With just six seconds remaining in a tie game, Brighton senior guard Mark Mojica drained two free throws to give the visiting Bengals a 57-55 victory over West Roxbury Friday night.
Mojica finished with 10 points, but his final 2 were undoubtedly the most important. He said only one thing was on his mind when he got to the line with the game in his hands.
“I was thinking I had to knock down these free throws,” Mojica said “And that’s it.”
Brighton held an 18-14 advantage after the first quarter and extended the lead in the second. At halftime, the Bengals led, 37-28.
Although Brighton dominated the first half, West Roxbury came out strong in the third quarter. Junior guard Tyree Gross knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers to open the frame and immediately cut into Brighton’s lead. After a quarter of solid defensive play and sharp shooting by the Raiders, Brighton’s advantage had dwindled to just 2 heading into the final eight minutes.
Brighton coach Hugh Coleman said he needed his team to be structured on defense and stay within the game plan in the fourth quarter.
“I don’t think we fully played our game in the third quarter,” Coleman said. “We were settling for a lot of open threes in the third quarter so I wanted more shots to the basket.”
Gross opened the fourth quarter with a layup to tie the game at 48 apiece. He then made another to give the Raiders their first lead since they were up, 4-2, in the game’s opening minutes.
Following a layup from Brighton junior center Jason Jones, West Roxbury senior forward Javonte Currin nailed a 3-pointer to put the Raiders on top once again.
The Bengals scored 5 straight points to take a 55-53 lead, but with 12 seconds left on the clock, Currin hit a jumper that kept West Roxbury in the contest.
But with 6 seconds to go, Mojica was fouled and headed to the stripe with a chance to win the game for Brighton.
During the game’s final timeout, right before Mojica headed to the line, Coleman said he told his player “to be solid on the free throws.” He also told him to be confident and just take the shot.
“Then getting back, we knew that [West Roxbury] had burned their last time out so we knew that they would have to get it and go,” Coleman said. “So as long as we kept somebody in front of them, that would’ve been the key for us. They got a shot at the end which had a chance, but luckily for us it didn’t go in so we won the game.”
Jones and sophomore guard Stephen Bouyer each scored 10 points for Brighton. West Roxbury junior guard Tysaul Horton finished with a game-high 16 points.
The defending Division 2 state champions improved to 4-6.
“Biggest challenge is we have four freshmen playing varsity. We have two sophomores playing varsity,” Coleman said. “We have only two guys returning from the state championship team that played significant minutes. Everyone else were role players and didn’t play significant minutes. We lost seven guys last year, four of which were considered to be the top players in the state.
“So to go from that to a very young team, an inexperienced team, that’s the reason why we’re seesawing right now trying to find our identity with the new team.”
Despite the uphill battle the Bengals face heading down the stretch, Mojica’s goal from the start of the season has not changed.
“I’m trying to win cities and states again,” he said.
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