|Kareem Octavien was recognized as the most valuable player with 14 points in Cambridge's win over Santa Monica Crossroads (CA)|
By Nate Weitzer (@Nweitzer7)
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — With a win over a premier program out of Southern California, the Cambridge Falcons be recognized as more than simply the best team in Massachusetts.
The defending Division 1 state champions faced off with a star-studded Santa Monica Crossroads (CA) team and didn’t back down at any opponent, outlasting the Road Runners in a defensive battle for a hard-fought 46-36 win in the annual Hoophall Classic at Springfield College.
“It’s always good to find great competition and obviously tonight we found it,” said Cambridge head coach Lance Dottin. “Any time you have the opportunity for kids to play competitive basketball you want to take it and this was a great challenge for us.”
The Hoophall Classic always features teams with some of the best prospects in the nation and Crossroads came to Springfield with two highly touted recruits in Shareef O’Neal (son of Shaquille) and Arizona commit Ira Lee.
While the Falcons (9-0) came out with plenty of intensity on the defensive end, they were slow to find their rhythm offensively against Crossroads’ 2-3 zone. Eventually, Kareem Octavien came through for the Falcons with three consecutive triples, as they took a 23-19 lead into halftime.
“Clearly [Crossroads] has great size on the inside but we still wanted to get the ball inside and then kick it back out to the shooters. Tonight, Malik [Correia] wasn’t on as he normally is, so it was great to see Kareem [Octavien] knock down those threes,” said Dottin. “He’s the fourth guy in our rotation and he doesn’t get enough credit, so it was nice to see him make those big shots.”
Octavien (14 points) would add a clutch triple late in the fourth quarter to make it 41-36 and put the Falcons in position to win, but they never would have defeated one of the top programs in the nation if not for an incredible effort in the defensive paint.
“It turned into a defensive battle and [Crossroads] is a very good defensive team,” Dottin confirmed. “We like to be up in the 70s and there were a lot of things offensively that we didn’t do particular well tonight, so we had to lean on our defense.”
With 6-foot-8 center Dimon Carrigan (6 points, 11 rebounds, 2 steals) and 6-foot-5 forward Daneil Rymer (11 points, 3 rebounds, 2 steals) leading the charge, Cambridge held Crossroads’ superstar duo of Lee and O’Neal to 19 points on combined 6-of-26 field goal shooting.
“I’m a defensive player, that’s what I do, and the coaches had us prepared for everything, but It’s all about heart at the end of the day,” Carrigan said. “Most games I’m the tallest player on the court but dealing with 6-foot-10 guys today, I had to really focus and get some help from Daniel [Rymer] as well, which is what took the heart.”
He added, “Today wasn’t really about blocking shots for me, it was about changing shots. [O’neal and Lee] might be bigger than most players I face, but the coaches told me that as long as I stay on my feet and use my reach I can affect their shots.”
Crossroads missed several point blank attempts at the rim with the game tied at 34 late in the fourth quarter, while Rymer and Carrigan capitalized on the other end.
Cambridge point guard Jakigh Dottin (2 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists) kept the Falcons offense in position to succeed all night, and he found Octavien for a clutch three before dumping the ball down to Carrigan for an emphatic dunk to make it 45-36 and put the exclamation point on the victory.
“It was just another game for us,” Carrigan said when asked about playing in front of ESPN cameras and NBA hall of fame Shaquille O’Neal. “This was a business trip. We came out and tried to play offense and defense as best we could and show everybody that we’re Cambridge, and we’re a great team.”
|Shaquille O'Neal at Springfield College to watch his son play|