Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Closing Run has Pope John on Verge of Making Dream a Reality

Pope John celebrates a big win at the TD Garden Monday.   Photo by Eamon Convey 

By Matt Feld (@Mattyfeld612)

BOSTON – Despite being from one of the smaller schools in the region, Pope John is on the verge of accomplishing its biggest dream.

Trailing by two and less than three minutes to play, the Tigers went on an 11-2 run highlighted by seven points from Mekhi Collins to sprint past Mashpee, 70-62, in the Division 4 State Semi-Final on Tuesday afternoon at the TD Garden.

Collins finished with a game-high 23 points while Michael Thompson chipped in 14 points to go with 10 rebounds.
The Division 4 State Final appearance is the first in program history for Pope John.

This is pretty exciting,” said Pope John coach Leo Boucher. “In a school with 200 kids, where most of those kids don’t play sports, our basketball team is just about everything for us. It’s just great for the school.”

The Tigers held a 51-49 lead entering the fourth quarter but a Marques Bouyer basket and a three-point play from Collins increased their lead up to seven.

Pope John’s advantage remained seven, 58-51, with six minutes left but the Falcons came surging back to go in front.

Devaun Ford (21 points) hit a left wing trey, and off a Tigers’ turnover, Michael Barrows finished through contact to pull the Falcons within one.

Moments later, Mashpee went in front as Barrows knocked down two at the line before Anthony Gonsalves cut baseline and finished to put the Falcons in front, 61-59.

Pope John, however, found one last burst.

Thompson drove to the basket to put the Tigers back in front, and Collins came through with a steal and score to give Pope John a 64-61 lead.

The Falcons trimmed the deficit down to two on a Ford free throw, but Thompson banked one in high off the glass, and Collins went 4-of-4 at the line down the stretch to seal the win.

“Just a fantastic basketball game both ends,” said Boucher. “Mashpee just keeps coming. They were everything we thought they would be and more.

The two teams quickness was undeterred by the size of the TD Garden floor as the Falcons and Tigers went back-and-forth throughout the opening half.

Angel Price-Espada (11 points, 10 assists) showcased his prowess as a facilitator from the opening tip as he dished out nine first half assists, to go with a conventional three-point play, to give the Tigers a 19-13 lead.

Michael Fraser drilled a buzzer beater to pull the Falcons to within 19-16 after one.

Ford and Gonsalves began asserting themselves in the second quarter with six straight points from Ford before a Gonsalves baseline cut for two pulled the Falcons within 34-32.

The Falcons had little answer for Price-Espada, however, as his ninth assist of the first half led to a Bouyer basket and a 37-32 Pope John lead at the break.

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