BOSTON -- The range of emotions for East Boston in its 65-61 win over Charlestown on Wednesday at the Vennochi Athletic Center probably resembled the heart monitor of a patient going into cardiac arrest.
The Jets were up by 19 in the first half, then watched it dwindle away. They saw the Townies heat up from outside in the fourth, to going scoreless in the game’s most important minutes.
Lastly, the Jets saw Walt Lewis drain a 3-pointer with the shot clock buzzer sounding to push them ahead for good at 62-61 with just over a minute left to go in the game. For those counting at home, those valuable three points were the only ones Lewis recorded on the night.
All of that drama — not to mention the raucous crowd on either side of the arena — could drive even the sanest coach a little crazy.
So at the end of the game, when a majority of the fans had left the building, all Jets head coach Malcolm Smith could do was look for a place to sit down.
“As a coach getting down this deep in to the season your mind is on a lot of things: seedings, pairings, health-wise and everything else,” said Smith, whose Jets have already punched their tickets to the postseason with a 15-3 record. “To be honest, the game was a blur to me until the third quarter.”
What Smith might have missed was his team coming out and dominating the Townies (18-2) on both ends of the court. The Jets’ stifling zone defense forced the Townies into deep perimeter shots allowing the home team to build a 22-9 first quarter lead.
Kenny Ramos had 21 points for the game, with 10 of those coming in the first quarter. He was a force on the inside and had the strength to get up three continuation plays, in which he converted two.
That dominance by the Jets carried over into the second quarter as the lead swelled to 30-11.
But the Townies slowly and surely started climbing back in the game. Picking up pressure at halfcourt, the zone defense by the Jets could never get set, as the Townies did a better job on the glass and got the ball directly into the speedy Rony Fernandes on the break.
“We started boxing out. We started extending our defense and help-siding gaps,” Charlestown head coach Edson Cardoso said. “We just played fundamental defense and that’s what got us back in the game.”
The Townies finished off the half with a strong 18-5 run, bringing the deficit to six.
Eastie clung to a 48-46 lead at the end of three thank to a jumper before the buzzer by Algino Jean. But Akosa Maduegbunam’s 3-pointer from straightaway gave the Townies their first lead of the game 22 seconds in to the fourth.
“When you play a great team like that, one offensive rebound, one leak out of bad transition defense can spark (a run),” Smith said.
Fernandes’ left-handed runner of the glass gave the Townies a 61-59 lead with 1:38 left to go in the game, which drew a timeout from Smith.
The play that was designed out of the timeout never surfaced, and Lewis was forced to throw up a shot with one second remaining on the shot clock, which he drained with a defender draped all over him.
“I knew I had an off shooting night,” said Lewis. “But my team needed me at the end.”
The Jets clamped down defensively over the final minute of play to hold the Townies without a field goal, while Kwandell Bush made 3-of-4 free throws to ice the game.