EAST BOSTON, Mass. -- It was just the type of game No. 12 New Mission needed to get its season back in the right direction.
Coming off a final-quarter loss to Brighton last week, Mission went into No. 21 East Boston and beat the Jets 64-52 in a back-and-forth, grind-it-out Boston City League matchup.
“With high school kids, you can’t dwell on the negative,” said Mission (11-5) coach Cory McCarthy. “I was positive with the kids (after Brighton), positive at practice. They had their own team meeting where they said, ‘We’re not going to drop another one like that.’ They came out here and competed tonight. I challenged them to come out and show me heart, and they showed me a little something.”
Mission controlled the first half, going up as much as 14 points with two minutes to go in the second quarter. It took a 36-27 lead into the break. Then, in typical City League fashion, Eastie (10-6) came storming out of the gates in the third quarter, going on a 10-0 run over the first three minutes to take its first lead of the game. Right when one thought the game could go one way, it went in the complete other direction.
From then on, it was a fight to the finish. The lead changed eight times before Mission finally pulled away in the last four minutes. The Titans outscored Eastie 18-7 in the final quarter.
So what was the difference between the two quarters, where it seemed like two entirely different Mission teams?
“At that point in time (in the third), we didn’t want to score,” said Mission forward Chima Ebele (11 points, six rebounds). “I kept telling Fred Rivers and Shaquan Murray that together, they had to score. If people don’t want to score, they have to score in the post or if they got a one-on-one mismatch, just take them.”
In sharp contrast to what happened a week earlier, Mission closed out the game in convincing fashion. The Titans rebounded, defended, hit free throws, and displayed the killer instinct needed to win on the road.
“In that team meeting, we just said that in games we’re up and we think we have the game, just keep pushing, talk more on defense, rebound better, and just communicate better as a team,” said Sam Freeman. “Everything as a team, just do it better as a whole.”
With the win, Mission put another game between itself and Eastie in the City League North standings. As the season winds down to the final weeks, both teams showed Wednesday that neither will go away quietly, even if they have to scratch and claw their way to victory.
Marching orders: Will March was an absolute force for Eastie Wednesday. The senior finished with 20 points and 12 rebounds, all of which came in the paint. While the rest of his team is undersized compared to the New Mission squad, March still asserted himself and made life difficult for the opposing defense.
“It’s kinda tough (going up against March),” said Mission forward Sam Freeman. “We were able to handle it. We wanted to basically front him and depend on the help in the back or just play good defense with hands up, simple stuff like that to not let him be able to get an easy look at the basket.”
If there was an Achilles heel to his game Wednesday, it was his free throw shooting. When he was sent to the line, he was only 2-of-7. The rest of the Eastie team was a combined 4-of-12.
“He usually gets hit points off of rebounds, so I knew what to do (against him),” said Ebele. “I’ve played with Will before, so I know how he plays.”
Coleman leaves with injury: Midway through the second quarter, the New Mission bench held its collective breath as Isshiah Coleman hit the floor holding his ankle screaming in pain. He went up for a defensive rebound and came down awkwardly. He was helped to the sidelines where he remained for the rest of the first half with his foot elevated.
After halftime, he remained in the New Mission locker room. Eventually, he was wheeled out on a stretcher and taken to a local hospital. The official extent of his injury is not known.
“It looks really bad,” said McCarthy. “I hope it’s not as bad as it looked or as bad as how he felt. He left on a stretcher. We hope he’s in good health and not because of basketball reasons. I know how passionate he is, but more so because he’s a huge part of our team.”
Before the injury, Coleman was putting on a stellar defensive performance. Through a quarter and a half, he pulled down five rebounds and had four blocks. His presence in the middle was making life difficult for the Eastie guards when they drove to the basket.
In his absence, Freeman (12 points, six rebounds) and Fred "Bam" Rivers (six points) had to play extended minutes in the post to help the team.
“I had to step up for him,” said Freeman. “I remember one play in the game where we had the defense, but we knew he was a shot blocker, and I didn’t box out a guy. I didn’t get the rebound and I blocked the opponent and I just kept thinking ,”Isshiah would block this,” or “He would get the rebound.” I basically just had to step up and help the team get the win.”