Brighton is heading to TD Garden for a second straight year after defeating North Andover, 64-59, in the Division 2 North final Saturday at the Tsongas Center in Lowell.
Brighton will play Scituate on Tuesday for the Division 2 EMass title.
“I’m really trying to get the guys to have a sense of urgency each game and to realize we can’t wait,” Brighton coach Hugh Coleman said. “Sometimes we wait to get a feel; you want to feel a team out. I’ve been stressing since the playoffs started, get up, get after it, even from the opening [tip], attack.”
The Bengals were down by 5 at the half but they came out with that sense of urgency in the second half. Junior Malik James led the aggressive attack with 10 points in the third quarter. The point guard had just one basket in the first half.
“I had to play through it. I just didn’t want to lose, I didn’t want my season to be over,” James said. “So the third quarter, fourth quarter I got other people involved more than trying to take my shots.”
Teammates that benefited most from James’s penetration were senior guard Daivon Edwards (17 points) and junior forward Nick Simpson (24 points).
With 3:20 to play in the fourth, Edwards hit a crucial 3-pointer off a James pass from the right wing to put Brighton up, 55-51.
After two straight North Andover baskets and a bucket by Brighton senior Prince Unaegbu, Simpson made a 3-point play in transition to give Brighton a two-possession lead.
“If [Malik’s] penetrating, they got to collapse the defense, leaving it open for Daivon or Nick, so we hope that’s kind of basic basketball, basic basketball principles, and it’s worked pretty well for us,” Coleman said.
The loss marked the end of a 31-year career for coach Mike McVeigh at North Andover. The coach, who will be 65 this summer, announced his retirement after the game.
“I made the decision about two months ago and from then on, every single day in practice I enjoyed. Every single day, I looked at those guys, even when I get mad and all that stuff, I appreciated my guys and every single day I just was grateful to a job that I’ve loved for a long time,” McVeigh said.
Coleman and his Bengals are ready to make their mark at the Garden.
“We made it to the state championship appearance last year, that was the first in school history and they still don’t have a state championship so hopefully we can take it one game at a time, focus, prepare and take care of business at the Garden,” Coleman said.
Scituate 58, Milton 53 — The second half of the South final featured 13 lead changes and seven ties, but Scituate rallied in the final seconds to pull out a victory.
The score was 53-53 with 31.4 seconds remaining after a Scituate timeout, which gave way to a John Foster 3-point play. Foster (12 points) scored a quick basket after snagging a Taran O’Toole inbounds pass under the bucket, and was fouled on the way up. His free throw gave the Sailors a 56-53 lead. Foster went back to the line 13 seconds later and sank a pair of free throws for the final score.
Foster scored 7 of his 12 points in the final eight minutes, attributing the victory to Scituate’s preparation in practice.
“Coach [Matt] Poirier always preaches he wants our practice to be harder than our games, so in the fourth quarter none of us were shaken, none of us were worried, we just knew what to do,” Foster said.
The first quarter was all Scituate, and Poirier believes that was the difference in the game.
“I really impressed on these guys that we had to win the first four minutes, and win the first quarter,” Poirier said. “And when we won the first quarter, I just kept saying ‘keep playing and win the next one.’ It doesn’t always happen against a team of that caliber, and I’m just so proud of our kids.”
Scituate led, 16-8, after the first quarter and held Milton to 3-of-7 shooting from the field and one free throw in the first eight minutes. In comparison, the Sailors scored their 16 points on 7-for-13 shooting, including 7 points from Noma Okundaye (17 for the game).
Milton regrouped in the second quarter, anchored by sophomore guard Myles McDermott’s 8 points, and trailed, 39-36, at halftime. Sophomore guard Keyon Jones scored a game-high 14 points for Milton.