Even without a buzzer beater of any sort, senior captain Pat Santos was sure that this win against Madison Park was better than their previous SportsCenter-worthy matchup against the Cardinals.
“We won by more and we didn’t have to come down to the last shot. I played more aggressive and led my team more,” Santos said after East Boston’s 70-63 win Tuesday night.
For an East Boston team down, 22-11, in the first quarter, leadership was a necessity.
Madison Park’s hot start was largely a result of coach Dennis Wilson’s full-court pressure defense disrupting the East Boston backcourt.
“It was a surprise to us,” Jets coach Shawn Brown said. “Last game they did do some, but it was very little, so we prepared for a lot of their half court and [David Stewart] being at the top, so it kind of surprised us when they extended it.”
While Brown didn’t expect Stewart’s defensive position, he did expect the senior captain to be relentless on the offensive rebounds. The center controlled the paint in the first half, scoring 10 of his 18 points. While Stewart usually commands a double team, a majority of the defensive responsibility was on senior center Will March.
“He kicked Will’s butt in the first half and we told him [at halftime], ‘you’re scared. You’re scared and right now he’s taking your lunch money, so what you going to do about it?' ” Brown said.
Those words must have been the motivation March needed. With his team down 43-30, March scored the first four baskets for East Boston to start a 19-8 run. Stewart was held to just 2 points during the stretch.
“He played very aggressive today,” Santos said. “First half he came off slow, but second half he definitely picked up.”
While he had high praise for his teammate, it was Santos’s aggressiveness that gave East Boston the lead. Down 2 points with less than two minutes to go in the third, Santos scored 7 of his 16 points in a row to give his team the lead. From there, East Boston never looked back.
“He’s definitely our leader. He’s a feisty young man, but I think we have to lean on Pat. Especially with our younger guards,” Brown said. “So for Pat it’s great to have that extension.”
East Boston’s turnaround between halves came about from the Jets taking their turn at great full-court pressure defense. They were able to force multiple Madison Park turnovers, which turned in to easy transition buckets.
“First half we played aggressive, a lot of composure, we didn’t let the press affect us. We broke the press with composure, good passes and execution and attacking the basket,” Wilson said. “Second half was a different half. We lost our composure, we panicked, we started traveling, throwing the ball away and we fell apart.”
It’s never easy to come back from a halftime deficit and East Boston’s rally left Brown a proud coach.
“I told them at halftime that it’s not about X's and O’s. There’s nothing I can draw up. Right now it’s about all heart and desire. You guys got to go out and earn it and that’s what they did,” Brown said.
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