ROCKLAND, Mass. -– Not all games are created equal. Some of them, like when the Rockland boys basketball team hosted South Shore League rival Mashpee on Tuesday night, just feel bigger.
“This was our fourth statement game –- Scituate, Norwell, Abington and this game here,” said Rockland coach Fred Damon. “We wanted to send statements. If we want people to take us for real, we need to win these types of games. We want to set ourselves as a team that can be a force in division three.”
That message was sent loud and clear on Tuesday, as No. 21 Rockland rolled to an easy 78-51 over the formerly unbeaten Falcons (8-1) in front of a sellout and raucous crowd.
UMass-Lowell signee Tyler Gibson got Rockland (9-0) on the board with a pair of free throws on the first possession, but senior point guard Bryan Tavares was the driving force behind the Bulldogs (9-0) forging an early lead, finishing the first quarter up 15-11.
Tavares notched 21 of his 26 points before halftime on a ridiculous 8-for-9 shooting. Even more impressive was that he did it all while battling the flu, twice leaving the court to throw up.
“I honestly don’t know how I did it,” Tavares said. “I practiced a lot over the summer and I can feel the improvements now. It all kind of came together tonight.”
Tavares knocked down three five 3-pointers in the second, sparking a 16-point quarter for him as the Bulldogs extended their lead to 44-28 at the half.
“Bryan’s the floor general of the team, so he basically controls everything,” said Gibson. “He gave us a boost scoring by hitting those 3-point shots early.”
Added junior Matt Nicholson: “It’s awesome to have a guy like. He’s been pretty consistent for us too -– other than the Cohasset game, he’s been like that every single game for us.”
Still, even a 14-point lead at the break wasn’t satisfactory for the Bulldogs.
“We like to keep teams around 20 (first half points),” Damon said. “We came into the locker room and I was not happy at halftime. I said they cannot stop us offensively, there’s no doubt and we ran sets like crazy in the second half. We had to pick it up defensively and they got seven points in the third quarter. We went from up 14 to up 26 –- that’s the game right there.”
Nicholson made sure the offense kept pouring it on as he tallied 11 points in the third quarter before adding nine in the fourth en route to a game-high 28 points, to go with six rebounds, two blocks and four steals.
Considering how both took over the game, it’s not clear which one was better against the Falcons.
“That was an absolute two-headed monster, so I really don’t know,” said Rockland coach Fred Damon. “I probably would have to say Tavares because he put us ahead and then extended the lead, and Nic kept us there. Bryan was just unconscious tonight. It was ridiculous. You cannot stop him when he’s shooting like that.”
Gibson finished with 13 points, five rebounds, three blocks and two steals and sophomore Liam Ball chipped in five rebounds, three points and two steals for Rockland.
Mashpee had a strong showing from Nakia Hendricks, who tallied 19 points, six rebounds, four blocks and three steals, as well as 12 points from Dean Feliciano and 10 points and seven rebounds from Malik Lee. But those individual showings weren’t enough to overcome Rockland’s impressive attack.
“What can I say, they just beat us,” said Mashpee coach Rick Boulrisse. “They shot the ball real well –- I think they hit seven 3’s in the first half. It’s hard to overcome something like that. Rockland just outplayed us.”