Boston High School: Nisre Zouzoua

Recap: No. 4 Mansfield 66, No. 14 Brockton 41

January, 27, 2013
MANSFIELD, Mass –- Last year when non-league top dogs Brockton and Mansfield met, the Boxers basically scored a KO with an 18-2 start on their way to a 69-48 win.

This year, the Hornets (13-1) avoided any such blow with great defense, pulling away in the second half to beat Brockton 66-41.

Mansfield saw how dangerous the Boxers (8-4) could be on the offensive glass after they pulled down 21 of them Thursday against Wachusett. They practiced on it in the last couple of days, and it paid off.

“We knew we had to rebound the basketball, and I thought we did that fantastic tonight,” Mansfield head coach Mike Vaughan said. “I thought we did a good job of maintaining the boards which gave us the ability to kind of grind away the first half. In the third quarter, we were able to come out and make a couple of adjustments and create a little separation.”

Sophomore Brendan Hill scored a game-high 23 points a grabbed 9 boards in the win. Senior Greg Romanko and sophomore Ryan Boulter both added 12 for the Hornets.

Brockton jumped out to a first quarter lead, but unlike last year, Mansfield kept pace. With two seconds left in the first, sophomore Michael Boen found Boulter in the corner for a three that gave Mansfield a 13-12 lead. The Hornets never surrendered that lead.

Mansfield stretched their lead to seven at half behind Hill’s six second-quarter points. Not only was Hill able to get to the basket, he added two dimes when the defense focused too much on him.

“He’s special,” Vaughan said. “The fact that he’s a sophomore and that he’ll be wearing a Hornet uniform for the next couple of years brings a smile to a lot of our faces. He has a lot of growing to do still, which is the best part.”

Mansfield sealed the game when they went on a 12-3 run to open the second half, thanks to baskets from Hill, Romanko, Boen, and junior Kevin Conner.

“They ran some very nice offensive sets,” Brockton coach Bob Boen said. “They beat us on a lot of back door cuts. They rebounded the ball well and got some rebound baskets on us. They did everything right in the second half.”

The Hornets outscored Brockton in the third 19-11 to give Mansfield a 45-32 lead heading into the fourth quarter. Hill’s nine points in the pivotal third were a big reason that Mansfield pulled away.

“Brendan is a very good player,” Boen said. “He can do everything. He can pass it, he can rebound it, he can shoot it. They run a lot of plays through him. They have a nice team, they’ve got seven or eight real good players there.”

Mansfield used balance scoring in the final frame, with six different players helping to extend the margin to 25. During the quarter, both Hill and Connor wowed the crowd with two-handed jams.

Junior Nisre Zouzoua led Brockton offensively with 10 points while seniors Israel Thorpe and Jaylen Blakely each had 9.

Mansfield will look to continue their winning ways when they host King Philip on Tuesday while Brockton will look to bounce back against Big Three rival Durfee on Friday.

For Brockton coach Bob Boen, this just wasn’t his second straight year going against a top Division 1 team like Mansfield, it was his second going against his nephew, Michael Boen, a sophomore guard for the Hornets.

“It was very hard coaching,” Boen said. “It was hard to set up and tell my guys to shut him down and not let him get the ball.”

Michael played against his uncle last year when the teams met, but played limited minutes with a small role.

This year, Boen has been a vital part to Mansfield’s success, and helped Sunday with six points and eight boards. Bob Boen didn’t feel Michael had one of his better games.

“It was kind of funny because I don’t think Michael had a very good game,” Coach Boen said. “He might have been nervous playing against me.

“I didn’t have a good game coaching and he didn’t have a good game playing, probably because of the family conflict,” he said.

Mansfield sits atop the Hockomock with a 13-1 record and has made statement wins against Amityville (N.Y.) and Brockton, and their lone loss was a six-point loss to New Mission.

Now, they might be getting even better.

Vaughan said that they are targeting Friday as a return date for junior guard Michael Hershman. Hershman has been out the entire season with an injury he sustained early in the football season.

Now Hershman, who led the team in scoring last year alongside his older brother Brian (who graduated), could be returning to an already-potent Mansfield line up.

“He had a good work out yesterday and had another good one today,” Vaughan said. “It’s been a great motivational factor the last couple of practices. I try and keep reminding the kids, ‘what are you going to do when someone who’s going to average 20 plus minutes comes back.’ It’s interesting how quickly practices turn back to be a positive.

