WORCESTER, Mass. -– Seventh-ranked New Mission traveled to Worcester on Wednesday night to take on No. 13 ranked St. Peter-Marian. The Titans, behind a balanced scoring attack, beat the Guardians 65-41 after four 8-minute quarters.
Titans’ pressure too much
New Mission built an early lead thanks to their halfcourt trap, which helped contain star sophomore Makai Ashton (12 points) in the first half and senior sharpshooter Connor Brown (3 points) throughout the game. A lot of the turnovers came via Shaquan Murray (18 points), Asante Sandiford (11 points), and Tyrique Lee (10 points), as a result, the Titans’ scoring trio was able to benefit off the turnovers and finish several easy lay-ups in transition.
"Definitely the difference," New Mission coach Cory McCarthy said, "We’re just fast man, ever since we started practicing I wake up hoping that the speed doesn’t go away. We’re so fast I think I’m dreaming, and they’re so smart. We’re not big, but you can just feel the pressure around after awhile. We want it so that everybody is uncomfortable. We just want to make people feel uncomfortable this year."
McCarthy has had some talented teams in years past, but for the last two seasons have faltered down the stretch because of injuries. With a deep and talented lineup that allows him to rotate in fresh defenders, the coach hopes to wear opposing teams down with their halfcourt pressure.
"The more mayhem the better, we want 32 minutes of absolutely Hell, of mayhem—that’s how we want it to be this year," McCathy said, "Even if we’re down 40, we’re still gonna be trapping and pressing."
SPM coach Marcus Watson noticed the pressure right away and acknowledged it as a major reason for the Titans being able to pull away. The Guardians ball handlers faltered often to New Mission’s halfcourt pressure, but it was the type of competition that Watson wanted his team to see.
"I think they’re pressure D was great. The only thing we’re working on right now, we have a small gym, was just working on our motion offense. I have not put any special plays in, any sets, so this was something that we needed," Watson said, "New Mission, I have a lot of respect for Cory and what he does with those kids. They’re tenacious, they’re well-coached, and he’s doing a great job."
Murray, Rivers get it done
Murray didn’t just get it done defensively on Wednesday, he also helped lead the Titans’ offense in a very efficient shooting night. Whether it was finishing tough lay-ups in transition, shooting off the dribble, or hitting some deep jumpshots, Murray helped keep the Guardians defense in check every time he was on the floor.
McCarthy had plenty of praise for his star shooting guard after the scrimmage.
"He probably played half the game. That’s his nature, you’ll never know but he just gets baskets. That’s what he does, he gets baskets. He doesn’t try anything he can’t do, I’m always happy with him. He’s one of the few kids I’m always happy with, and I’m a miserable guy."
Rivers, a bruising 6-foot-4 power forward who goes by "Bam", scored 14 points for the Titans—including a perfect 2-for-2 from behind the three-point arc. With great vision down low and quick instincts, Rivers was able to facilitate from the paint for all the scorers around him.
"Yeah, he can hit [threes]," McCarthy said, "He’s the best passing big guy around. He can pass the ball, he can set one hell of a screen, he can shoot, he can post up."
Said Watson, "We’ll be a different team Saturday"
The Guardians will need to get it together quickly, with top-ranked Putnam on the schedule on Saturday at the Pioneer Valley Tip-off. Putnam, the defending Division 1 state champion who returns a boatload of talent, will be looking for make an early statement on Saturday against the Guardians -- one of the most talented teams in the state.
"This is exactly what we needed, there’s a reason we wanted to play New Mission before this Saturday, and we’re not going to see pressure like that again. We’ll be okay, we’ll bounce back, my kids are resilient and that’ exactly what we needed," Watson said.
The Guardians will have two days of practice to prepare for Putnam, but for now Watson wants to focus on gradually getting better as a whole. SPM got severely outrebounded and shot a much lower percentage from the floor than New Mission, so Watson is looking to make sure his team his more prepared next time they take the court.
"I know we have great guard play, we need to do a better job collectively as a team, helping out on defense, boxing out, pushing the ball in transition -- just coachable, correctable things," Watson said. "There was nothing from a talent standpoint that I was worried about, it was an effort thing that we have to address."