Saturday, January 20, 2018

No. 1 Needham Pulls Away from Brookline

By Kyle Shroeder (@kyschroeder81)

Needham, Mass. - Needham came into Friday night’s matchup with Brookline with the reputation as one of the best teams in the state, and the team to beat in the Bay State league.

They confirmed those both of those statements resoundingly early on as the Rockets blitzed Brookline in the first quarter going up by a score of 21-6. Needham never looked back as they possessed the lead the entire game and defeated the Warriors 63-53. The Rockets remain perfect this season, improving their record to 9-0 while Brookline drops to 6-5.

The game was often dictated by how impactful Needham’s senior point guard Thomas Shaughnessy was and how well the balanced attack of Brookline was able to execute against the Rockets defense. In the first quarter, everything went Needham’s way. Shaughnessy scored 7 points and dished out one assist, while the Warriors were only able to put the ball in the basket twice. Needham pressured Brookline into difficult shots and live ball turnovers.

“I thought most of the game we did a great job of playing on ball defense. It was a focus of ours coming in and the kids worked really hard for two days and executed well,” said Needham head coach Paul Linber.

In the second quarter, Brookline fought back and made the game competitive before halftime by flipping the script on Needham. The Warriors held Shaughnessy in check as he accumulated no points or assists in the quarter. Offensively, after scoring six in the first quarter, Brookline exploded for 22 in the second. The Warriors were able to maneuver their way through the Needham zone defense and find open shots through great ball movement. A couple of three point field goals from senior forward Henry Terry led Brookline to a 22-13 edge in the quarter to close the gap to a 34-28 deficit at halftime.

“Give them credit, they are a great team in this conference that executes at a high level,” said Liner.

Brookline was not able to hold Shaughnessy down for long, as in the 3rd quarter he displayed his all-around game, scoring or assisting on six of Needham’s seven baskets. He had 8 points with one assist in the quarter and could easily have had two more assists if his teammates were able to convert on open looks.

“He played great in this game. One of the few games all year he had the complete game going for him. I thought he played with great energy and emotion and he was able to handle their pressure well,” said Liner.

Shaughnessy finished the game with 18 points and five assists, further showing how talented of a point guard he is.

“He is a share the ball point guard who can also shoot and get by you. With these qualities he is really hard for the opponent to guard. He knows that he can get by people, which forces the opposing bigs to close in on him, so our bigs have to have our hands up and ready to receive the ball.”

Two of those big men are senior forwards Michael Klemm and Will Cooper.

Klemm and Cooper scored nine and 10 points, respectively, for the Rockets. The big 3rd quarter from Shaughnessy helped give Needham a comfortable 49-34 lead at end of the period. The Rockets were never threatened by the Warriors as Needham was able to maintain a double digit lead the rest of the way.

At 9-0, Needham coach Liner has a lot to be pleased about it with his team.

“If you saw one of our practices, you would see how hard the kids work in practice. They come in early, they stay late, and they play good team basketball. The chemistry on this team is amazing and that starts with Thomas. Everyone is playing really hard and they are just a great team to be able to coach.”

While he loves his team, Liner doesn’t want Needham getting ahead of itself, despite the 9-0 start.

“We all know how tough the Bay State league is, so we have to bring our best to the court every single game to compete and win."

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