LOWELL, Mass. -– In a highly-anticipated matchup between two of the state’s best sophomores, Lowell’s Kareem Davis and New Bedford’s Tyree Weston, the host Red Raiders won in grand fashion, blowing out visiting New Bedford by the surreal margin of 93-39.
The Whalers (3-1) were able to keep the game within relative striking distance early on while Lowell 6-foot-8 center Drew Healy was on the bench with foul trouble, but Lowell started to develop some momentum and pull away in the second quarter thanks to three first-half treys from senior guard Kevin Brito, a skying dunk by DeWayne Thomas, and exceptional point guard play by Davis. Following the first half, Lowell (3-0) led 49-31.
As Healy got more involved with the offense in the third quarter, the Red Raiders started to blow New Bedford out of the gym in the second half, with Lowell’s subs playing the large majority of the fourth quarter. Thomas took on an important scoring role in the second half for Lowell, scoring 11 of his 13 points in the second half; all of his points came by way of lay-ups, runners, or dunks.
Life without Healy: Healy got in foul trouble early on in the first half, so as a result Lowell had to play the majority of the half without their senior big man on the floor. Lowell changed up their offensive game a little bit with Healy, and went with a dribble-drive five out offense.
Brito finished with five treys in all -- three of which were assisted by Davis -- but Lowell’s unselfish willingness to make the extra pass and get teammates open looks was the most striking part of their offensive performance. Five Red Raiders finished the game in double figures.
Head coach Scott Boyle couldn’t help but praise his team’s play with the ball.
“That’s what you’re hoping for," he said. "And it isn’t always like that...But when it happens it’s nice to see, and that’s what we’re trying to coach. That’s what the kids did tonight, they executed and it was really nice to see,” he said.
Davis’ development: When considering the depth of the MIAA’s sophomore class, the fact that Davis may be the best point guard in the group is a true testament to his on-court maturity. The 5-foot-9 Davis was the catalyst of the Red Raiders’ offense in the first half, dropping 6 assists over that span and scoring 9 points. Finishing with 12 points and 8 dimes in all, Boyle said it was the type of breakout performance that he had been looking for in his point guard:
“I really thought tonight was the first time where [Kareem] came out and played the way he’s capable of playing,” he said, “The first couple games he struggled a little but, but [tonight] I thought he really made a commitment on defense. He did a good job distributing and shooting the ball when he was open. I like the way he played.”
Lockdown defense: Lowell gave up just eight points in the second half, as New Bedford was only able to score three field goals in the final 16 minutes of the game. The long, athletic Raiders put constant pressure on New Bedford’s guards, setting up in a 2-1-2 stretch zone that trapped the Whalers on the free throw line extended.
“That three or four-minute span in the second half really got us going," Boyle said. "Tonight, a lot of things went right for us, and we work hard, so you deserve it every once in awhile."
Boyle said he hopes that his team can continue their strong defense and unselfish play that they displayed tonight, and they’ll certainly need it playing in the buzzsaw that is the Merrimack Valley Conference; Andover narrowly took down North Andover last night, Central Catholic is position to take over the No. 1 spot in week’s top 25, and Lawrence returns a talented, experienced group.
“When our kids get in the game they want to play as hard as they can, and that creates problems for some teams,” Boyle said, “tonight I thought they gelled and played well together and made that extra pass.”