SHARON, Mass. -– After the first half every one of the 1,000-plus in attendance at Sharon High was exhausted. Quincy led by seven after a hellacious first 16 minutes that took just 25 real minutes to play, and the host Eagles seemed out of sorts trying to contend with Quincy’s shooters.
A change in defensive strategy and a brilliant second half from junior guards James Fritzon and Brian Mukasa turned the tide and powered Sharon to a 78-61 win in Division 2 South quarterfinal action.
Mukasa was everywhere for the Eagles piling up a game-high 23 points, three steals, seven rebounds, and dishing out a pair of assists. Fritzon added 20 points, including eight from the foul line, and a pair of blocks.
“These kids refuse to lose,” Sharon coach Bruce Jackman said. “There’s real cohesiveness to this whole group. They do things together; they get along with each other. It’s fun to be around them every day.”
Down 40-33 at half, the Eagles changed from their 3-2 matchup zone to a 1-1-3 that saw Fritzon match up with Quincy’s guards and allow Brian Lawrence and the bigs to clog the middle. The switch paid dividends for the Eagles.
“There have been games against quality teams where we haven’t given up 40 points in a game,” Jackman said. “So we talked at halftime about making a better commitment in the second half; obviously the kids took it to heart, and we did a much better job in the second half.”
The Presidents had four players in double figures, but only Jaquan Harris and Brendan Cunningham were able to score more than five points in the second half. Harris finished with a team-high 15 points and Cunningham had 12. Colin Evans and Tino Goncalves added 10 and 12 points respectively.
Quincy coach David Parry said he was surprised how much trouble his squad had with the switch.
“We got into some trouble with their zone in the second half, which kind of surprised me; I thought we would have been able to open it up,” Parry said. “They made a nice run to take the lead and we just couldn’t find the basket at that point.”
ELEVEN MINUTES OF CHAOS
The first quarter lasted only 11 minutes, but when the dust settled Quincy led 25-21 after a frame in which no one could miss. The teams combined for 20 made field goals. The longest stretch of time between a bucket was 47 seconds.
“When everything’s going that fast you keep the mind going slow,” Mukasa said. “I came out, had a couple turnovers, and that’s not me. We settled down, executed, and do what we do.”
Mukasa’s coach wasn’t as nonchalant about what transpired during the first eight minutes.
“We prided ourselves on playing great defense all season long so I was a little distraught that no one was playing any defense whatsoever at the top,” Jackman said.
BARTAS STEPS UP
Sharon big man Kevin Bartas was a terror for the Eagles. Racking up 16 points, six rebounds, five blocks, and a steal, Bartas was able to control the paint and force the Presidents to stay in the game from the outside.
“I started, all along as a defensive player, and this year I’ve picked up my scoring,” Bartas said. “That’s a lot of working practice, working on individual skills, and in a game like this with the energy from the crowd I really get a chance to step up.”
With a semifinal date against top-seeded Scituate on Tuesday night, Bartas said he relishes being the underdog.
“We come from the Hockomock, one of the toughest leagues in the state, so we can go in as a dark horse, surprise some teams, and make some noise,” Bartas said. “We love being the underdog.”