CHARLESTOWN, Mass. -- Charlestown's Omar Orriols stepped behind the three-point line along the right wing, and a wry smile came across his visage as he went for his third three-point attempt of the first quarter against archrival East Boston.
After weeks of getting needled by head coach Edson Cardoso about being more assertive with the ball -- a point the two discussed further while he was serving an undisclosed suspension the previous two weeks -- Orriols came out blazing with this: a perfect 3-for-3 start from long distance.
"That felt hot, baby," he laughed later about the shot. "That felt hot. Real good. That felt good."
And so just over a month after getting embarrassed into a 17-for-56 effort from the field in their first meeting with the Jets, and just weeks after playing some of their most uninspired basketball in lopsided losses to St. Peter-Marian and Madison Park, the Townies are roaring back. Behind an even sheet from leading scorers Tyrese Hoxter (17 points), Rony Fernandez (15) and Orriols (15), the Townies (10-3) qualified for postseason with a 73-66 win over Eastie (9-4).
"We succumbed to their pressure [in the first meeting], but I felt like we were under control today," Cardoso said. "We had some turnovers, but not as many as 27 the first time we played Eastie."
As for the more inspired effort on the offensive end from Orriols, who finished 4-of-7 from deep, Cardoso was pleased.
"I told Omar when he gets going with shots, when he's wide open and takes it, it helps us a lot," Cardoso said. "Because he creates a spark. And once he hits one or two 3-pointers, the defense comes out and Tyrese can drive to the basket, and so can Rony. So when he hits three's, it helps us out on offense."
The Townies led 19-10 after one quarter, and 39-24 at the half. In the third quarter, Orriols and Fernandez hit back-to-back three's from opposite wings to take a 45-33 lead. Their shooting, combined with a 2-3 zone -- which looked more crisp than their first experiment with it in Saturday's win over Fitchburg -- gave the Jets problems all night. When they weren't chasing defenders and surrendering points from the weakside due to lack of help defense, they were struggling to hit shots from spots around the elbow.
"[We] didn't close out properly, Omar Orriols cooked us for three 3's...from there we were just scrambling to get back," Eastie head coach Malcolm Smith said. "With the team today -- and this is the first time here at East Boston that I though we had our guys a little timid tonight. We were very scared, to put it point blank.
"I thought we had a great preparation for this, and I don't know if it was the large crowd or what have you, but jitters set into them. When jitters set into them, we just aren't the same team."
Zack Gattereau (11 points) cut Charlestown's lead to 68-64 with 35 seconds to go when he picked his man's pocket at midcourt, off a deflection, picked up a foul on the way up to a breakaway layup, and converted the three-point play. But Hoxter and Orriols both made their free throws down the stretch to ice the win.
Will March led the Jets with 17 points, while Kenny Ramos added 10.
Energy guy: With long arms for his 6-foot-6 frame, flowing dreadlocks and an inclination for chirpiness, Charlestown junior forward Tyrik Jackson serves as the team's spark plug around the paint. The frenetic post player recorded 18 points, 11 rebounds, three blocks, and marked improvement in his assignments playing the middle of Cardoso's zone defense.
In Saturday's win over Fitchburg, Jackson gave up too many easy baskets from the weakside, and was slow to react at times against diagonal passes. Cardoso told ESPNBoston.com following that game it would be a point of emphasis in Monday's practice; and true to his word, the problem was fixed, as Jackson maintained body control and used his long frame to deny penetration and force redirections to the corners.
Three of his eight baskets were overhead slam dunks. When he wasn't doing that, he was jawing it up at times with the fans from Eastie, mocking their various anti-Charlestown chants. All of it comes as a spirit that helps carry the Townies.
"Tyrik man, he's definitely the X-factor of the team," Orriols said. "Without him, it's going to be hard to crowd the boards, to block shots. Tyrik is dominant down low for us."
Said Cardoso, "Having him out there, 6-6 in the middle, he gives us a lot of energy and confidence...Tyrik brings it every day in practice, and brings it every game."
Long way to go for Grullon, but intriguing: One of the most interesting storylines to keep an eye on over the next year is the development of Charlestown's 6-foot-10 New York City transfer, junior Jon Grullon, who checked into the game in the second quarter to a loud ovation from the crowd. Built like an offensive lineman but with very limited mobility due to knock knees and conditioning, he only saw eight minutes of action and visibly has a ways to go to developing into a post player.
In one of his first possessions on the floor, Grullon hunched into position on a jump shot, only to watch his defender nearly a foot shorter than him easily mettle his way in front and out-jump him for the rebound. A few possessions later, Jackson fed Grullon a perfect touch pass across the paint that skipped off his hands out of bounds. When the Townies went to the line for free throws, Grullon often retreated to the other end rather than line up on the blocks.
Grullon just got his first action last week in a win over Snowden, and high school hoops is still fairly new to him. Grullon transferred into Charlestown last summer from Boys and Girls High, a nationally-recognized powerhouse out of the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, but never played a minute on the basketball team, according to Cardoso.
As for the knees, he has three more games before shuts it down on February 8 and undergoes surgery on his right knee, where a screw will be inserted to stabilize the knee, which lacks a good amount of cartilage. The plan is to rehab for "three or four months", according to Cardoso.
"Getting him mobile, getting him to understand the game of basketball is what we're trying to do with him right now," Cardoso said.
The knee problem might scare off some college coaches, but there is reason to keep tabs, however loose, on the big man. For one, he is a legitimate 6-foot-10 with a wide body.
And for another, he's apparently a decent swimmer. Asked about his conditioning, Cardoso points with his thumb to the swimming pool down the stairs from the gymnasium and says, "When you see him in the pool, he's very active."
Added Orriols, "Oh yeah, he works out there a lot, man."