Thursday, December 21, 2017

Needham Tops Natick for Early Bay State Conference Statement

By Jason Siegel (@jasiegel1821)

- Following a win over a top team in the state in Newton North, the Natick Redhawks had a chance for another statement victory on Thursday when they traveled to  Needham.

But, led by sophomore Will Dorion’s 16 points on four three-pointers, the Rockets (4-0) knocked off Natick (2-1) 53-40 in a Bay State Conference battle on Thursday night in Needham.

Needham head coach Paul Liner was very pleased with Dorion’s performance on Thursday, and credits Dorion’s work ethic for his success.

“(Dorion) is putting the time in in the offseason, he puts the time in in practice,” Liner said following the game. “He looked very poised tonight.”

Liner added that he was happy with the energy and intensity that Dorion played with throughout the night.

After the game, Dorion said that “moving without the ball” was key to his success on offense.

The early-season matchup had an MIAA tournament-type feel to it, with both teams coming into the game undefeated and fans from both schools filling the bleachers.

Points were hard to come by for Needham for much of the first half. The Rockets’ first field goal was a driving layup by senior forward Will Cooper (7 points, 6 rebounds) with 4:21 remaining in the first period.

Liner credited Natick’s defense for Needham’s first-half struggles on offense.

“Their on-ball defense was really good,” Liner said after the win. “ They played great help defense, and the ball pressure that they displayed tonight was outstanding.”

The most indicative first-half stat that illuminates Natick’s defense was Needham star Thomas Shaughnessy’s first-half point total: Zero.

“(Natick) played (Shaughnessy) extremely well,” Liner added.

Natick captain Peter Ryan, who scored a team-high 14 points, scored 6 points in the first frame to give Natick a 10-8 lead after 8 minutes of play.

A rebound and putback by Natick senior Kyle DeWitt, a pair of free throws by Ryan, and a floater by Will Brodnitzki (8 points, 11 boards) gave Natick a 16-10 lead halfway through the second quarter.

After Needham senior Brandon Monheimer made a free throw and John Donovan hit a driving layup, Sho Kinugawa (10 points, 4 rebounds) knocked down a three-pointer to give the Redhawks a 19-13 lead with 2:02 left in the second period.

The Rockets, however, would close the quarter on the 7-0 run with Dorian’s first three-pointer being sandwiched in between two buckets from Matthew Smith (4 points) to give Needham a 20-19 lead at halftime.

Needham picked up right where they left off when the third quarter began, opening the second half on a 7-0 run. Shaughnessy scored five points over that span on a three-pointer and a driving layup.

Despite being shut down in the first half, Shaughnessy finished with 13 points, 3 rebounds, and
3 assists. He also played well on defense, knocking the ball away on multiple occasions and helping force turnovers by the Redhawks.

A layup by senior Jahden Erold (4 points, 5 rebounds) and a three-pointer by Ryan cut Natick’s deficit to 27-24, but the Rockets closed the quarter on a 14-3 run, which included two three-pointers from Dorion on back-to-back possessions.

Natick’s offense simply could not keep up with Needham in the third quarter. Coach Liner said his team threw different defensive looks at the Redhawks throughout the game, which prevented Natick from finding a rhythm on offense.

“When you can change defense often throughout a quarter, and just keep (your opponent) reacting to what you’re doing, and not let them get comfortable in any possession, I think that’s really important,” Liner said after the game.

Senior Michael Klemm led the charge for Needham on defense, collecting 2 steals to go along with 8 points and 6 rebounds.

Natick never cut its deficit to single digits in the fourth quarter, as Needham kept up their stingy play on defense until the final horn sounded.

A win over Needham would have really put the Redhawks on the map, and they have to be happy with they way their defense played in the first half. However, they turned the ball over too often in the second half and were unable to find any real rhythm on offense.

Needham showed that they can win in multiple ways, and that they have the depth to earn a double-digit victory, even when Thomas Shaughnessy is shut down on offense for half the game.

The Rockets look to remain undefeated when they travel to Oliver Ames next Wednesday, and Natick will try to bounce back from their first loss of the season next Thursday when they host Boston Latin.

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