|Needham junior Thomas Shaughnessy piled up 23 points, 6 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks to power the Rockets past Newton South|
NEEDHAM, Mass. - Thomas Shaughnessy was in complete control from the opening tip of Needham’s Division 1 South quarterfinals matchup against Newton South.
Behind a game-high 23 points and six assists from their star junior, the third-seeded Rockets pulled away from No. 11 Newton South by 20 points early in the third quarter and never looked back on their way to a 68-49 victory and a trip to the sectional semifinals.
“[Shaughnessy] is the energizer and he’s our emotional leader,” said Needham head coach Paul Liner. “He played great defensively and on the offensive end, played within himself and within the game. He brings it every night and he did a great job for us tonight.”
Junior forward Will Cooper (21 points, 5 rebounds) scored 10 of the Rockets first 12 points on a couple of nice passes from Shaughnessy and then the Rockets captain found his stroke from the perimeter while leading Needham (18-4) on a 16-4 run to take a 22-11 lead into the second quarter.
“Cooper’s grown all year and I’ve learned to trust him a lot,” Shaughnessy explained. “He’s been making shots and we were able to run that screen and roll to get him good looks and it was easy to get him the ball.”
Yet in the second frame, Needham went cold from the perimeter, managing just two points over the first five minutes of play. That’s when senior captain Matthew Shaker hit two huge threes to push the lead back to 31-22 by halftime.
In the second half, it was Thomas Time.
Shaughnessy came out and hit three consecutive triples from the left wing at the beginning of the third quarter and senior Matthew McKay (5 points, 4 rebounds, 4 blocks) added a three, as Needham went on a 16-4 run to blow the game wind open.
Up 45-25 early in the third quarter, the Rockets stood strong in the face of different full-court pressures and other desperation measures from the visitors and were able to salt away their win.
“[Newton South] is a very well coached team and we knew coming in that they could shoot the ball,” Liner recognized. “[The Lions] played well but I thought our kids responded really well to our game plan tonight.”
Senior Oskar Coulter led Newton South with 16 points, but the Lions were never able to find an offensive rhythm against the stingy defensive schemes that Needham’s savvy head coach implemented.
Now Liner and his players will have to game plan for a matchup against No. 2 BC High, as the Eagles defeated Braintree to punch their ticket to the sectional semis.
The two teams will face off at Wellesley High at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, March 6 and while BC High defeated Needham to open the regular season, Needham’s emotional leader has plenty of confidence.
“We played [BC High] at the beginning of the year and they killed us,” Shaughnessy admitted, “But we’ve grown a lot since then. We’re playing with a chip on our shoulder right now and I’m confident we can pull one out against them.”