LOWELL, Mass. -- Things didn’t look good for No. 7 Everett (14-8) early, as the Crimson Tide trailed 8-0 to open Friday night’s Division 1 North quarterfinal game against No. 2 Lowell. But things quickly turned around following a timeout by long-time coach John DiBisao.
“We were playing like girls, that’s all coach had to say,” said senior captain Tyree Gregory. “We had to step it up.”
The visiting Crimson Tide did exactly that, going on an 11-0 run of their own, and a 14-1 run to end the quarter giving them a 14-9 lead at the end of one.
Everett never looked back, leading the rest of the game, holding off a fierce Lowell rally for a 56-48 upset win before a capacity crowd at the Lowell High School field house.
“We didn’t rotate at the end of the press -- we kind of stood around,” DiBiaso said. “I called a time out and we settled down. We turned it around and all of a sudden went up 14-9, and then we just held it the rest of the way.”
Defense was the key to Everett’s success as they forced 14 Red Raider first half turnovers, primarily because of their patented diamond-trap press and took a commanding 29-18 lead at halftime.
Lowell would not go down without a fight as they gave everything they had in the second half, including two free throws by senior Jonathan Perez with 4:33 remaining cutting the deficit to six, but that was as close as they would come.
Everett played solid defense, and made their free throws down the stretch to hold on for the eight-point win. The Crimson Tide played ten different players, which may have played a role in being able to hold off the Lowell comeback bid.
“We knew they were going to come back, we told them they are going to make a run sooner or later, they are too good of a team,” said DiBisao. “But, we wanted to keep the pressure on them, play tough defense and push the ball. We used ten guys and I thought we were a little fresher so we wanted to keep the heat on.”
The Crimson Tide held Lowell to just 37 percent shooting from the floor (16-for-43) and only 24 percent (4-for-17) when it mattered most in the fourth quarter. They also forced 21 turnovers.
Everett on the other hand shot 45 percent from the field (22-for-49) and knocked down their free throws going 7-for-9 on the night.
Gregory led Everett with 17 points, including a nice, cherry-picked dunk early on the fourth quarter. Sophomore Gary Clark contributed 14, and junior guard Timmance McKinney added 13.
“This is the first time for these kids being in a big game situation. I thought they stepped up and settled down after the timeout after gathering their thoughts and settling down doing everything I asked them to,” said DiBisao.
Everett came to the game in style with a police escort, two coach busses, as well as a school bus carrying a large number of Everett students.
“Man, I felt like an NBA player, even though I am not even close to that, I still felt like one,” Gregory said.
For Lowell, it was a tough way to end their season, a season in which they went 18-4 and proved many people wrong.
“It wasn’t our best game for sure,” said Lowell coach Scott Boyle. “It was definitely a great effort and I think when we put ourselves in a hole like that it’s tough. It was like any little thing that could have gotten us over the top, but didn’t....There were some things in there that when you kind of look at the game it was almost like things were happening for them. [Everett is] a very good team and they played hard. I am proud of my guys, they never quit and we were right there in the last minute.”
Senior center Drew Healy paced Lowell with 17 points, including some monstrous dunks, while Perez added 15 in a losing effort.
“I don’t think anyone was saying anything about Lowell before the year,” Boyle said. “We have eight or nine seniors and they came out and worked hard everyday. They never took a day off and I thought towards the end of the year we really got in a pretty good groove, but tonight when I look at it, it was like there was a rim on the basket for us at times and when they turn around [Everett] knocked down a couple of shots when they needed it.”
BACK IN THE SADDLE
With the win it is Everett’s first trip to the Division 1 North semifinals in four years and before this year had only one tournament win since 2009 when now Kentucky star, and NBA hopeful Nerlens Noel was leading the team.
“It feels very good, I am very happy for the kids,” DiBisao said. “We set our sights high at the beginning of the season after last year was kind of disappointing. We’ve been on a hangover for a couple of years since Nerlens (Noel) left, so this is a great way to get off that hangover.”
Everett will now face Lynn English in a Division 1 North semifinal matchup with both a date and time TBA. The bracket is anyone’s to take as the top three seeds have now been eliminated.