Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Newton North pulls off incredible comeback to down rival Newton South

Ethan Wright battles for an offensive rebound during Newton North's win over rival Newton South
By Nate Weitzer (@nweitzer7)

NEWTON, Mass. - Throw out the records when these two rival high schools face off, because they always battle for pride more than another notch in the win column. 

More often than not, that leads to close games, but the most recent installment of Newton North versus Newton South provided a stunning turnaround, as the host Tigers came back from a 16-point second-half deficit to down the Lions 64-53 in a thrilling win. 

“When we play each other, these kids know each other so well, it’s a crosstown rivalry and it’s a tough-man contest,” said Newton North head coach Paul Connolly. “It’s about winning the 50-50 balls, kids diving on the floor and giving that extra effort for their school.”

Newton South (1-3) controlled the action throughout the first half on the way to a 34-21 lead, but the Tigers (2-1) received some life when junior Thomas Byrne hit a clutch three right before the break. In the third quarter, the Lions came out firing once again and opened up a 40-24 advantage to seemingly take the wind out of Newton North’s sails, but the final 12 minutes of play told a different story.

Led by star junior Ethan Wright (25 points, 8 rebounds, 4 steals) and a supporting cast including sophomore Ezra Pemstein (6 points), senior transfer Chris Matthews (14 points) and grinder Matt Mackowski (7 points, 2 assists), the Tigers went on a 19-3 run to tie the game at 43. 

The Lions did not simply fold however. Their senior trio of Sasha Hoban (14 points, 9 rebounds), Andrew Bereket (8 points, 2 assists) and Oskar Coulter (20 points, 6 rebounds) responded with clutch baskets, as the two rivals traded leads and kept the game tied at 51 midway through the fourth. 

That’s when the home team exerted it’s will, turning the Lions over on several consecutive possessions to set up a three from Wright, a tough finish through contact from Matthews, and eventually a couple of free throws for the senior to seal the game.

“We’re pretty fortunate to get this one tonight,” Connolly laughed afterwards. “It didn’t look good for awhile. We were a little sluggish to start the game and credit [Newton] South for coming right at us. 
So we tried to extend the floor a little bit with a press and took some chances, which got us a flurry of steals and easy looks. I told the guys at halftime that we had to just chip away slowly and eventually we went on that run.”

With such a young team comprised of several under key underclassmen and several seniors that are seeing varsity playing time for the first time this season, Connolly recognized the importance of earning a tough win in this nature. 

Pemstein, a sophomore, hit a critical three at the end of the third quarter to further trim the deficit and make it 43-35 in favor of Newton South, while junior Noah Neville (6 points, 2 assists) and freshman Aaron Cooley also played critical roles in the comeback effort. 

In the end, the Lions were left shaking their heads while the Tigers left the floor in a combination of disbelief and jubilation after pulling off one of the more improbable comebacks in school history. Their reward is a huge clash against No. 5 Catholic Memorial at Newton North on Thursday, but at least the young Tigers will have some experience under their belts after this huge rivalry win.

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