Friday, January 12, 2018

Newton North Ends Cambridge's 53-Game Win Streak

Newton North's Ethan Wright drives in for 2 of his game-high 36 points.   Photo by Eamon Convey.
By Jason Siegel (@jasiegel1821)

Newton, Mass. - All good things must come to an end, and for Cambridge’s boys basketball team, that includes their 53-game win streak.

Behind 36 points from star senior captain Ethan Wright, the Newton North Tigers crushed the Cambridge Falcons, 70-45, on Friday night in Newton in a non-league showdown.

For Cambridge (9-1), it is the Falcons' first loss since December of 2015, their first loss to a team from Massachusetts since March of 2015 when they lost to Catholic Memorial, and first loss to an MA public school since December of 2015, when they lost to Brookline.

In the first half of the opening quarter, it appeared that Cambridge was on its way to a 54th straight win, jumping out to a 6-0 lead on baskets by sophomore Khai Smith (team-high 14 points, 10 rebounds), senior captain Aidan Keefer (6 points) and junior Anthony Bell.

Newton North (6-2) head coach Paul Connolly attributed his team’s slow start to Newton North’s nerves and Cambridge’s size.

“We were a little nervous to start,” Connolly said after the game. He added that the way Cambridge was able to get the ball inside to Smith and Bell was worrisome for his team.

Wright energized the packed gym with a dunk, cutting Newton North’s deficit to 8-4.

The dunk also seemed to spark Wright himself, as the Tigers closed the first quarter on a 15-4 run, with Wright scoring 12 points over that span.

Wright punctuated the run with a corner 3-pointer, giving Newton North a 19-12 lead at the end of the first frame.

Coach Connolly was impressed with Wright’s first quarter play.

“(Wright) has a phenomenal start to the game,” Connolly said after the win, adding that Wright is “a special player.”

Newton North junior Ezra Pemstein (9 points, 7 rebounds) said that the rest of the Tigers feed off of Wright’s energy and performance on the offensive end.

“Seeing (Wright) score brings confidence to everyone,” Pemstein said following the game.

The Tigers picked up right where they left off starting the second quarter, opening the period on a 12-1 run, headlined by three-pointers from Wright and fellow captain Noah Neville (9 points).
Neville capped off the run with a driving layup that opened up a 31-13 lead for Newton North.

Cambridge countered with a 6-0 run, but a 3-pointer from Wright, who had 22 first-half points, made the margin 34-19 with 3:39 left in the second quarter.

After a basket from Keefer, the teams traded free throws, and Newton North took a 36-22 lead into halftime.

Cambridge was plagued by turnovers and allowing second-chance and third-chance points to the Tigers, which prevented them from cutting into Newton North’s lead.

Coach Connolly was happy that everyone chipped in on the boards, including Wright, who, along with being his team’s leading scorer, also led the team in rebounds with 9 boards.

“We gang rebounded,” Connolly said after the game.

Junior Christian Negrotti got in on the rebounding action at the end of the third quarter, with a board and putback that gave Newton North a 53-36 lead to start the fourth quarter.

Wright completed an old-fashioned three-point play after an offensive rebound and lay-in with 2:54 remaining the contest, and concluded his night with a steal and layup that gave Newton North a 22-point edge.

Clearly, Newton North has come a long way since losing two of their first three games of the season. Wright showed that he can be nearly impossible to stop when he gets going. The Tigers demonstrated their depth as well, as five players scored at least five points.

Newton North did not just knock off the two-time defending state champions, they did so in convincing fashion. They finished strong and did not allow the Falcons to fight back into the game.

Cambridge would have loved to have maintained their win streak, but teams learn more from losses than they do wins. The Falcons have size and talent up and down their roster, and a coach with championship pedigree in Lance Dottin.

The Falcons will have their first chance to respond to their lone defeat this season on Tuesday when they host Dual County League opponent Waltham.
Newton North will travel to Springfield for a game against Springfield Central on Monday.

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