcus Middleton, Sr., Stoughton
G/F - Nate Anderson, Sr., New Mission
F - Isshiah Coleman, Sr., New Mission
C - Alex Cooper, Sr., Wachusett
C - Drew Healy, Sr., Lowell

Tyler Nelson, Jr., Central Catholic
Tim Dufficy, Sr., Whitinsville Christian
Tommy Mobley, Soph., Newton North
Zack Berman, Sr., Wachusett
Jaylen Blakely, Sr., Brockton

Second-half sleepers:

If Connor Merinder is back in time for the tournament, then consider Andover a favorite in Division 1 North. Central Catholic has clearly separated themselves from BC High, St. John’s Prep, Lowell, and Andover so far, but if Andover gets a healthy, productive Merinder back, they will make a run to the Division 1 North final. The Golden Warriors have gone 10-2 thus far without the 6-foot-5 forward, who is considered one of the MIAA’s best in a loaded 2015 class. Sam Dowden has done a great job of leading Andover so far, but getting a healthy Merinder makes them a legitimate contender to be at the DCU Center come March.

Worcester South
South became the first team to finally knock off previously undefeated Wachusett in Central Mass. The Cononels, who with the win moved to 8-2, did so without junior point guard Kasheen Cunningham, one of the area’s best outside shooters. South has the best scorer in Central Mass. in Rod Milton, a strong young big man in Khalil Bryan-Robinson, and a constant threat from outside in Cunningham—with Central Mass. Division 1 as up in the air as it has been in years, look for South to make a run to the Division 1 finals at WPI.


Ryan Kilian
Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Mass. Prep Stars (

Boys Super Team
G - Tyler Nelson, Jr., Central Catholic
G - Jameilen Jones, Sr., BC High
G - Malik James, Jr., Brighton
F - Brendan Hill, Soph., Mansfield
C - Chris Baldwin, Soph., Springfield Central

Girls Super Team
G - Morgan Lumb, Sr., North Andover
G/F - Alana Gilmer, Soph., Archbishop Williams
G/F - Donnaizha Fountain, Sr., Cambridge
F - Olivia Healy, Sr., Reading
C - Molly Reagan, Soph., Braintree

Mr. Basketball
Tyler Nelson, Jr., Central Catholic

Miss Basketball
Olivia Healy, Sr., Reading

Defensive Player of the Year
Boys: Kendall Hamilton, Sr., Wakefield
Girls: Infiniti Thomas-Waheed, Jr., Newton North

Coach of the Year
Boys: Mike Kasprzak, Melrose
Girls: John McNamara, Pentucket

Best Shooter
Boys: Tyler Nelson, Jr., Central Catholic
Girls: Morgan Lumb, Sr., North Andover

Biggest Surprise
Boys: Frantzdy Pierrot, Jr., Melrose
Girls: Molly Bent, Soph., Barnstable

Most Underrated Player
Boys: Doug Gemmell, Sr., Central Catholic
Girls: Tess Noguiera, Sr., Pentucket

Most Underrated Team
Boys: Melrose
Girls: Ipswich

Second Half Sleepers

Boys: Wakefield – They have been hanging in the wings with a few losses and have battled some injuries but with a healthy Bruce Brown and continued improved play of Kendall Hamilton, Mikol Blake-Green and others they should be back in the title hunt by the end of the regular season.

Girls: Westford Academy – Westford Academy has played a very difficult schedule, losing to Bishop Feehan, Wachusett and Billerica by a combined five points. They have wins over Lincoln-Sudbury and Arlington Catholic as resume boosters and can play with any team in the state. Juniors Sam Hyslip and Hannah Hackley lead the Grey Ghosts in most statistical categories.


