In his sixth season as boys’ basketball coach at Brockton, Robert Boen has led the Boxers to an 86-17 mark, taking home at least a share of the Big Three title five years running. But for Boen, that’s never been enough.
“In Brockton, the goal isn’t just to win the Big Three title,” said Boen. “It’s always nice to take the league, but it’s a state title that we’re after.”
The 13th-ranked Boxers are off to a 9-1 start, having won eight straight since falling to the currently No. 4 BC High Eagles Dec. 13.
Brockton has recorded wins over Brighton, New Bedford, and Andover this season, among others, but it’s going to be in the next two weeks that Boen finds out what the Boxers are truly made of.
The Boxers are slated to face three straight league-leading teams, beginning with undefeated No. 2 Newton North (Bay State, 12-0) Feb. 5, No. 8 Mansfield (Hockomock, 9-4) two days later, and No. 3 Catholic Memorial (Catholic Conference, 10-2) Friday night.
“This upcoming stretch is going to show us if there’s something we need to work on that I haven’t seen yet,” said Boen. “All three of those teams will be around in the postseason. So for us this is kind of like the tournament before the tournament.
“At the beginning of the season, I looked at the schedule and thought that we could be in trouble if we came into this stretch with an average record,” continued Boen. “I’m happy we’ve gotten off to such a nice start.”
The driving force behind Brockton’s fast start this season has been senior big manSayvonn Houston. Houston, who stands 6-feet-6-inches tall, averages a double-double (12 points, 10 rebounds) and has emerged as Brockton’s No. 1 offensive threat.
“Houston has just been able to overpower people this season,” said Boen. “If he misses, he’s relentless going after the rebound. He’s become a real offensive force for us. When he first started playing as a sophomore he was kind of a big guy, but now he’s all muscle.
“For the first time in my tenure we are really trying to get to ball down low to a big man,” added Boen. “In the past we’ve been a run-and-shoot team, but now we try to overpower you with our bigs.”
The Boxers also returne last season’s leading scorer, Jamal Reuben. The shooting guard has been a calming influence on the offensive end, scoring just over 10 points per game, while providing a nice complement to Houston’s presence down low.
Although Boen likes his offensive options, he did admit that the team is still lacking timing and hasn’t shot the ball as well as he expected them to.
“We have a funny mix, where we have a lot of seniors (eight) on the team, but only four of them saw extended minutes last season,” he said. “So we’re still searching for our offense at times.”
Brockton’s defense has made up for the lack of scoring, holding opponents to a league leading 47.9 points per game.
Captain Jahleel Moise averages five blocks a game, while William Baker has been a spark off the bench.
“Baker’s been our emotional leader this season,” said Boen. “He gives us such energy off the bench. There’s been times when my assistant coach has said, ‘We look flat out there. You better put William in to get them fired up.’ ”
Matching Baker’s energy off the bench has been Jarrod Shelby, whose uncle, Michael Shelby, led the Boxers to their last state title in 1985, averaging 16 points a game.
“Shelby’s always been a big football player,” said Boen. “Some of the guys convinced him to come out for the team and he’s been fantastic for us, especially considering this is his first time playing for the high school. He’s an amazing athlete and brings that football mentality to the way he plays.”
The team’s determination and will has been a welcome surprise to Boen.
“We’ve turned out to be a tough team,” he said. “I’m excited we’re in a position to talk about winning a state championship. I wasn’t sure we’d be here at the beginning of the season.”
Games to watch:
No. 3 Catholic Memorial at No. 15 St. John’s Prep, Tuesday, 7 - The Knights (10-2) handled the Eagles, 89-64, Jan. 13, but St. John’s Prep (7-4) has shown the ability to play with anyone when they want to.
No. 9 East Boston at No. 10 Madison Park, Thursday, TBD - A battle of the top two teams in the Boston City League North. The Jets (9-3) got the best of the Cardinals (11-1) in their first matchup Jan. 5 in a messy game.
No. 16 King Philip at No. 8 Mansfield, Friday, 6:30 - A rematch of the top two teams in the Hockomock Kelley-Rex. The Hornets (9-4) beat the Warriors (11-2), 59-50, Dec. 20.
No. 4 BC High at No. 3 Catholic Memorial, Friday, 7 - Either team can claim sole possession of first place in the Catholic Conference with a win. The Eagles won the first contest, 61-59, Jan. 17.
No. 2 Newton North at No. 13 Brockton, Sunday, 2:30 - The undefeated Tigers will face a steep test with the defensive-minded Boxers.