“We're excited to have him back and I know he’s been itching to get back.”

Recap: No. 19 Brockton 59, No. 10 St. John's (S) 51

January, 4, 2013
BROCKTON, Mass. –- Some kind of rebuilding period would’ve been fair to expect for the No. 19 Brockton High boys basketball team this season, after they graduated four of five starters and all but three varsity players from last season’s Div. 1 state finalist squad.

Even with Jahleel Moise, Jamal Rueben and 2012 ESPN Boston Super Teamer Sayvonn Houston –- all stars for the Boxers last season -– currently playing significant minutes as freshmen in college programs, Brockton has proven early on that this won’t be a year to rebuild, but instead reload.

That trend continued Friday night when they bested defending Div. 1 Central Mass. champ St. John’s of Shrewsbury, 59-51, behind a suffocating defensive attack that limited the Pioneers (4-2) to just six first quarter points.

“This was a very good win –- we’re very pleased with the way we’re playing defense right now,” said Brockton coach Bob Boen. “It was a very nice win. St. John’s is always good and they came in 4-1. They almost always play for the state championship, so to beat them is a very good win here. And it was the defense again. We’re playing very good defense.”

The Boxers (4-2) closed out the first on an 8-0 run and held a 13-6 lead. They’d never trail again.

“We were missing our captain (Ken Harrington) and only senior because he got hurt,” said Pioneers coach Bob Foley. “It took us a while to get adjusted. Usually Harrington score seven or eight points early in a game and sets the tone. Without him out there we didn’t score early.

“From then on, we played them pretty even -– and probably even outscored them a little bit.”

Brockton used a balanced scoring attack in which nine different players scored in the win. Only Ridge Francisque reached double figures, and he didn’t score his 10th and final point until he knocked down a pair of free throws with just eight seconds left in the game.

Boen’s team continued a trend of attacking from the perimeter, lofting 3-pointers any time they got an open look. They knocked down seven of them in all.

Nisre Zouzoua, back after missing a couple games with injury, was second on the team in scoring with nine points, including a pair of long 3-pointers in the win.

Jaylen Blakely chipped in eight points, four assists and three rebounds, Ian Wade added seven points, Marcus Curry notched six points, Shakeen Smith finished with five points, five rebounds, two blocks and two steal and Avalon McLaren connected on a pair of 3-pointers and had three steals in the win.

Despite only hitting two field goals in the fourth quarter, the Boxers sealed the win by connecting on 11 of 14 free throws down the stretch. For the game, they shot 21-for-27 from the stripe -– a trend Boen is happy to see.

“We made some three’s tonight -– some key three’s,” Boen said. “I’ve been saying all year we’re a very good shooting team and that’s finally starting to come around.

“We do have better shooters this year. At the end of the game, we’ve three fantastic free throw shooters in Wade, Zouzoua and Blakely. They’re all great. Curry is a pretty good foul shooter and Francisque is a pretty decent foul shooter also. At the end of the game, it’s nice to have five guys out there who you expect to knock down two out of two shots.”

With Harrington sidelined, junior Charlie Murray stepped forward to keep things close for St. John’s. With the offense struggling to get going early on, Murray poured in eight points in the second quarter alone. He finished with 13 points, nine rebounds and a pair of assists in the defeat.

“Charlie does his job,” Foley said. “Charlie is not the greatest athlete –- he’s not a jumper and he’s not the greatest athlete but he finds a way in the pivot to wiggle his way free and get his shot up there. He’s always looking for the basketball and he did this for us last year too.”

Sophomore center Stephen Palecki fueled a fourth quarter comeback, as St. John’s narrowed the gap to just five points with under four minutes to go. Palecki notched eight of his 13 points in the final frame. He also pulled in eight rebounds in the loss. Brockton had several chances late to put the game out of reach, but a stretch of poor shot selection too early into the shot clock gave the Pioneers a chance to climb back into it.

“That was a little frustrating tonight and it was a little frustrating against Providence Classical the other night," Boen said. "We still don’t quite understand what’s supposed to be done at the end of the game. We still think any decent shot we can get up is one we want to take at that point. I’ve been trying to tell them that if you’re ahead 10 points with three minutes to go, you start to think about the clock a little bit.”

Recap: No. 3 BC High 65, No. 18 Brockton 51

December, 19, 2012
BROCKTON, Mass. -– On Tuesday night, the No. 3 BC High boys basketball team demonstrated that stopping their guard play is going to be a tall task for any defense to handle this season.