Rob Sarmiento
Founder and Editor, Beantown Hoops (

First Team
G - Jameilen Jones, Sr., BC High
G - Darien Fernandez, Sr., Wareham
F - Sam Dowden, Sr., Andover
F - Tyler Gibson, Sr., Rockland
F - Doug Gemmell, Sr., Central Catholic

Second Team
G - Jaleel Bell, Sr., Wayland
G - Jaylen Blakely, Sr., Brockton
G - Malik James, Jr., Brighton
G - Tyler Nelson, Jr., Central Catholic
F - Isaiah Nelsen, Sr., North Andover

Third Team
G - Giulien Smith, Soph., Catholic Memorial
G - Juwan Gooding, Soph., New Mission
G/F - Bruce Brown, Soph., Wakefield
F - Brendan Hill, Soph., Mansfield
F - Nate Anderson, Sr., New Mission

Girls Super Team
G/F - Donnaizha Fountain, Sr., Cambridge
G/F - Olivia Healy, Sr., Reading
G/F - Molly Bent, Soph., Barnstable
G/F - Morgan Lumb, Sr., North Andover
F - Sarah Hope, Sr., Medway

Mr. Basketball - Jameilen Jones, BC High
Miss Basketball - Olivia Healy, Reading
Coach of the Year - Mark Antonelli, Somerville
Best Shooter - Tyler Nelson, Central Catholic
Biggest Surprise (player) - Molly Bent, Barnstable (Girls)
Biggest Surprise (team) - North Reading
Most Underrated (player) - Jaleel Bell, Wayland
Most Underrated (team) - Melrose

Tyler Nelson, Jr., Central Catholic
Sam Dowden, Sr., Andover
Sam Bohmiller, Sr., Franklin
Tommy Mobely, Soph., Newton North
Mike Gelineau, Sr., Waltham

Second Half Sleepers

Boys: Franklin - Well-coached and playing in a tough conference will make them battle ready come playoff time. Plus, they have a player who can make threes in bunches with Bohmiller.

Girls: Arlington Catholic - Seem to always make a run and their style of play is tough to prepare for. They are young in some key positions, but first half of the season experience will show during the playoffs.

Recap: No. 12 Brighton 52, No. 15 Eastie 43

January, 15, 2013

BOSTON -- New Mission and Brighton stepped firmly into the power position for Division A's two City League tournament spots on Tuesday.

Despite the two squads falling in the semifinals to finalist Madison Park and East Boston last year, No. 12 Brighton boys' basketball (5-3, 3-1) slid itself even with division leader and former South rival No. 2 New Mission (6-3, 3-1) last night as it rolled host No. 15 East Boston (6-4, 1-3), 52-43, in the programs' first matchup as division foes.

Both squads have now defeated each of the former finalists once this season.

“We hope to make the cities (and) ultimately the state tournament so every game counts.” said Brighton coach Hugh Coleman. “It is important for us to get the league wins and to stay up there.”

Senior shooting guard Daivon Edwards lead the Bengals with 23 points (including five 3-pointers) and nine rebounds, while junior forward Nick Simpson added 16 points and five rebounds in the win.

Edwards sealed the victory for the defending Division 2 Eastern Mass champs with three treys to open the third, that helped prompt a 15-0 run. Edwards hit a top-corner three at 6:20 in the third quarter to start the tear at 33-22.

After a trey by Eastie sophomore Marcus Shaw, Edwards stole the ball and quickly nailed a shot from behind the arc to settle the Bengals at 41-27 with 4:20 left in the quarter. Edwards tallied 11 points in the third, while Simpson scored the remaining four as the Bengals lead 45-27 entering the fourth.

“(Coach) tells me all the time if I have a little bit of space just to take the shot,” said Edwards. “We do dribble penetration and kick out (to) look for me so I can get open and get reps. Sometimes I stay after practice just to work on my shot.”

Brighton, who lead all but the first 2:40, never trailed as it score nine straight points between the first and second quarters to break away from a slim 13-11 lead with 1:24 remaining in the first quarter. The Bengals scored six quick baskets in the final minute of the first quarter, including a steal by Nick Simpson turned into an open court dunk by senior Prince Unaegbu for a 19-11 advantage at the break.

Simpson lost his defender with a crossover dribble and nailed a three at the top of the arc to give Brighton a 22-11 lead seconds into the second quarter.

