Recap: No. 18 N. Andover 52, No. 17 Eastie 43

NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. — North Andover put the clamps down on East Boston (8-3) in the fourth quarter to score a 52-43 victory last night at Crozier Gynmansium.

The Scarlet Knights held the Jets to 24 percent shooting in the second half, and didn’t allow a field goal over the final 3:35 of regulation to move their record to 7-1 on the season. The joy of victory could be seen all over the face of Scarlet Knights head coach Mike McVeigh afterwards, as his team displayed the defensive gameplan to perfection in the final moments of the game.

“Defensively, 43 points,” said McVeigh, referring to their opponents final output. “We respect them, I respect their coach, and we played our best game of the year.”

McVeigh’s defense was hard to decipher for most of the night, as it looked like his team was coming out in a 1-3-1. But something was different about this look, as he would have one or two of his players freelancing out of the zone to blanket the East Boston shooters whenever their deep threats were on the court.

The strategy worked as the game wore on, and maybe as fatigue kicked in for the Jets’ seven-to-eight man rotation, as the Scarlet Knights forced four big turnovers down the stretch.

“It was a match [matchup zone] more than a 1-3-1,” McVeigh explained. “It was a 1-2-2, but we match on it. If they go 1-3-1, then we are in a 1-3-1 and we’ll come up on it. But we mixed both the zone stuff and the man stuff, and the kids did a great job. I can say everything I want, but it’s those guys that executed.”

“We wanted to keep them on their toes and keep switching our defenses so they didn’t know what to expect,” added Scarlet Knights junior center Isaiah Nelsen. “All week coach kept talking about mental toughness and we had to be mentally tough and we knew that we were physically ready for this game and it was all about the mental part. We dug deep and we ended up getting those stops that were key.”

Nelsen off the blocks: In pregame warm-ups, the 6-foot-6-inch Nelsen was working on the blocks and practicing ways to get his shooters open looks.

That gameplan never materialized.

Nelsen was held to 16 points ,and the offense had to find different ways to get people involved because of the press and tough on-the-ball defense that the Jets displayed for the majority of the night.

“They are a very quick team and they are a very good defensive team,” said Nelsen. “We just had to work harder.”

The Scarlet Knights used good ball movement to find open shooters and create good lanes to drive through against the Jets defense.

“We weren’t going to beat the guys off the bounce,” said McVeigh. “We used the passing game and it was effective.”

Nelsen stepped back for a big 3-point shot with just over three-minutes to go for a six-point lead and Brendan Miller took advantage of a lane with a strong fake to get to the rim and stretch the lead to 51-42 with over a minute to go.

Jets keep composure: Eastie plays at a breakneck speed on defense, and at times that speed catches up to them on the offensive end, with the results sometimes good and sometimes bad.

But for three quarters last night the Jets played composed and played within themselves to hold a 27-20 lead at the half. The Jets moved the ball around well and hit their outside shots in the first half, including a first quarter buzzer beating 3-pointer by Ian Jones for a 16-7 lead after one.

“Ofcourse I’m not happy with the loss, but we were very poised today,” said Jets head coach Malcolm Smith. “We were strong defensively. … We just broke down with 3:30 left.”