They rolled past host No. 18 Brockton, 65-51, behind 43 points from a trio of guards -- including a game-high 20 from senior Jameilen Jones.

Jones, who netted 33 in the Eagles’ (2-0) season-opening win over Charlestown last week, recognized how important the sharp-shooting of senior guard Mike McAuley was in the win.

“My shot wasn’t really falling for me –- thankfully I have some abilities where I can catch one off the glass or run down the court and get some open lay-ups, but it’s not going to be perfect every day,” Jones said. “Mike stepped up today. I really liked what I saw today.”

Added BC coach Bill Loughnane: “Mike’s a senior whose been around and he knows how to step up. He’s played well for us before.

"Last year he had a couple real good games for us, but in the third quarter tonight he executed our plays correctly and ended up with some wide open shots. He’s a real good player, so he’s going to make them for us."

While the Eagles won with relative ease, they needed a strong second half to fuel the runaway victory. Brockton jumped out early and led 14-12 after one. BC High didn’t take its first lead of the contest until there was 4:40 remaining in the second quarter.

A defensive adjustment there made life tougher on the Boxers’ (1-2) shooters.

“I think coach Loughnane had his guys attack us a little bit more,” said Brockton coach Bob Boen. “He got his guys a little more aggressive and out front and into passing lanes. We were having trouble getting any attack to the basket. They made a good switch there.”

Jones provided a spark that kept Brockton’s offense at bay, coming away with four steals and pulling down seven of his 10 rebounds on the defensive end.

“He’s Mr. Everything for us and he has to be,” said Loughnane. “I thought they did a pretty good job on him defensively. He willed himself to a lot of those points and he didn’t let the little frustration early affect him. He rebounded, he played defense -– he did what good players do -– help in anyway.”

In addition to the 20 points from Jones and 14 from McAuley, the Eagles did a good job spreading the ball around as six players netted at least six points. Charles Collins and Pete Timmins each chipped in nine points, Phil Leotsakos added seven and Steve Young scored six in the win.

Brockton was led by 11 points from Nisre Zouzoua. They also got 10 points from Ridge Francisque, eight from Ian Wade, and seven a piece from Jaylen Blakely and Shakeen Smith.

The Boxers hindered their own comeback chances with a poor showing at the free throw line, going just 7-for-19 from the stripe.

“It seemed like every time we needed a big foul shot, we couldn’t get it,” Boen said. “There were a couple times they had five point leads and we got to the line and we missed. They had a seven point and my guy got to the line for three shots and only made one there.

"Not only did we a lot, we missed foul shots at keys time tonight.”

A silver lining: After graduating four of their starters, as well as nearly every player besides Blakely who saw significant time during the Boxers’ run to an EMass. crown last season, some growing pains were expected this year.

“Our theme right now is that we’re a brand new team,” said Boen. “We have exactly one player who played serious varsity minutes last year. (Marcus) Curry and Wade were on the varsity but they never played a lot of minutes in the big time games.

“We’re a brand team and that’s the idea we’re sticking with. They’re really angry right now because they’re 1-2 and we’re not usually 1-2. This year, I came in with the mindset that we’re going to be building all year and to be ready in February was our goal.”

From a talent perspective, at least, the Boxers should be just fine this season.

“I take form tonight, that physically, we can probably play with everybody,” Boen said. “Our mental game really has to tighten up. We made some serious mistakes tonight -– just awful mistakes. Leaving their best shooters open sometimes, not being awake on some out of bounds plays. Things like that.

"I am pleased with how were able to physically play with BC High, and run up and down the court with them. We covered their big scorer pretty well.”

The Boxers might even get better from a physical stand point, as they’re still feeling out roles for everyone, especially senior forward Shakeen Smith, who played high school basketball last season in Georgia.

“He’s new and he’s only been with us a little bit,” said Boen. “He actually got sick and missed the first week after tryouts, so we really don’t try to run any plays for him yet. We don’t try and get him the ball at all because it’s just been such a short amount of practice time.”

In addition to his seven points, Smith was a force under the basket, pulling down a game-high 14 rebounds while blocking three shots.

“He’s a really hard-worker,” said Boen. “He might not be as a big a force as Sayvonn (Houston) but he has a chance to be that type of guy. He will become much more of our offense as the year goes on.”