“This is the first game I think we have played from start to finish,” said Coleman. “It was isolation plays to get either our shooter an open shot or our swing guy a shot situation or a one-on-one.”

Senior forward Xavier Green led the Jets with 11 points, while sophomores Shaw and Dion Knight both tallied nine points.

Green put back in a pair of offensive rebounds, then pitched a defensive rebound under the Bengals' basket to force a free throw score by teammate sophomore Kevin Sinatra, to cut the deficit to 49-36 with 1:32 remaining in the game

Shaw nailed Eastie's first shot of the game on a jumper from behind the arc at 6:55 and swung around the top of the arc to hit a planted three-pointer to cut the Jets' deficit to 13-10 with two minute left in the first quarter.

“It is just about confidence,” said East Boston coach Shawn Brown. “We have not been at full strength. Once we get back to full strength, I think we will be OK.”

East Boston struggled from the foul line as it hit only four of 12 in the first half and nine of 19 total.

“We run a lot of practice because of missed free throws,” said Brown. “We spend literally hours (on free throws).”

Breaking Down the Defenses: The Bengals switched between man and zone defenses throughout the game in hopes of forcing outside shooting from the Jets.

East Boston tried to push Brighton away from the three point line with its man-to-man defense. The Bengals tallied seven three-pointers with all efforts coming from Edwards or Simpson.

“We know they struggled shooting a bit so the zone helped us out,” said Coleman. “We played good defense from start to finish.”

“We tried a zone one time and it resulted in three points so we went away from it,” added Brown.

Incomplete Eastie: East Boston has been missing key players throughout the season.

Senior Kenny Ramos played limited time on Tuesday due to an ankle injury, while former sophomore leading scoring Rasheed Bell is expected to miss the remainder of the season with an injury. Senior Pat Santos also did not dress for the game.

“Kenny is day to day,” said Brown. “He has been getting physical therapy. We gave it a shot today and he did not look good out there so we are just going to play it game by game.”

Junior Malik James, who is one of Brighton's top scorers, did not dress for personal reason, but is expected to return on Thursday.

Recap: No. 14 Brighton 67, Madison Park 57

January, 8, 2013

BOSTON -- Daivon Edwards took one step towards the front of the three-point line, motioned a shot crisply through the net and smirked over his shoulder at the Bengals supporters. Within seconds the senior nailed another trey along the sidelines to give Brighton its first double-digit lead midway through the final quarter.

It was all too easy for the senior guard and his junior teammate Nick Simpson in the fourth quarter, as the pair totaled five 3-pointers, and 22 of the Bengals' final 24 points, at the Madidome last night.

Combining for 30 points from behind the arc, the Bengals' hot shooters led No. 14 Brighton (4-3, 2-1) to a 69-57 win over host Madison Park (1-4, 0-2) in the teams' first battle as members of the Boston City League's newly-aligned North division.

“It was all about the guards,” said Simpson. “They penetrated and kicked to me, I made shots, and we just worked the ball around as a team.”

Added Edwards, “The last two games I (have) showed up and it feels good for me."

Simpson, a 6-foot-4 forward, scored 28 points -- including six 3-pointers -- and grabbed four rebounds, while Edwards tallied 20 points (four treys) and five rebounds.

Planted on the outer corner of the endline, Simpson buried a pair of three's early in the fourth to prompt a nine-point winning run which left the reigning Division 2 North champs up 54-46 after four minutes. Despite dropping a jumper to MP junior Johnny Bowden, Edwards sandwich a Cardinals' layup with his final two trifectas for a 60-50 advantage with 2:50 left.

“We like to teach the guys (to) take what the defense gives you and it was open,” said Brighton coach Hugh Coleman of his team's deep shot. “If we can get the ball inside and get some layups, the defense will collapse which will open up the wings more.”

A three-point jumper by Cardinals' junior Terrell Matthews cut the margin to 62-54 with two minutes remaining, but Simpson pushed the MP Machine down by double-digits for good with another three just a few seconds later.

