BOSTON -– To put it bluntly, New Mission’s loss to Queens, N.Y. power Christ the King on Thursday night was as disappointing as it was aggravating for Coach Cory McCarthy. Following a game where they were unable to work the ball in the post as they wanted, McCarthy said major changes needed to be made going forward.
After seeing how the Titans played against Mansfield on Friday night, consider those changes made -- for now, at least.
“Getting our butts kicked yesterday really put things in perspective for our guys and realize ‘hey, it’s all of us, or none of us,” McCarthy said.
After losing on Thursday, New Mission came back on Friday night with a big-time statement win over fourth-ranked Mansfield, coming back in the second half and winning 60-54 to move to 4-2 overall.
Sophomore Juwan Gooding led a very balanced Titan scoring attack with 15 points; he was one of three New Mission players to finish in double figures.
After a heroic performance over Amityville on Thursday, Greg Romanko was essentially silent against New Mission on Friday. The senior forward hit just one shot the entire game, a three-pointer midway through the fourth quarter.
Young and talented: Mansfield’s sophomore forward Brendan Hill was phenomenal, finishing with 22 point and 12 rebounds in one of the Hornets’ biggest games of the year to date. A long 6-foot-5 forward who can put the ball on the floor and shoot the three, Hill has already asserted himself as one of the best players in the MIAA.
New Mission’s sophomore stud, Gooding, showed quite an improvement following his disappointing performance against Christ the King. A combo guard who is a lights out shooter and can score with either hand, McCarthy was much happier with Gooding’s shot selection following the win against Mansfield.
“He’s a natural scorer, we’re asking him to come out of his element, but he’s our only point guard right now…he delivered,” McCarthy said.
The always-colorful McCarthy made sure to keep an even keel though, especially with his young guard standing by his side.
“Oh, he played good? He was alright," he said, as Gooding stood at his side nodding. "I’m trying to get him to understand there’s basketball beyond making those three-point shots. I can’t say I’m proud of him, because there’s more to go, and there’s a lot of improvement to be made, but I’m definitely happy."
Anderson, Coleman boost defense: New Mission forward Nate Anderson has shown that he is a completely different player from the player we saw last year – a player who was unpredictable, checked out of possessions, and often had questionable effort.
The senior came up huge tonight, stopping Romanko and holding him to one basket. New Mission’s offense certainly doesn’t lack scorers, and that was a point McCarthy made to Anderson going into the game.
“With Nate, you have to give Nate one job, and his one job was to guard their best perimeter player…it was to take [Romanko] away, and take [Michael Boen] away. We had Nate go with [Romanko] or [Boen] tonight,” he said. “I saw the BC High game, and [Romakno and Boen] were killing BC. That was the biggest part of our gameplan: limit the three point shot.”
Boen didn’t fare any better than Romanko did, the sophomore didn’t hit a shot all night and only compiled three rebounds, going 0 for 6 from the field.
Forward Isshiah Coleman had a similar impact as Anderson, coming into the game and putting a halt to Mansfield’s elaborate offensive scheme. Coleman, also a star football player for the Titans, showed with his long, strong 6-foot-4 frame that he can be an x-factor off the bench when McCarthy needs a rebound, a defensive stop, or, as Coleman so often does, an energy-injected slam dunk.
“Whenever Isshiah gets a dunk, the energy’s coming," McCarthy said. "He waved me off in terms of switching Nate onto [Hill] for one possession, and he got a block. I knew from there we would get the energy we wanted out of him. He’s been the invisible man up until now, but I think he delivered tonight on the defensive end.”
Making a statement: The New Mission coach wasn’t quick to give compliments out to his team after the win, but respectful praise was deemed due to Mansfield coach Mike Vaughan, McCarthy even joked that he may have to take some of Vaughn’s sets and implement them with his own team.
“Mansfield, in my opinion, has the best high school coach in Massachusetts,” McCarthy said, “So it was good to be able to match up with them, they’ve got a lot of sets, they’ve got a lot of good players, they get the best out of their players, and they shoot the three-ball really well.”
In terms simply of individual talent, New Mission may be the best team on paper, in the state. Putting that talent together though, making them play a selfless offensive game and a scrappy defensive one, has been an uphill battle at points for McCarthy.
In past games, the Titans have emphasized before the game to use their size advantage, especially with guys like Anderson, Coleman, and Chima Ebele roaming around in the paint. However, they haven’t been able to execute that gameplan, often taking misguided jumpers and disregarding the clear size advantage that they have down low.
“This is the first time that our kids have stuck to the gameplan throughout the entire game," McCarthy said. "We’re out of control sometimes, but this is what happens when we’re under control."
Several players ended the game with cuts on their hands and blood on their jerseys, Ebele was limited in the second half because he was dealing with his asthma, but the Titans were able to prevail against a very tough Mansfield squad.
New Mission will conclude their brutal three-game stretch tomorrow, taking on Windsor (Conn.) at the BABC Holiday Classic. It’s a big opportunity for the Titans and a game they would love to win, but McCarthy was relieved that his team was able to take down a fellow MIAA power to add some confidence going into the showdown with Windsor.
“We needed this one bad, more than some countries need water,” McCarthy joked, “We were willing to bleed for it.”