BROCKTON – Basketball connoisseurs from across the state packed the Brockton High bleachers in the 17th annual meeting between Division 1 South powers Newton North and Brockton on Super Bowl Sunday.
Amongst them the head coaches of Mansfield, Catholic Memorial, BC High and Needham, who all watched intently as their colleague,Paul Connolly, coached his Tigers to an impressive 58-40 victory over previously undefeated Brockton.
North (13-3), which ended Cambridge’s 53-game winning streak and handed Needham its first loss of the season last month, provided another statement win by toppling Brockton to assert its dominance over the loaded D1 South field.
“We’ve never shied away from anybody,” said Connolly. “I’ve always said if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best.”
The Tigers forced Brockton (15-1) into six turnovers while opening a narrow 13-10 advantage after eight minutes and separated in the second quarter as star senior Ethan Wright (game-high 32 points) sparked a 17-3 run to give North a 32-17 lead at halftime.
After scoring just five points in the third quarter and watching its lead dwindle to 37-32, the Tigers put the defensive clamps on Brockton in the fourth, holding the Boxers to one point over the first six minutes of the final frame.
“That’s everything for us,” Wright said of North’s defense.
“We know we can score, but coach emphasizes defense, because if you can stop the other team you don’t have to have the best shooting game to win.”
Wright didn’t shoot particularly well (12 of 27 from the field, 4 of 6 from the free throw line) relative to his lofty standards, but still managed to outscore the Boxers, 19-17, in the first half.
The Princeton-bound guard added three clutch triples during a 17-1 run to open a sizable 54-33 lead midway through the fourth quarter.
“[Facing undefeated teams] gives us a lot of motivation,” Wright said. “We’ve shown the past couple weeks that we can play the best teams in the state and, when we’re at our best, we’re up there with any of them.”
After starting the year 1-2, North has won 12 of its last 13 games and provided a statement Sunday with a win over another D1 South contender.
“We started off the season without an identity and it took a little while, but our guys adjusted, figured out their roles and we have a real team approach,” said Connolly. “I’m thrilled with our effort.”Nate Weitzer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.