By Nate Weitzer (@Nweitzer7)
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. - As they walked off the court at MassMutual Center with three minutes remaining and a second consecutive state title well in hand, Cambridge’s senior starters received a huge ovation from their rabid fan base and a deep embrace from their demanding coach in Lance Dottin.
With a 70-43 victory over Franklin on Saturday, Dimon Carrigan, Daniel Rymer, Kareem Octavien and Dottin’s nephew Jakigh accomplished what no Falcons team has since Patrick Ewing graduated in 1981, they won consecutive Division 1 state championships.
“It’s a big relief,” said Jakigh.” I feel great and it’s amazing because I’ve been with these guys since about the fifth grade. To be able to go back again and win with them is truly a blessing.”
Cambridge (24-0) finishes the year undefeated and will carry a 45-game winning streak into the 2017-18 season, but for those seniors who worked so hard to defend their state title, it’s time to celebrate.
Added Jakigh, “We don’t do this just for us, we do it for our city and now we get to go back to Cambridge and celebrate.”
Alongside Jakigh all year as the Falcons co-MVP (and co-MVP of the Dual County League), Dimon Carrigan (21 points, 10 rebounds, 9 blocks) dominated the state finals from start to finish.
The 6-foot-8 center blocked seven shots in the first half alone, as the West champion Panthers managed just six points in the second quarter and trailed 31-18 at the half.
In the third quarter, the Falcons grew their lead to 20 on an and-1 from Octavien (10 points) that made it 41-21.
Franklin (22-3) responded with a 7-0 run to make it 43-30 late in the third, but the Panthers would get no closer, as their efforts were just as futile as every other opponent that stood in the way of the Cambridge juggernaut.
Dottin, who scored over 1,000 points and won a state title in 1986 before falling in triple overtime in 1987 at the end of his high school basketball career, knows Cambridge’s storied history very well and he credits some of the success of this group of seniors to that tradition.
“It’s all been passed down to players like my nephew, Jakigh, who really wanted to play at Cambridge,” Dottin said. “Today is sort of the closure of his legacy. He’s won three North championships, two state championships, and an MVP, so he’s got something on me,” Dottin laughed.
While Jakigh (8 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists) led the Falcons on the perimeter, Carrigan controlled the paint as he did all season and his dominance was so pervasive that he draws comparisons to the greatest high school basketball player in state history.
“Watching Dimon over the last three years has been incredible. He’s evolved so much and his ceiling is even higher. He’s been a game changer for us in that he blocks shots, he changes shots, and while no one can compare to Patrick [Ewing], he gave us a chance for three state championships as well.”
These Falcons didn’t just cement their legacy, they honored the memory of deceased teammate Davonte Neal, who passed away three years ago at the young age of 16.
Cambridge has dedicated the past three seasons to “Sweets” and played under the mantra “Davonte Strong” which carried them through a challenging schedule in which they received everyone’s best shot as the defending champs.
“The mixture of the history and the sad loss of [Davonte Neal] has really brought this group together,” Dottin asserted. “Davonte’s dad spoke to the kids and it’s emotional, but embracing that spirit and carrying that spirit every day helps the kids accept the challenge of bringing your best.”
Easy hoop for Cambridge off big-to-big passing. Mahon responds w/3 for Franklin and Falcons lead 35-21 early Q3 pic.twitter.com/8ArAn33sqc— Nate Weitzer (@nweitzer7) March 18, 2017
Jakigh Dottin bails out bad possession with a deep 3. 38-21 Cambridge early Q3 @masspreps @HerewegoJoe pic.twitter.com/Td4jUkJnvq— Nate Weitzer (@nweitzer7) March 18, 2017
Franklins freshman trying to carry Panthers back. His and-1 makes it 43-28 Cambridge 2 min left Q3 pic.twitter.com/S9ctmqqjx3— Nate Weitzer (@nweitzer7) March 18, 2017
End Q3: Cambridge 49, Franklin 30. Falcons 6 straight points to close frame after Panthers 7-0 run @HerewegoJoe @masspreps pic.twitter.com/EUL0C6N9Ib— Nate Weitzer (@nweitzer7) March 18, 2017
Up 63-36 with 3 min remaining. Cambridge pulls the starters to a huge ovation @masspreps pic.twitter.com/0bW7gI4w8S— Nate Weitzer (@nweitzer7) March 18, 2017