East Boston epitomized winning ugly last night, going 3-of-27 from the free throw line in the second half before eking out a 61-59 win at Madison Park in a Boston City League showdown.
“I’m disappointed in my team because of those free throws right there,” said East Boston coach Malcolm Smith. “We’ll never shoot that bad again. It’s not about me keeping them in the gym for six straight hours shooting free throws. It’s about checking yourself as a young man.”
Patrick Santos's steal and ensuing layup in the opening seconds of play set the tone for the No. 19 Jets (5-2), whose swarming defense was the difference in the game.
The loss was the first of the season for the Cardinals (6-1), who committed 31 turnovers, playing without starters Joy O’Shea and Dane Lawladownie.
“Anytime you’re missing two starters it’s going to be tough,” said Madison Park Coach Dennis Wilson. “[Joy] O’Shea is my leading scorer and Dane [Lawiadownie] is one of my best defenders. That’s like [Brandon] Bass and Ray Allen to me, so you do the math.”
Travon Moore led the Jets with 12 points, followed by Algeno Jean, who netted nine off the bench.
Eastie carried a 40-27 lead into halftime, despite being out rebounded by a 22-11 margin.
Madison Park made a concerted effort to work the ball down low and play physical in the second half, forcing East Boston over the foul limit with 2:01 to play in the third quarter.
Rayshaw Matthews led the Cardinals with a game-high 19 points, but it was forwards Dakim Murray (18 points, 16 rebounds) and David Stewart (12 rebounds, 7 points) that keyed the comeback attempt.
“Our strength is Dakim Murray,” said Wilson. “Our strength is down low, where people can make plays, and we looked for that in the second half.”
East Boston’s dismal shooting from the line allowed the Cardinals to climb within four points after Shaquille Leather’s put-back with 4:55 remaining in the third made the score 40-36.
Momentum swung back and forth for the remainder of the third, with East Boston entering the fourth up 51-41.
Madison Park cut the Jet's lead to three, 60-57, with 50 seconds remaining, but failed to convert on a desperation three in the final seconds.
“We only have ourselves to blame,” Wilson said. “We missed too many foul shots and [committed] too many turnovers and that’s what happens with a young team, but we’ll be back.
“I’m proud of my kids,” added Wilson. “They’ve got to grow up. They’re cubs right now, they’ll be lions one day.”
Smith downplayed the win, but was happy to have it.
“With East Boston it’s a turbulent ride in the jet all the time, OK, and we’re up and down and everything else,” he said. “I knew that [comeback] was going to happen, I just didn’t know it was going to happen that ugly.
“We played a terrible game,” continued Smith, “but that’s a testament to Madison Park. We’ll work on our mistakes. I’ll always take a win. I’m happy about the win, I’m not happy how we got it, but hey, when it comes down to it, there’s a win, there’s a loss, we got the ‘W’.”
The Jets are quietly building an impressive resume of wins this season with victories over No. 1 Charlestown, Archbishop Carroll (PA), and now Madison Park.
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