Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Newton North continues to roll with a win over rival Brookline

By Nate Weitzer (@Nweitzer7)

NEWTON, Mass. - It’s never easy to knock off the king of the hill, or in Newton North’s case, the king of the Bay State Conference. 

The Tigers have dominated their conference for nearly a decade, while rivals such as Brookline have tried in vain to knock them off their throne. Despite coming into Tuesday afternoon’s tilt with an impressive 4-0 record and a star-studded roster, the Warriors were once again denied by a well-coached Tigers squad, as Newton North led from wire-to-wire in a convincing 69-52 victory. 

“We came out well from the get-go and I loved our energy,” said Newton North head coach Paul Connolly, whose Tigers stifled the visitors with full court pressure and held Brookline to just 17 points in the first half.

“We haven’t been a full court pressing team in the past,” Connolly continued, “But I think what we have this year is a group that allows us to try to get up and down and pressure the other team, and it’s helped to provide a spark at times.”

Going to a full court press helped facilitate Newton North’s comeback win over rival Newton South last Wednesday. The following night, the Tigers were able to play with fast-paced Catholic Memorial and hang on for a 76-74 win, and now they were able to squash their rivals early with an aggressive approach defensively. 

“We were down by a lot in that game,” Connolly recalled about the win over Newton South, “So to get that win and come back and hang on, so to speak, to beat CM and then get another rivalry game against Brookline is good. I really like our group and how they’re buying into our scheme.” 

As per usual, the Tigers were led by star junior Ethan Wright (21 points, 12 rebounds, 4 steals), but the supporting cast continued to contribute when Wright couldn’t find his offense.

Senior Chris Matthews (17 points) got it going with two three-pointers in the first quarter, while point guard Noah Neville (12 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists) demonstrated great poise for a sophomore. Fellow sophomore Ezra Pemstein (6 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists) turned in another solid game and freshman Aaron Cooley (9 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists) helped Newton North seal the win with several big plays late.

Afterwards, Connolly praised the selflessness of some of his seniors in giving way to these younger players, while also crediting the underclassmen for their continued improvement and their contributions in what wasn’t Wright’s best game.

“[Wright] can really score the ball and he’s terrific in the open court,” Connolly began. “But he hasn’t shot the ball particularly well, and we could’ve put this game away earlier if he more of those free throws, but those shots will fall. At the same time, other guys like Noah [Neville] are getting better and better. I’ve been hard on more point guards but he’s responded well and he played very well today.”

Still the leaders of the Bay State Conference and a scary young team that should continue to grow as a unit, the Tigers seem unlikely to fall off their mountaintop anytime soon.

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