|Needham junior Thomas Shaughnessy denies Newton North's EthanWright the ball in the fourth quarter|
By Nate Weitzer (@Nweitzer7)
NEEDHAM, Mass. – Thomas Shaughnessy is one of the most talented prospects in the state of Massachusetts, but sometimes talent pales in comparison to the sheer force of an indomitable will.
As he’s done all season, Needham’s junior guard carried the Rockets offense in a meeting with rival Newton North. Yet it was his defensive efforts on Tigers superstar Ethan Wright that allowed the Rockets to come back from a seven-point halftime deficit to force overtime and defeat their rivals, 59-52, in a thrilling conference game.
“Thomas [Shaughnessy] is the best we’ve had here in a long time,” said Needham head coach Paul Liner. “He really willed us to victory tonight.”
The dangerous lefty shooter accounted for eight of the Rockets first 10 points and finished with a game-high 26 on the night. He also embraced the challenge of guarding Wright (24 points, 13 rebounds) after the state’s leading scorer poured in 18 of his points in the first half to spot Newton North a 29-22 lead.
“Obviously, Ethan [Wright] is one of the best players in the state and we did what we had to do,” explained Shaughnessy. “I just wanted to keep him from touching the ball in the second half and I think I did a pretty good job.”
With Wright managing just two points over the third and fourth quarters, Shaughnessy and the Rockets (10-1; 8-0) were able to climb back into the game.
The two teams remained locked with Newton North up 42-39 for a four-minute stretch in the fourth quarter when Shaughnessy scored to make it a one-point game. On the Tigers next possession, Wright brought the ball up the floor and was stripped by Shaughnessy, who knocked down one of two free throws to tie the game at 42.
Tigers junior Noah Neville got to the charity stripe to put his team up 44-42, and it looked as if Newton North (9-2; 6-2) would seal the game when freshman Aaron Cooley secured a defensive rebound in the final seconds of regulation.
Yet he made a freshman mistake by turning the ball over under his own basket, giving Needham junior Brandon Mortenheimer (8 points, 7 rebounds) an opportunity to tie the game at the free throw line.
Mortenheimer didn’t disappoint a ravenous home crowd, as he calmly hit both freebies and gave Shaughnessy a chance to continue his heroics in an extra period. The Rockets star came up with a huge three-pointer from 30 feet away from the basket and added three more points at the free throw line to put his team up 51-45.
Then Shaughnessy secured a huge defensive rebound and knocked down a couple more free throws to effectively seal the overtime win, exemplifying his total effort in a matchup against fellow Class of 2018 top prospect Ethan Wright.
“Thomas,” Liner replied when asked about the defensive strategy on Wright. “He looked at me and said I’ve got to guard [Wright]. Those two have known each other for a long time and [Shaughnessy] wanted the challenge of guarding him. Ethan [Wright]’s a fantastic player and we just tried to make him take tough shots. We made some adjustments in the second half, but the difference was Thomas.”
Afterwards, Shaughnessy confirmed that this was one of the best games he’s ever been involved with and admitted that it meant a little more than a win over any other conference foe.
“Coach [Liner] preaches that every game is 5 percent of our schedule, but this one means a little extra,” Shaughnessy said. “Newton North is a huge rival for us and I hope that this win puts us on the map because we work our butts off and we deserve it.”
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Needham opens Q3 with 5 straight points but Chris Matthews responds with 5 of his own. 34-27 Newton North pic.twitter.com/05yZqql54C— Nate Weitzer (@nweitzer7) January 20, 2017
End Q3: Newton North 39, Needham 35. Shaugnessy fires up after draining this triple. @HerewegoJoe @masspreps pic.twitter.com/mtnlfkcssS— Nate Weitzer (@nweitzer7) January 20, 2017
Shaugnessy steals and scores. He's got 19 as the refs lose control of the game. NN 42, Needham 39 5 mins left pic.twitter.com/S1ZO7xVoSj— Nate Weitzer (@nweitzer7) January 20, 2017
Shaugnessy strips Wright and splits the FTs. We're tied at 42 with :56 remaining pic.twitter.com/ZUglrtYl7D— Nate Weitzer (@nweitzer7) January 20, 2017
Wild sequence leads to two FTs for Needham and the Rockets tie it at 44, get a stop and send us to OT @HerewegoJoe @masspreps pic.twitter.com/D2ahoH2zrE— Nate Weitzer (@nweitzer7) January 20, 2017
Shaugnessy hits a 3 from the parking lot and Needham takes a 47-45 lead halfway thru OT @HerewegoJoe @masspreps pic.twitter.com/QuDNn5zUiP— Nate Weitzer (@nweitzer7) January 21, 2017