Without senior point guard Pat Santos in the lineup, East Boston’s boys’ basketball team couldn’t handle Everett’s pressure on Tuesday night in the first round of the Division 1 North state tournament.
After the 77-55 loss, first-year East Boston coach Shawn Brown said they learned last week that Santos was academically ineligible and would have to miss the postseason.
“Yeah absolutely he could’ve helped us, he had some issues in school,” Brown said. “It put a lot of pressure on our young guys, Dion [Knight] is only a sophomore. What a time to get thrown into the fire against a very athletic Everett team. Their pressure frustrated him early and that was the key to the game.”
Santos, who made national news by hitting a full-court buzzer-beater to down Madison Park on Dec. 18, helped the Jets defeat Everett, 49-48, three games later on Jan. 3.
“I respect Pat, he’s a good player, he came last time and destroyed us kind of,” Everett senior guard Tyree Gregory said after scoring a game-high 22 points. “But even if he was playing, I don’t think it would’ve changed it. My team, we’re too strong for that.”
East Boston senior guard Stanley Harris hit a buzzer beater of his own to put his team within 1, 14-13, at the end of one quarter. Everett pulled away again in the start of the second quarter but East Boston went on a 7-0 run starting at the 4:19 mark of the second quarter to get within 1 point again, 25-24, with 3:30 left in the half.
The run included Harris (5 points) blocking sophomore forward Gary Clark (16 points) under the basket and going coast-to-coast for a layup.
But Everett (15-6) responded with a 13-0 run to go up 38-24 with 1:28 left in the half. The run started with Gregory’s back-to-back 3-pointers and ended with his 3-point play.
Everett took a 40-28 lead into the break before opening the second half with a 19-0 run that included three transition dunks. East Boston finally got on the board when Harris split a pair of free throws with 3:26 left in the half.
“It goes back again to the turnovers, I think a lot of those points came off turnovers and transition,” Brown said of Everett’s runs. “They got a few dunks that got them going so it all was predicated off the turnovers.
Everett coach John DiBiaso acknowledged that Santos would have helped stave off some of those big runs.
“That was a big blow to them not having him,” he said. “But we’re not crying over it. We’ll take advantage of the fact that he was out.”
East Boston (12-8) was led by Knight (17 points) and sophomore forward Raekwon Cole (12 points) who were among five players who started the season on JV and finished on varsity due to injuries, academic and disciplinary issues.
“Five JV players come up and get this experience so I’m really looking forward to next year with these guys,” Brown said. “It gets me excited about next year. My seniors did a great job, they were really leaders to the younger guys.”
But Brown wasn’t satisfied with making states in his first season.
“It’s not good enough,” he said. “The tradition here is not just to make the state tournament. It’s about winning city championships and winning state banners. So again I’m not happy just making it. This is motivation. It fuels me again for next year.
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