Madison Park jumped ahead early in the game by scoring the first nine points, including five from senior David Stewart (13 points, 10 rebounds). A give-and-go jumper assisted by Matthews to junior Jaylen Bell put the Cardinals ahead 9-0 at 4:38 in the first quarter.

“We came out with a lot of energy and confidence,” said MP coach Dennis Wilson. “Malik (James), who is the engine that runs their machine, made some nice passes and shots (to) get the key people involved. It became just a dog fight.”

Trailing 16-3 at 2:30 in the first quarter the Bengals speed up the pace and forced turnovers to score eight straight points and cut the margin to 16-11 a minute and a half later. Simpson scrambled to the back-corner on a counter to nail his first of two falling-over three-points, while junior Malik James followed the effort up with a jumper along the foul line for Brighton's first lead, 20-19 at 6:40 in the second quarter.

“(Madison Park) did a great job of getting the ball inside and getting layups,” said Coleman. “We got to a slow start in terms of hitting (our) shots and turning the ball over. We just tried to tell the guys to be patient.”

After being tied 30-30 at half, the teams traded leads four times and end the third quarter with MP up a slim 46-45. Free throws hurt MP, which was 11-of-24 from the foul line.

The Emperor and His Chess: Wilson threw out a wide variety of defensive fronts in hopes of keeping the Bengals from reaching a rhythm. His zone attacks included a 1-2-2, an extended 2-3, a 1-3-1, and a diamond-and-one with the focus on James (11 points) at the guard position.

“You have to change the pace, (because) it is a chess game,” said Wilson. “I got a young team (and) I lost four starters from last year. You have to close out (on jumps shots) and make them put the ball on the floor.”

MP has only three seniors from last years' Div 1 South finalist squad.

Recap: No. 14 Brighton 61, Cambridge 58

December, 28, 2012
Brighton's Malik James vs. CambridgeRyan Kilian for ESPNJunior point guard Malik James (21 points, 9 assists) paced Brighton over Cambridge in the first day of the BABC Holiday Classic.
DORCHESTER, Mass. -— There are going to be nights like Thursday night for a basketball team during a long, grinding season, especially when you go up against a team that is maybe one of the best teams on the national stage.

So all Hugh Coleman wanted to see was an ability to forget, progress and move on to the next opponent after the Bengals 38-point loss to St. Anthony (N.J.). There were ups-and-downs at the Kroc Center in the opening day of the BABC Holiday Classic for the Bengals, but ultimately they did just enough to pull out a 61-58 victory over Cambridge on Friday.

Malik James scored 21 points with nine assists, while Daivon Edwards canned five 3-pointers en route to a team-high 22 points to get the Bengals back to .500 at 3-3. Cambridge fell to 2-2 with the loss.

“They are here,” said Coleman. “They haven’t given up on themselves. I think they put that loss into perspective. That’s a really, really top-notch program that we aspire to be someday.

"Those guys are like a well-oiled machine over there and I think the guys think that we could have hung with them a little bit more had we came out of the gate with a certain kind of mentality and intensity.”

Coleman’s bunch did come out with that intensity with a 9-1 run to start the game and they were able to finish with it on the defensive end with two huge stops in a three point game.

“After the St. Anthony loss we are just trying to get back to the way we were,” said Brighton forward Nick Simpson. “We are trying to get back to how we played New Mission. It’s going to take a little while, but we will get back.”

Simpson left the game late in the third quarter when he jammed his right-hand. He left the court for a while but returned and said he had to just deal with the pain.

On his first possession back, Simpson drained a straightaway three-pointer for a 52-47 lead with 6:20 left to go in the game, but it was his late-game defense that pulled out the victory for the Bengals.

Marcus Faison got the ball in the middle of the Brighton zone, and tried to back his way towards the basket. Simpson stayed square and slapped the ball away from Faison and Edwards scooped up the loose ball and was fouled. Edwards hit his two free throws for a 61-58 lead.

“I knew the ball was coming inside because they ball and pass it to the big men,” said Simpson. “Once they did his back was to me and I knew he was going to turn to the front, so when he turned to the front I knocked the ball out.”

