Monday, January 30, 2017

No. 23 O'Bryant cruises past No. 12 Catholic Memorial at MLK Invitational

O'Bryant senior forward Kobe Smith led the Tigers to victory over Catholic Memorial with a game-high 22 points

By Matt Feld (@MattyFeld612)

BOSTON -- For weeks, O’Bryant has wanted to establish itself as one of the top teams in Division 2, searching for that signature win. Now the Tigers have one.

In the nightcap of the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Invitational at Northeastern University, the Tigers blitzkrieged three time defending Division 1 South Sectional Champion Catholic Memorial, jumping out to a 18-8 first quarter lead before ultimately cruising to an 81-62 victory.

Kobe Smith spearheaded the O’Bryant (11-3) attack with 22 points and nine rebounds. Smith was named the games most valuable player for his efforts. O’Bryant also got big time production out of smooth sophomore sensation Rivaldo Soares. Soares picked up 19 points (14 in the first half) to go along with five rebounds.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Tigers were stalwart. Changing between a 2-3 zone, a full court 2-1-2, and man-to-man kept the Knights off guard all evening long.

In total, Catholic Memorial (8-4) was held to just 34 percent shooting from the floor and 32 percent shooting from beyond the arc.

When Catholic Memorial was able to set up their pressure following a made basket, O’Bryant was often able to break it without much trouble.

Five separate times, Emmanuel Exilhomme hit Smith going long with a baseball like pass for either a slam-dunk or easy layup. Tigers coach Drew Brock said his team compiled three different press breaks going into tonight.

“We worked on that long baseball pass, we threw it five times we scored four times,” said Brock. “I scouted them they have three presses, so I thought we needed three different press breaks. Now, when teams try to prevent that long pass, it will give us room to work in the backcourt.”

O’Bryant jumped out to an 18-8 advantage after one quarter behind the played of Smith and Soares, as the two combined for 10 opening quarter points.

The Knights finally showed signs of life to open up the second quarter as Will McDonnell engineered an 8-0 run via two consecutive three pointers and a breakaway lay up to trim the deficit to just two. 

Out of a timeout, however, Soares took complete control. Over the next four minutes the Tigers went on a 14-6 spurt with 10 of the points coming from Soares.

A Soares three pointer with one minute to play in the first half put O’Bryant up 10, 34-24, but Kani Glover knocked down consecutive shots from behind the arc to pull the Knights within 36-30 heading into the break.

“We wanted to get out and run,” said Brock. “We know that CM likes to run, but we are the second highest scoring team in the Boston City League, so in our mind there was no reason for us to change anything.”

The second half was all O’Bryant.

After a Ulyen Coleman (13 points) free throw brought the Knights within four, Smith came away with consecutive baskets to put the Tigers back up eight.

A steal and score by Exilhomme coupled with a Soares foul line jumper extended the O’Bryant lead up to 10, and a Dasonte Bowen lay in capped off an 11-2 run that put the Tigers in firm control. Catholic Memorial looked to make one last ditch run early in the fourth quarter.

A Coleman jump shot and free throw trimmed a once 13 point O’Bryant lead down to seven, but the Knights simply could not get enough stops. To make matters worse for Catholic Memorial, Romario Ebanks – after a cold first quarter – heated up.

The senior guard splashed home two consecutive long distance three pointers to hand O’Bryant an insurmountable 64-51 advantage.

“This is a huge win for us, we all knew what this one meant,” said Smith. “All of our friends, family came out. None of our teammates wanted to back down, they wanted to put on a show.”

The Tigers certainly put on a show, and will look to carry ride their high level play into this week when they start back up action in the Boston City League.

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