New Mission proved to be a formidable opponent throughout its premier season as a Division 2 competitor and Tuesday night was no exception. The Titans, formerly a Division 4 squad which shifted due to its deep talent pool, defeated Hopkinton (20-4) at the TD Garden in the MIAA Division 2 State semifinals, 67-56.
With a 21-4 record, New Mission is heading back to the DCU Center on Saturday; the Titans took home a Division 4 State Championship title last year and hope to go back-to-back.
“This is a great group of kids,” New Mission coach Cory McCarthy said. “As a coach, you never know if you’ll get a group of kids like that again. We’ve got one more to go, they’ll enjoy it tonight but they’ve got practice tomorrow.”
New Mission 6-5 junior guard Kachi Nzerem dropped 7 of his game-high 21 points in the first 5 minutes to give his squad a 15-10 edge, but Hopkinton came back to make it a 22-18 game after a quarter on the heels of Hopkinton shooters Jason Dlugolecki (9 points) and Wesley Ericksen (8 points) who each scored 5 in the first. The Hillers came on even stronger in the second quarter, scoring 15 points to New Mission’s 11, to make it a 33-33 ballgame at halftime.
Before heading to the locker room, New Mission sophomore center Isshiah Coleman gave a hint of what type of power fans would be seeing from the Titans squad in the second half. With 4 seconds left on the second-quarter clock, Hopkinton’s Jeff Dufficy went up for a short jumper which would have put the Hillers ahead, but Coleman’s vertical came into play and the 6-4 sophomore center swatted the shot away with a vengeance that made the Titans cheering section jump to their feet.
Hopkinton’s 6-foot forward Graham Eagan, who stands just one inch taller than his teammate who failed against Coleman three seconds earlier, went up for the same shot. He jumped straight up a foot outside of the paint, to the left of the basket, but Coleman jumped even higher with perfect control and sent the ball flying toward the ground at the buzzer.
“For a quick second I felt like a kid because I wanted to cheer like the crowd,” McCarthy said. “But Isshiah has been doing that all year…His vertical is unheralded.”
Coleman finished the game with 3 points, 4 blocks and 4 rebounds.
New Mission put away 18 points in the fourth quarter and stymied the Hopkinton's offense, allowing the Hillers just 10 points in the final quarter.
Final: New Mission 67, Hopkinton 56 — The Titans are headed back to the DCU Center for the second season in a row looking for a state title after taking down the Hopkinton Hiller 67-56. New Mission took a step up from Division 4 to Division 2 this season and proved their potential in the game, shutting out the Hillers shot in the fourth quarter, allowing them to score just 10 points in the victory. The Titans scored 18 in the fourth.
End of the third quarter: New Mission 49, Hopkinton 46 —Hopkinton stayed on New Mission's trail, but the Titans held onto the lead going into the fourth quarter led by Samir McDaniels and Leroy Hamilton who scored 4 points in the quarter.
End of the second quarter: Hopkinton 32, New Mission 30 — The Hillers took their first lead of the game at the 2:05 mark in the second quarter, 32-30, but New Mission junior guard Kachi Nzerem answered 5 seconds later with a trey to give the Titans a 1-point edge.
New Mission senior guard Darius Davis fouled Hopkinton's Brendan Litavis on the way to the basket, sending him to the line to shoot two, but the senior only nailed his second to tie the game 33-all with a 1:31 left in the half.
The Titans had the opportunity to take the lead with 57 seconds on the clock when Hopkinton's Will Relle recorded his first foul (9 team fouls) and sent Charles Gunter to the line to shoot one-and-one. Gunter missed his first attempt, giving way to a Hopkinton-possession after jump ball on the rebound scramble. Hopkinton senior Jake Doucette recorded his first 30 seconds later, putting the ball back in New Mission's hands but Gunter missed a jumper.
Hillers senior Jeff Dufficy and senior Graham Eagan tried for last second shots, but both were blocked by Titan sophomore center Isshiah Coleman, and New Mission stopped Hopkinton from taking a halftime lead.
End of the first quarter: New Mission 22, Hopkinton 18 — After a real physical first quarter, New Mission leads 22-18. The Hills have racked up four fouls and New Mission has 3.
Before game: The stands are filling up here at the TD Garden in the venue's third game of the day. No. 8 New Mission is warming up on one side, ready to take on the unranked Hopkinton Hillers for a berth in the MIAA Division 2 State championship game on Saturday at the DCU Center. Both squads have 20 games in the win column this season, so it should prove to be a battle for the No. 1 spot in the East.
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