Early in a rivalry game against New Mission on Thursday night, Brighton boys’ basketball coach Hugh Coleman took junior shooting guard Mark Mojica out of the game, not because he was missing 3-pointers, but because he wasn’t taking enough of them.
“Mark struggled shooting the ball, and he got down on himself early,” Coleman said after his No. 13-ranked team came back from a 20-point deficit to win, 57-52, against the No. 10-ranked Titans.
“In the first half he had a nice open look and he hesitated because I guess he missed a couple in a row. I took him out of the game because he didn’t shoot the ball and I told him ‘I got confidence in you to shoot the ball. You have to have confidence in yourself.’
"I said ‘I’m not going to take you out when you don’t make two in a row but you know what? I’m going to take you out when you don’t take the next one because you have to think like a shooter, I’ll hit the next two or three’ and you stay with it.'"
After cutting New Mission’s 20-point lead to 11 points with four minutes left in the game, Mojica nailed a 3-pointer with 1:23 left to make the score 52-48. Then, with 31 seconds left, Mojica hit another 3-pointer to put the Bengals up, 53-52, before a flurry of Brighton steals helped the Bengals hold onto the narrow victory.
“I was missing [in the first half] but the coach said ‘Keep shooting, keep shooting, keep shooting,’” said Mojica, who finished with 10 points. “I did what the coach said and I listened to him. We just worked hard and listened to what coach said.
“It was crazy. It was a good game.”
The post-game celebration, however, was anything but crazy considering the magnitude of the game and the comeback.
It was almost anticlimactic.
That's because after a chippy first meeting between the teams on Dec. 20 at Brighton High, school officials prohibited fans from attending Thursday night’s game at New Mission.
A fight between fans also broke out between Charlestown and Brighton fans on Tuesday night but Boston schools Athletic Director Ken Still said the decision to disallow fans from Thursday night’s game was made before Tuesday’s fight.
“There was a bit of a scuffle in the last game [between New Mission and Brighton], a couple hard fouls and I guess animosity between a couple of the players,” Still said. “So the headmasters got their heads together and said it was best to keep the fans out of the game.”
Brighton coach Hugh Coleman said there was still enough support in the gym to give his guys a boost.
“We got the JV guys, we got some of our people from our school, we got our own bench here,” he said. “So in terms of not having a huge fan base I’ll be honest with you, I know it’s a factor a lot of times, but I think when it really mattered there was enough noise and enough support that gave our guys the kind of confidence we needed at times."
Coleman was still disappointed in his fan base for their behavior in the first meeting in December.
“Sometimes our fans make [bad] decisions, and I’m really upset," he said "That not only hurt them from getting to be at the game but it hurt our team because we can feed off that. I talked to my AD to talk to my principal so we can talk to the kids about being responsible so they can be there to support us and not hurt us. Because they are a part of the team.”
Initially New Mission coach Cory McCarthy said the lack of crowd was not a factor on Thursday.
“It would have been more embarrassing to be honest with you [if there was a crowd],” he said before acknowledging that it could’ve given them a boost down the stretch. “Yeah that’s debatable. I don’t pay attention to crowds. Kids do.”
Brighton (10-3) won the first meeting, 79-68, but the Bengals found themselves in a hole early on Thursday night.
New Mission jumped all over Brighton from the tip, taking a 22-6 lead after the first quarter. Brighton didn’t get on the scoreboard until the 5:35 mark of the quarter on a layup by senior guard Daivon Edwards (team-high 13 points) for an easy layup to make the score 5-2.
But New Mission responded with a 11-0 run to make the score 16-2 with 1:41 left in the quarter.
New Mission went cold in the start of the second quarter but got hot again when senior guard Percio Gomez hit a 3-pointer with 3 minutes left in the half and another one about two minutes later to go up 34-17.
New Mission led, 36-22, at the half and was up, 49-30, after three quarters.
McCarthy called it a total mental breakdown.
“If we stayed within our game plan like we did for 26 minutes we would’ve been in good shape," he said. "My hat's off to Brighton. They played 32 minutes. we played 26 and that’s what it is. Hugh Coleman didn’t walk in with Noah’s Ark and two animals and two women and two other human beings. He didn’t. What he did is he got his kids to play for 32 minutes and our kids played for 26. So he’s Noah I’m Abraham. That’s what it is. That’s all it boils down to.”
McCarthy said it’s virtually impossible for his team to get the No. 1 seed in the city tournament now.
“We’re not going anywhere, we’ll be there in the end,” he said. “I still believe we’re the best team in the state. We lost, so what, but I think we have the best kids.”
Juwan Gooding scored a game-high 21 points for New Mission.
The victory was Brighton’s eighth in a row and it marked the second straight year it beat New Mission twice in the regular season.
“It’s tough to beat a team two times in a row let alone three times in a row,” Coleman said of a potential city championship matchup. “And if everything works out, ideally, it could be four times in the states.”
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