CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- It was a scene that drives just about every high school coach nuts. With 1:37 to go and Everett nursing a seven-point lead over archrival Cambridge at the famed War Memorial Gymnasium, Everett's Tyree Gregory saw an opportunity in a 2-on-1 fast break to slam it home and send the fevered Crimson Tide crowd into overdrive.
Naturally, the senior slasher took off from a spot that even a young Vince Carter might have missed from, the ball sailed off the rim and about 30 feet the opposite way, then Cambridge's Fredens Deneus scooped in a put-back at the other end to make it a five-point game with less than 90 seconds to go.
Everett coach John DiBiaso could only stand and watch, hands on top of his head, clutching his gray hairs, cringing his teeth. For a few moments there, one had to wonder if DiBiaso's potential 400th win milestone was slipping away.
"That's why I'm on fish oil," DiBiaso laughed later. "He played a good game otherwise."
At the end of the day, though, the long-time Crimson Tide coach ended up breathing easy, as the the Falcons twice turned the ball over in the ensuing two possessions, leading to a plethora of Tide free throws. Everett (7-4) made eight of 10 free throws in the final minute, and 15 of 19 overall in the final frame, to pull away 78-69 to take first place in the Greater Boston League.
The win also marks career No. 400 for DiBiaso, putting him in elite company among the MIAA coaching fraternity. DiBiaso is the only coach in Massachusetts with both 400 wins in basketball and over 250 wins in football.
And how does it feel? DiBiaso was his typically-subdued self.
"Old," he laughed. "I'm old."
But seriously, "It's very rewarding for the kids. It's a nice way to do it, I'm really happy for my team. We had a horrible season last year, we were 5-15, we had mostly young kids, inexperienced, some teams really put it to us. They've grown up in a year."
The Falcons (5-6) cut it to 68-64 with 1:24 to go on a corner three-pointer from Robell Gebeyehu. On the ensuing inbounds pass, Everett's Gilly De Souza was trapped deep at the sideline, but made the most crucial hockey assist of the evening with a long lob over the top of the Cambridge press, finding junior Timmance McKinney (20 points) deep. The guard then fed Ridley Renois (nine points, eight rebounds) with a quick dish across the paint for an easy lay-in, and 70-64 lead.
Cambridge was called for a double-dribble the next trip down, putting the Falcons in foul mode with under a minute to go. De Souza, Renois and McKinney all hit their free throws down the stretch to put the game out of reach.
Everett also got contributions from sophomore Gary Clark (11 points), junior Marquis Holman (10 points). Cambridge was led in scoring by the 6-foot-6 junior Deneus (15 points, 16 rebounds) and sophomore guard Isaiah McLeod (13 points).
Diamond makes it rough: After the first five minutes, Cambridge held a 15-6 lead. The rest of the way, however, the Tide outscored the Falcons 72-54.
A big part of that was the efficiency of the Tide's press the final 26 minutes. Everett loves to utilize a modified 1-3-1 trap look, otherwise known as the "diamond trap", and from the end of the first quarter on was able to force a slew of turnovers, stalling ballhandlers along the sidelines and ripping the ball loose for some quick transition baskets.
"The key with that is we do it the whole game," DiBiaso said. "So it might not work in the beginning, but hopefully over time you wear the other team down, with fouls and attrition and things. You kinda wear on them physically, and it works at the end. We had spurts where it worked well, and others where it didn't, but we just live and die by it."
That pressure, in turn, led to cleanly-flowing play in transition. The weak-side post was consistently left open in odd breaks, and the Tide continually attacked it with bounce passes for some easy bunnies.
"The key is to get by the first guy," DiBiaso said. "I thought Gilly [De Souza] did a great job, Marquis [Holman], and Timmance [McKinney], going by their man, and when they went by their man they were very unselfish passing the ball. That's what I thought was key to the game. Our guards were unselfish, they gave the ball up and got our big guys involved. I thought McKinney made some unbelievable passes."
No free throw woes (for now): In total, Everett was 24-of-33 from the charity stripe, including the 15-of-19 margin in the fourth quarter. But that's not the norm, as DiBiaso will tell you.
"We've been preaching it all year -- you know, we're less than 50 percent from the line," DiBiaso said. "So tonight was great. I'll take tonight."