BROCKTON, Mass. -– No. 15 Brighton pulled out a less than stellar 69-60 victory of No. 12 Brookline last night to open up the 38th Annual Rotary Club of Brockton Holiday Tournament.
“I think we were able to get it together a little quicker than them, and I think that made the difference,” said Brighton head coach Hugh Coleman, who noted that that both teams were slow out of the gate after taking the holiday break off from game play.
The teams volleyed single-digit leads throughout the first half, with turnovers and missed shot opportunities abound. With the score 29-28 going in the break, it was anyone’s game, as neither team had shown they were ready to seize the opportunities that the other was affording them.
That changed in the third quarter when Brighton was able to pull up for a 10-point lead with 2:47 left in the quarter. They stretched the lead to as much as 13 (47-34) with 1:51 left in the quarter, but themselves could not put on a significant offensive run after early third-quarter contributions from sophomores Mark Mojica (5 points) and Nick Simpson (18 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists), and entered into a nearly shot-for-shot contest for the rest of the match. Brookline was able to close it down to within seven early in the fourth at 53-46, but extended slowly until the Bengals were back up by 13 with 1:09 left in the game.
Mental Toughness: Although he didn’t have a triple double, or a double anything, Brighton’s Prince Unaegbu was a presence for the Bengals in the post, grabbing five rebounds, taking one steal and scoring two points. By the look of those statistics, the numbers are not impressive, but what he brought to the Brighton game tonight cannot be counted by numbers, but from a mentality and access point of view Unaegbu was a force.
“Really raw in talent, but athletic,” is the way that that Coleman described the 6-foot-5 junior. Unaegbu played football this past fall for the Bengals, and Coleman believes that Unaegbu’s antagonism is going to be key in his career for the Brighton basketball team.
“For him to get in there, take up some space and be aggressive, I think it’s important for the other team to see that, for him to get in there and bang around," Coleman said.
Bench Depth: Late in the game, Brookline had some opportunities to score off of Brighton’s missed shots, passes that didn’t make it to their intended targets and rebounds that were simply taken out of the Brighton players’ hands -– but they could not score off many of these opportunities.
This tactic, of putting in bench players such as seniors Tre Dowman and Anderson Teneus, as well as underclassmen like Mojica and Nate Hogan, is a building exercise and is a risk that Coleman carefully calculated.
“We’re trying to balance, making sure that we get our guys in and making sure that we’re developing guys that are on our bench. We can’t expect to go deep into the season or in the playoff and not have a solid bench and role players to get in there with confidence,” Coleman said.
Déjà Vu: The last loss Brookline took was at the hands of BC High, 53-58, on December 19th. During that game, as with tonight’s loss, the Warriors were unable to play well in the third quarter and never recovered.
“Brighton took it to the basket more during that stretch and our guys didn’t responds as well as I’d like to see,” said Brookline coach Mark Fiedor. “After the third it ended up playing out even."
Unfortunately for the Warriors, when you are behind you need to play better than the other team to overcome them, not as good. Brookline boasts a mostly junior squad, and suited up played three seniors tonight. Fiedor hopes that this scenario does not become a regular showing for his team as they are preparing for league play.