By Karl Capen (@Capen316)
ARLINGTON, Mass. – To be the best, they say you have to beat the best.
Standing all alone at the free throw line with no time left on the clock and the roof about ready to explode off from the Arlington gymnasium, New Mission senior Charlie Mitchell had a chance to tie the game and continue the Titans run towards another Division 2 state championship.
Mitchell's first free throw rimmed out and the place erupted as top-seeded Arlington defeated No. 8 New Mission, 64-61, advancing to face Brighton in the Division 2 North semifinals.
“New Mission is such a great program and we are trying to get to that level. This is a huge win for us to beat a program of that stature.” said Arlington coach John Bowler.
All Friday night on the big stage, it was the young, inexperienced underclassmen of Arlington (20-1) who played like four-year veteran starters and emotionally fed off from the fans and crowd.
Sophomore Nicholas Karalis (14 points) sank four corner three pointers in the first half that got the gymnasium rocking and gave Arlington an early 17-9 lead at the end of the first quarter.
But the grit and the heart of a champion in New Mission (16-8) would not go unnoticed.
The return of senior Kevin Nunez, even on a bad ankle, was monumental for the Titans. He finished with only 8 points, but his 9 rebounds kept the Spy Ponders off the offensive glass and allowed New Mission some transition offense.
New Mission fought off the vicious momentum and swagger the Spy Ponders carried at times and were able to tie the game at 27 heading into the half. This was thanks in part due to the aggressive play of senior Daeshawn McLaughlin (12 points) and Charlie Mitchell (13 points) who attacked the rim at every opportunity.
Arlington, though, snapped off another run to begin the second half, but this time it was freshman Bensley Joseph (14 points) leading the charge – maneuvering himself around the basket for layups and sinking three pointers in the face of defenders.
This gave the Spy Ponders a 43-35 advantage as the game moved into the fourth quarter.
Still, the Titans wouldn’t go down quietly. Senior Alexander Delarosa laid in a shot off from a Charles Mitchell miss that capped off an 8-0 New Mission run to tie the game at 43 with 4:39 to go.
The game of runs continued. Arlington finally found their offensive rhythm again and a steal and beautiful pass from junior Dominic Black to classmate Ben Wasco for the layup made it a 54-48 Spy Ponders’ lead with just under two minutes to go.
New Mission delivered one last counter punch. Following a tough Joseph layup on one end for Arlington, Charles Mitchell dribbled up the court and sank a quick three to trim the lead to 60-57 and 19 seconds left.
One free throw from sophomore Jade Dottin for Arlington, and the Titans, again, bobbed and weaved and Charlie Mitchell sank another quick three to make it 61-60 with 13 seconds left.
A few missed opportunities from both teams at the line put one of the few Arlington seniors at the spot with a chance to make it a three point cushion and Colin McNamara calmly sank both attempts from the charity stripe.
This gave New Mission one final chance to tie. Charles Mitchell dribbled down the court and was quickly shut down by McNamara. He jumped up and passed it off to his twin brother, Charlie, who was fouled releasing his shot from three as time expired.
Call it fate resting in Spy Ponders' favor, but as the first free throw attempt from Charlie rimmed out to seal the win, it was bedlam in Arlington.
“Our community and our fans are just one of a kind,” said McNamara who ended the game with 13 points. “They came ready to go, they were loud as hell and hopefully we can bring them into the next gym and take over that one too.”