The shots kept falling and the defensive stops continued to pile up, and all of a sudden a once subdued Newburyport gymnasium became loud and raucous.
For nearly three quarters, upset-minded Dracut had controlled Monday’s Division 3 North first-round matchup against third-seeded Newburyport. But then the host Clippers embarked on a game-defining run feeding off their frenzied home crowd.
It began with Parker McLaren’s put-back layup, and it was punctuated by back-to-back 3-pointers from Jake Robertson and the aforementioned McLaren.
The 14-0 run spanning from the end of the third quarter to the beginning of the fourth quarter flipped a seven-point Dracut lead to a seven-point Newburyport advantage and proved to be the difference as the Clippers knocked off the reigning sectional champs, 67-57.
“We have a great student section so we tried to feed of that injury,” said McLaren, who netted a game-high 23 points. “We had a great home court advantage today. It really helped.”
While McLaren (22.3 ppg) is undoubtedly the Clippers’ go-to guy, it was Robertson who triggered the second half comeback. The junior captain knocked down four 3-pointers and finished with 21 points.
After Newburyport took a 52-45 lead in the early stages of the fourth, Robertson canned his final 3-pointer of the game from the left wing to make it a double-digit lead. A few possessions later, he unleashed a deadly shot-fake and attacked the rim for a foul-inducing basket. Robertson’s 12 second-half points denied Dracut any chance of a comeback.
“I liked it all, he’s such a tough player and he’s not one-dimensional,” Newburyport Dave Clay said of Robertson. “We needed him to do it, and he did it.”
The Middies (8-14), which won D3 North as the No. 12 last season, scored 25 points in the second quarter to take a 35-29 lead at halftime.
Between Tyler Guerriero (18 points) and Adrian Torres, Dracut continued to attack the basket for easy layups in the third quarter until Newburyport went on its run.
Clay and Robertson both cited Newburyport’s tough-minded defense as the reason the Clippers came out on top and avenged last year’s quarterfinal defeat to Dracut. Newburyport (16-5) advance to host Weston or Shawsheen in the quarterfinals.
“We definitely played a lot better defensively and got some easy looks,” Robertson said. “It was a great atmosphere.”
Division 2 North
Latin Academy 68, North Andover 44 — The second-seeded Dragons (19-2) soared past the 15th-seeded Scarlet Knights (6-14) in the D2 North first round.
Junior guard Mason Lawson delivered 16 points and 8 rebounds. Classmates Mohamud Ali (13 points) and Abdulahi Aden (11 points) were solid contributors.
“When we’re playing good team basketball, and everyone’s scoring, that’s what we like to see,” said Latin Academy coach Dan Bunker. “Ball movement, getting open shots.”
The Dragons took the lead for good with 5:22 left in the second quarter on a foul-inducing basket by sophomore Osasu Woghiren (8 points).
“In the City [League] semifinals, we blew a 12-point lead with a minute left, so we really stressed to them the last couple practices that when we’re up, we’ve got to put the pedal to the metal,” Bunker said.
Aidan Helm had 12 points for North Andover.
Belmont 87, Reading 45 — Preston Jackson-Stephens (25 points), Mac Annus (21), and Tim Minicozzi paced the No. 2 seed Marauders (17-4) to the D2 North first-round win over their Middlesex League rival.
Billerica 66, Somerville 47 — Ryan Murphy (16 points, 12 rebounds) notched a double-double while Michael Bragg (17 points, 6 rebounds) led the team in points as the Indians (13-7) bounced the Highlanders (11-10).
Division 1 North
Lynn English 81, Lynn Classical 73 — The second-seeded Bulldogs (19-2) wrapped a 20-3 run around halftime to take control in a D1 North first-round matchup against their city rivals.
But No. 15 Classical (12-11) kept fighting and used eight 3-pointers from Jayden Thornton to cut the lead to single digits in the fourth quarter. In the end, the sheer size of 6-foot-8 senior Jean-Baptiste Mukeba (21 points, 11 rebounds) and 6-foot-5 junior Ademide Badmus (12 points) proved too much.
Point guard Jarnel Guzman chipped in 17 points and six assists for the defending D1 state champions, who saw their streak of 14 consecutive double-digit wins against in-state competition snapped.
“We got a group of guys who think people are going to lay down for them,” said English coach Antonio Anderson. “It’s frustrating when they play that style of basketball. We got to get out of whatever our mind-set is, because people don’t care about last year. We got to fix that or we’ll be in trouble.”
Cambridge 54, Peabody 36 — Senior Khai Smith powered his way to 14 points and 23 rebounds as the fifth-seeded Falcons (15-6) pulled away from Peabody (11-10) in the second half of their D1 North matchup.
Division 2 South
Oliver Ames 62, Hanover 51 — Senior Ryan Burkett (19 points), junior Amari Brown (15 points), and senior Evan Craig (11 points) lifted the 18th-seeded Tigers (12-11) to a D2 South preliminary round victory over the 15th-seeded Indians (11-10). Oliver Ames will face second-seeded Westwood on Thursday.
Division 3 North
North Reading 69, Greater Lawrence 54 — Sophomore Cody Cannalonga (17 points) and junior Will Taylor (15 points) led the 10th-seeded Hornets (13-8) past the seventh-seeded Reggies (13-8) in the D3 North first round match. North Reading will face second-seeded Amesbury in the quarterfinals on Thursday at 7 p.m.
Division 4 North
Mystic Valley 76, Lowell Catholic 74 — Senior Joey Dajci drained a trey with 2.8 seconds left to lift the Eagles (13-8) to the D4 North first-round win in Lowell. Alfie Tsang netted his 1,000th career point for MV, which will play at top-seeded Austin Prep Thursday night.
Division 1 Central
Franklin 77, Doherty 59 — The senior trio of Brayden Sullivan (23 points, 4 blocks), Jack Rudolph (14 points) and Declan Walmsley (14 points) led the charge for the Panthers (16-5) in their D1 Central triumph over the Highlanders (12-9).
Greg Levinsky reported from Latin Academy, Nate Weitzer from Lynn. To report scores, call 6171-929-2860/3235 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.