Behind a game-high 25 points from sophomore forward Fru'nwi Che, the Somerville boys' basketball team defeated East Boston, 54-45, Tuesday night to advance to the quarterfinal round of the Division 1 North tournament.
Frus the coach's dream, Highlanders coach Mark Antonelli said. You can yell at him, you can praise him, and his expression never changes."
Somerville kicked off the scoring but Jets junior guard Dion Knight answered with two straight layups to give East Boston and early 4-2 advantage.
After a low-scoring first quarter, Somerville led, 12-8.
We made a lot of mistakes, Antonelli said. It was a sloppy game offensively for us but I felt like they really stuck together and made the key defensive plays.
The second quarter was another poor offensive showing for both teams. With just seconds left on the clock, the Highlanders held a 23-19 lead. But as the buzzer sounded, Knight drilled a 3-pointer to cut Somerville's lead to just 1.
At halftime in the locker room the last thing I said to them was do you want to go home or do you want to keep on playing? Antonelli said.
Somerville jumped out to a 29-23 lead early in the third quarter, but Jets junior forward Kevin Sinatra and Knight nailed back-to-back treys to tie the game.
Despite the brief burst of sharp shooting, the Highlanders defense refused to let East Boston find an offensive rhythm. Knight nailed another 3-pointer but Somerville senior guard Rayoni Matos answered with a 3 of his own, stifling the Jets surge.
Somerville led, 37-36, after three quarters.
Honestly we needed to step up, we were making too many mistakes on offense, too many turnovers, Che said. Transition defense was kinda shaky.
Knight opened the final quarter with a nifty move to the rim, scoring and drawing a foul. He hit the free throw to complete the 3-point play and give East Boston the lead.
A layup from senior guard Marcus Shaw extended the Jets' lead to four, but Che answered to pull Somerville within 2.
Two free throws by Somerville junior guard Salim Warsame knotted the game at 41 with four minutes to play.
A Che layup gave the Highlanders the lead. The Jets struggled to score as time ran off the clock, thanks to relentless defense from senior guard Kervinson Exilus and a strong rebounding effort by the entire Somerville squad.
Che said he knew the Highlanders could wrap up the win in the final two minutes.
We hit our free throws, Che said. We got the ball over half and just broke their press.
Eight points from Che and 3 from Exilus closed out the victory.
Knight finished with 23 points for the Jets. Warsame and junior forward Jonathan Santana Arias each finished with 10 points for Somerville.
The Highlanders will take on Greater Boston League rival Everett in the quarterfinal round.
Its gonna be a typical GBL battle, Antonelli said. Both teams know each other, both coaches know each other. Its gonna be a lot of fun.
Everett won both matchups with Somerville in the regular season, but the score was close in both games. In the season opener, Everett won by 6 points. In the most recent contest Feb. 7, the Crimson Tide won by 8.
Theyre a good team. Theyre a really good team, Che said of Everett. Last time we faced them it was close. We just gotta fix some mistakes and get back to practice tomorrow and hope for a win.