Cambridge had one more opportunity for the tie and a scrambled possession ended up in the hands of Tsega Tenzin. Tenzin fired for a 3 from the right corner, but Simpson was there to get a piece on it and direct it harmlessly away from the basket as the buzzer rang.

“At the end Brighton did a better job of executing than us,” said Cambridge head coach Lance Dottin. “We should have been able to execute a little bit better to get some better looks at the basket. I thought we were good when we got the ball on the inside to our big guy, but we turned the ball over and never even got a shot at the basket.”

There haven’t been too many 3-point barrages from Edwards this season, but this came close.

Edwards went 5-of-8 from behind the 3-point line and that success was a welcome sight for Coleman. When Edwards can become a lethal weapon from deep that only makes those driving lanes for James get a little bit wider.

“It was great for him,” said Coleman. “He’s been in a shooting slump and struggling. For him to come out and knock down those shots today was not only big for him but big for us.”

Recap: St. Anthony (N.J.) 78, Brighton 42

December, 27, 2012
BOSTON —- Bob Hurley and his St. Anthony basketball team must really like making the trip North to Boston.

The Friars continued a dominating run through the Shooting Touch Shootout —- in its second year of existence —- with a smothering defensively fueled 78-42 victory over Brighton on Thursday night at the Jean Yawkey Center on the campus of Emmanuel College.

[+] EnlargeMalik James
Jon Mahoney for ESPNBoston.comBrighton's Malik James drew praise from St. Anthony (N.J.) coach Bob Hurley, but overall the Bengals struggled.
St. Anthony dismantled New Mission last season in the inaugural Shooting Touch Shootout by 40 points and the score against the Bengals (2-3) felt larger than the 38-point margin. Kody Jenkins led the Friars with 20 points, while Tim Coleman added 14 off the bench.

“They missed a lot of 3s early and if those shots are going in then this could be a little different early,” said Hurley. “They got that little run going. They hit a couple and all of a sudden they started to go, but then we banged a bunch in a row.”

The small run that Hurley Sr. alluded to was in the beginning of the second quarter, but the game was just about well in hand for the Friars after a 20-0 start to begin the game by the powerhouse from New Jersey.

Brighton switched to a 3-2 zone and forced St. Anthony to bleed the shot clock down and try and penetrate the defense. The Friars couldn’t get anything going towards the hoop and they settled for a couple of bad possessions as the Bengals tried to get things going with a 7-3 run.

The Friars waited to dissect the new defense and instead of pounding the ball around the perimeter with the dribble, they zipped passes in and out of the zone and ripped off 13 straight points to take a 36-9 lead and basically end the game.

“Coming in we didn’t really know the opponent. This is our fourth game and we are a work in progress,” said Hurley. “When people switch we had to recall what we are doing.”

Simpson a bright spot: There wont’ be too many positives to come out of this one for the Bengals. One, however, will be the play of Nick Simpson in the second half. With Malik James doing the best that he could to break the ball pressure of Josh Brown, and seemingly every Friars’ perimeter defender, blanketing the talented Bengals point guard.

Simpson scored 16 of his 21 points in the second half and showed off the deep ball with four 3s in the final 16 minutes of play.

But Simpson’s offensive woes were overshadowed by the troubles of the rest of the team. The Bengals shot 28.3 percent from the field in the game and were held under 20 percent from the floor as they faced a 41-12 deficit at the break.

“It was a tough one, but we got to the drawing board,” said Brighton head coach Hugh Coleman. “We take positives out of it and we build on it.”

Recap: No. 17 Brighton 79, No. 4 Mission 70

December, 20, 2012

BRIGHTON, Mass. -- It was another heated, scrappy and at moments tense battle between Boston City League rivals Brighton and New Mission, Thursday night.

Edged ahead by a 22-point second half performance from junior Malik James, host No. 17 Brighton boys' basketball (2-2, 1-1) grabbed its third straight victory against previously undefeated No. 4 New Mission (3-1, 1-1) with a 79-68 City League (Division A) triumph last night.

The regular-season winner of the formerly City South matchup has gone on to appear in the Division 2 state finals the past two years.

