By Nate Weitzer (@Nweitzer7)
WAKEFIELD, Mass. – Depth and experience are arguably the two most important qualities for any championship contender.
An while top-seeded Arlington had the talent and certainly the heart necessary to compete with No. 5 Brighton in a D2 North semifinals matchup at Wakefield High, the Bengals used their depth and experience to outlast the Spy Ponders in a hard-fought 71-64 victory.
The win guarantees a fifth appearance in the sectional finals for Brighton (20-5) over the last seven years and head coach Hugh Coleman hopes that they can go a few steps further and bring home the first state championship for the school since 2012.
“This is a three-year journey for us,” Coleman began. “We’ve dealt with a tough loss to an unbelievable Danvers team two years ago and a tough loss to an unbelievable New Mission team last year, so this year we have experience. We have depth and we have experience as a coaching staff, so we want to combine all these things and see if we can take it all the way to the final game.”
The Bengals won the rebounding battle early with 12 offensive boards in the first half and built an 18-13 lead after one quarter, but Spy Ponders senior captain Colin McNamara would not allow his team to fall too far behind.
He poured in 17 of the teams’ 28 first-half points, hitting three improbable triples in the second to keep the game close at 30-28 heading into the break.
Yet Arlington (20-1) came out flat to start the third quarter and Brighton capitalized with an 11-0 flurry to open up a commanding 41-28 lead. Yet McNamara and freshman Bensley Joseph (7 points, 4 steals) sparked an 11-0 response to make it 47-41 Brighton heading into the final quarter.
The Spy Ponders would climb all the way back to make it a 50-48 game with McNamara (30 points) leaving it all out on the floor, but he’s seemed to run out of gas along with the rest of Arlington’s starters down the stretch.
“Early on we wanted to go to our bench and play everybody to really feel make us like one team with everyone contributing,” Coleman said. “We got great contributions from a lot of guys and we knew [McNamara] was a really great guard, so we wanted to try and wear him down a little by putting several different guys on him.”
While the Spy Ponders wore down, Brighton kicked it into another gear and once again used a notable size advantage to turn misses into second chance points, pulling away with a 9-0 run that was capped by an offensive rebound from Quincy Taylor (7 points, 12 rebounds), leading to an open three for Jordan Galloway (8 points, 7 assists) to make it 59-48 with just under three minutes remaining. Tyrone Perry added 11 of his team-high 23 points in the second half as well.
From there, the Bengals showed composure against full court pressure and held on to advance to the D2 North finals, where they will meet Lynn Classical this Saturday and a time and location to be determined.
“We’ve been through some tough battles and we understand the moment,” Coleman said. “In a game like this it’s survive and advance and we made enough plays to stay on top and get the win.
Four pts from Laqu Howard off the bench and Brighton leads 16-11 late Q1 pic.twitter.com/gXs4q943d4— Nate Weitzer (@nweitzer7) March 8, 2017
End Q1: Brighton 18, Arlington 13. McNamara 8 pts, Howard w/6 off bench for Bengals @HerewegoJoe pic.twitter.com/RCZqXhRyxr— Nate Weitzer (@nweitzer7) March 8, 2017
McNamara 3 ties it at 25 but Ty Perry comes back w/a triple for Brighton 1 min left first half pic.twitter.com/THEG1ne7DW— Nate Weitzer (@nweitzer7) March 8, 2017
Bensley Joseph steal and score. Then he steals again and finds McNamara for 2. Brighton 46, Arlington 37 3 min left Q3 pic.twitter.com/p8mfmOYt7v— Nate Weitzer (@nweitzer7) March 8, 2017
Arlington keeps coming after a Brighton timeout. The A is on a 9-2 run to make it 46-39 late Q3 pic.twitter.com/426tLBWRAF— Nate Weitzer (@nweitzer7) March 8, 2017
McNamara and-1. Ft good and Arlington trails Brighton 50-46 with 5:52 to play @HerewegoJoe pic.twitter.com/JogyY7qVcB— Nate Weitzer (@nweitzer7) March 8, 2017
Arlington made it 50-48 but six straight from Brighton pushes lead back to 8. 4 mins remaining in roller coaster game pic.twitter.com/34JEs2mJGq— Nate Weitzer (@nweitzer7) March 8, 2017
“We’ve been really fortunate to be blessed with a lot of talent and we want all the guys to buy in. If you can do that than the basketball will take care of itself. When the season comes, you work to become one team and work towards that ultimate goal.”