Saturday, March 17, 2018

Price-Espada's Historic Morning Leads Pope John Past Maynard in D4

By Jason Siegel (@jasiegel1821)

Springfield, Mass. - Scoring 49 points in a basketball game is special in any situation at any level.

Pope John junior Angel Price-Espada found that out firsthand on Saturday at Springfield College, as he poured in a career-high-tying 49 points to lead the Pope John Tigers to an 89-57 victory over the Maynard Tigers and an MIAA Division 4 boys state championship.

It is the first boys basketball state title in school history for Pope John (24-1).

Pope John head coach Leo Boucher said all credit goes to the student-athletes.

“The kids did this,” Boucher said of winning a state title. “The kids came to play.”

He added that Price-Espada’s play was “phenomenal.”

Phenomenal is an understatement. Using the words terrific, tremendous and amazing would be an understatement too.

Price-Espada said he could tell during warm-ups that his shots were falling.

“From the jump ball, I knew I could just hit my shots,” Price-Espada said following the win.  “I knew I just had to shoot (and) play the best for my team.”

Price-Espada opened the scoring with a 3-pointer just 23 ticks into the game, and it was a sign of things to come.

Price-Espada hit another three-pointer later in the opening period, but Maynard senior Corey Olivier (16 points) knocked down two triples to trim Pope John’s lead to 9-6.

The first quarter ended with Price-Espada having scored 8 points.

Pope John forward Marques Bouyer also got off to a fast start, scoring 8 of his 17 points in the first 8 minutes. Bouyer also pulled down 10 boards.

Sophomore Ian Fowler (6 points) hit a three-pointer in the waning seconds of the first quarter to cut Maynard’s deficit to 18-11.

The second quarter was the Price-Espada show.

Price-Espada made seven 3-pointers and scored 23 points in the second frame, opening up a 52-31 advantage for Pope John at halftime.

For those keeping score, Price-Espada had 31 first-half points, and the Maynard Tigers had 31 first-half points.

Coach Boucher, who has been around high school basketball for many years, says he has never seen a performance like Price-Espada’s on Saturday.

“Not as a player in high school, not as a player in college, not as a high school coach for 27 years” has Coach Boucher seen a performance like the one Price-Espada had on Saturday.

Maynard senior center Chris Bastien, who finished with a team-high 21 points and 8 rebounds, said Price-Espada was like Steph Curry on Saturday.

Price-Espada made another bucket from downtown in the first minute of the third quarter.

Maynard started closing out, so Price-Espada drove down the lane, leading to layups. Price-Espada scored ten straight points in the third quarter, opening up a 76-41 lead for Pope John.

Despite having the hot hand, Price-Espada also looked to get other teammates involved, as he dished out 5 assists.

“I just wanted to win the game,” Price-Espada said, saying he didn’t care if he scored or not as long as Pope John won.

Price-Espada finally cooled down the fourth frame, as he did not score over the final eight minutes. He went to the bench for the final time with 1:27 remaining to raucous cheers and MVP chants.

Coach Boucher said his team is a special group not just because they won a state championship, but because of how close they are as a group.

“The camaraderie, the togetherness, that’s what we preach,” Coach Boucher said after the win. “We’re a family.”

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