“Going into this season I thought we had somewhat of an identity especially (by) returning so many guys from last year,” said Brighton coach Hugh Coleman. “It did not seem to come out yet, but this game was definitely a good identity game for us. We really wanted to make a big deal of playing defense, playing hard and playing for each other.”

With junior Nick Simpson fouling out in the second half, the reigning Division 2 North champs rode James (29 total points) to a late victory. Simpson scored all 17 of his points in the first half, while both players grabbed four rebounds.

The Bengals outscored New Mission 15-2 in the final 3:38, including a 10-0 run. James prompted the rally by sandwiching a fade-away 10-footer along the baseline with a pair of free throws for six straight and a 70-66 Brighton lead with 2:30 remaining.

An assisted layup from junior Mark Mojica to sophomore Jason Jones put Brighton up 74-66 at 1:37, while Titans freshman Fred Rivers (12 points) battled underneath to cut the run at 74-68 seconds later.

“Coach told me to keep my head and keep attacking the rim,” said James. “I try to get the pick man involved and get everybody

“Unfortunately I think that one of the fouls on (Prince Unaegbu) went to Nick,” added Coleman.

Technicals hurt the Titans late. They committed two in the final three minutes and three total, all misconducts during ball scuffles in their own territory. A technical with 37.2 left prompted four straight fouls for New Mission; James sank free throws to seal the game at 79-68.

“All good teams need a solid leader on the court,” said Coleman of James. “Tonight was a very intense game and for him to step up with Nick (Simpson) was extremely important.”

Brighton had pulled ahead 56-46 with 1:30 left in the third off a defensive block turned into an assisted layup from Jones to James that finished an 11 point run for the Bengals. A corner of the arc trey by junior Shaquan Murray edged New Mission back ahead 60-59 with six minutes left in the game.

“We did not get to play as aggressive as we wanted to,” said New Mission coach Cory McCarthy. “(We want) to bang the ball inside (but) sometimes we settle for threes too much and that hurt us in the end. We could not stop there penetration.”

Despite a layup and a dunk by New Mission senior Nate Anderson that helped the Titans pull ahead 4-2 at 7:15 in the first quarter, Brighton went up 14 seconds later off a four shot technical effort by Simpson and did not trail for the next 13.5 minutes. Attacking the rim heavy in the first half, the Bengals scored 20 points either from the line or within the free throw lane to pull ahead 23-15 after one quarter.

“We try to look at what we have for guys and what their skill set is,” said Coleman. “Malik is really good off the dribble when penetrating, so we try to use that to our advantage. If they collapse now we can kick it out and get some open shots.”

Senior Sam Freeman produced three points by a drawing a foul on a layup and Murray tipped in an in-air pass from sophomore Juwan Gooding to cut New Mission's deficit to 29-28 with five minutes left in the second.

Six straight points, including a pair of foul shots by senior Chima Ebele (four points, seven rebounds) edged the Titans ahead 34-33 with 1:30 left in the first half.

“We had opportunities,” said McCarthy. “I think we will be in good shape. We gave the game away when we thought the game was over when Simpson fouled out.”

Tense Moments: Tension rose between the teams throughout the game with a few scattered verbal disputes occurring.

Brighton had 21 fouls and a technical, while New Mission made 33 fouls and three technicals.

Play stopped in the second half due to what appeared to be a verbal disagreement between the Brighton bench and the Titans' crowd. The Bengals were asked by the referees in the final seconds to send their bench players to the locker room to avoid any possible issues.

“The referees as well as the headmaster of our school thought that the game was getting really really intense,” said Coleman. “(The New Mission fans) were close to our bench so for safety reason the refs as well as the principal suggested that we not shake hands. We obviously always try to show good sportsmanship.”

A New Mission player also huddled up with the Brighton team in the final seconds of the game, but easily returned to his squad when asked by referees.

“Our emotions got the best of us,” said McCarthy. “That is uncharacteristic of New Mission. It is the nature of the beast (but) it is just a matter of how you maintain you temperament.”