BOSTON — The Charlestown and East Boston rivalry on the basketball court has taken on a life of its own, according to Eastie head coach Maclolm Smith, and the latest version added a little more flair to the long-storied matchup.
The Jets defense switched from man to zone and back again several times, to force the Townies into several uncharacteristic turnovers, en route to a 68-58 home victory last night in a battle for Boston City League bragging rights. The two teams have now squared off four times in the past 12 months -- with each team winning twice -- and it wouldn't be far-fetched to see the City Championship go through one of these two schools in the new calendar year.
“As always, that’s a charged rivalry,” said Smith, whose team is now 3-1 on the season. “It takes a mind of its own, this game. You can prepare for it left and right and everything else. The kids come in and do what they have to do.”
There may be respect between the two schools, but there is no love lost on the court. The game always features tough, physical play between the two squads, and Townies coach Edson Cardoso knows that positives can come out of the game no matter what the outcome.
“It’s a physical game. It’s aggressive and there is a lot history,” said Cardoso, whose Townies (3-1) dropped their first game of the year. “I have a lot of respect for East Boston and the things they do here. I just think that this makes us a better team. Even though we lost tonight this makes us a better team.”
Pressure pays off: The defensive pressure was dialed up from the opening possession for the Jets, as the defense forced the Townies into a backcourt violation to begin things. Townie turnovers would be a theme of the first half as the Smith decided to go with a man press on the ball handlers in the backcourt while occasionally throwing a different look or two with a zone defense as the game wore on.
No matter what defense was called, it worked in the first 16 minutes. The Townies were forced into 17 first-half turnovers and only shot a paltry 33 percent (8-of-24) from the field.
“Nothing beats a full court man-to-man pressure,” said Smith. “If you put them in difficult positions and make them catch it in the trapping areas and things like that, that’s what caused the turnovers.”
The Jets jumped out to a 10-2 run off of five Townies miscues in the first four-plus minutes of the game and used another second quarter spurt to gain just enough separation to make things comfortable enough in the second half.
Tyrese Hoxter pulled the Townies to within 3 in the second quarter, but then Zack Gattereau connected on a 3-pointer and was fouled for a 4-point play. The Jets then used a 15-4 run the rest of the quarter to grab a 39-23 lead at the half.
Pulling a "Reggie": The highlight of the run was a Reggie Miller-esque spurt at the end of the quarter by Pat Santos. Santos didn’t light it up with the deep ball, but he still managed to put up five points in less than 10 seconds.
Santos stole a pass at midcourt — one of his five thefts — had a trailed open but decided to force the ball to the hole successfully for the hoop and the harm. He calmly sank his continuation and then picked off the ensuing inbounds pass, where he went straight to the bucket to push the lead to 15.
Sixth man rises: Smith knows that his senior guard isn’t going to like being called a sixth man or enjoy coming off the bench for that matter, but he might have a very good option in Gattereau off the pine.
The lengthy senior wing finished with a team-high 24 points and stroked 4-of-5 shots from distance. Gattereau and Santos, who finished with 14 points, were the only two Jets in double figures.
Smith said he had to give Gattereau a little bit of tough love with the benching because of defensive issues that may have crept up this season, but apparently the message got through as he played tough defense to go along with his silky shooting stroke on the night.
“We had a little bit of a tussle early going back and forth because I wasn’t happy with his defensive intensity,” said Smith, who laughed and said he was happy with the effort tonight. “He sort of goes with the flow and that’s just not going to cut it with a game of this magnitude I really needed a defensive stalwarth to play on (Hoxter). Zack got over it and wasn’t complaining and came off the bench. That’s his role now. He may not like it, but I do.”
Hoxter gets his: The gameplan for Eastie was to make like difficult for the talented Hoxter, and for most of the first half it did just that.
Hoxter did get off in the second half though. He finished with 10 of the 12 Townies points in the third quarter and ended the night with a game-high 27 points. Most of his work was done at the foul line, where he sunk 11-of-16 attempts.
He was, however, the only Townies player to record double figures. Charlestown struggled mightily from the floor and especially from deep, as it finished 0-for-13 from behind the three-point line.
“Their defense was so good that we couldn’t get good looks,” said Cardoso. “We did get some shots up, but we just couldn’t hit the shots tonight.”