QUINCY, Mass. -- Every day over this past summer, North Quincy forward Efthim Butka rose early from his bed with this basketball season on his mind. Originally, the plan was to put on some size and some strength to benefit his low-post game.
As the summer wore on, the plan evolved into something more -- and his offseason workouts resulted in his game not being played just inside the paint anymore, but out well beyond the 3-point line.
“It’s very new,” Butka said. “I’ve been working on it all off-season. I saw how effective it was with Dan (Gould) last year.It really showed me that if you have an overall game you can be a bigger threat and that’s what I wanted to be.”
On Friday night, as the No. 22 Red Raiders downed cross-town rival Quincy, 72-64, Butka showed the Presidents what his overall game was capable of as he poured in a game-high 27 points to go with 10 rebounds, seven assists, two steals and two blocks.
Butka’s 3-point shooting -- he hit six times from behind the arc -- ensured the Presidents (2-1) wouldn’t complete an impressive second half comeback.
“A lot of people didn’t expect to see this, but he worked so hard in the offseason to extend his range and develop his game,” said North Quincy coach Kevin Barrett. “That’s a new piece now that he has as a weapon. It’s going to be pretty hard to defend going forward, I would say.”
“None of our scouting reports had Butka throwing up three,” said Quincy coach Dave Parry. “We concentrated on his down low stuff, because he’s very good down low. When he pops up and he’s got James (Lam) in his face, I can’t ask for any more than that.”
Friday may have served as a coming out party for Butka’s newly minted skill set, but it’s one that didn’t happen by chance, and it certainly didn’t happen overnight.
“Every day, I was shooting for about three hours straight -- threes, twos, just everything,” said Butka. “I really worked on my shot off the dribble because I can’t just be a catch and shoot shooter, people would just lock me down. The three came along with, I don’t know, maybe a 1,000 shots a day.”
For North Quincy, that improved range meant stymying an improbable comeback attempt. Just before halftime, the Red Raiders opened up what appeared to be an insurmountable 16-point lead.
After the Presidents outscored them, 22-7, in the third quarter, NQ headed for the fourth clinging to a one-point lead.
On the opening possession, Butka took a pass about five behind the arc, straight on, and let loose another arcing shot toward the hoop. His fourth 3-point of the contest snapped through the twine.
“At a certain point, it just feels like you’re throwing the ball into an ocean,” Butka said. “It just felt automatic, I didn’t hesitate for a second.”
That was just as true two other times in the fourth when Quincy slipped into the lead, briefly. His final two 3’s of the game both erased deficits for North Quincy, ensuring they’d remain unbeaten.
Teammate Matt Gerakis, who added 15 points, also connected on a lead-changing fourth quarter 3-pointer.
North Quincy also got 13 points and eight rebounds from 6-foot-9 center Anthony Green, as well as 11 points and seven assists from speedy point guard Kyle Richardson.
PRESIDENTS' RACE FOR VICTORY FOILED
The Presidents knew they’d dug themselves quite a hole headed into halftime, and set to use the third quarter to work back into contention.
“I’m proud of the way the kids came back,” said Parry. “I asked them to cut the lead to eight. I just thought if we went into the fourth down only eight, we’d have a chance to win. They did better and got it down to one.”
Shifting out of a trap-based zone full court press into a man-to-man coverage one wreaked havoc on the Red Raiders offense in the third, forcing a bevy of turnovers and less than desirable shots.
“We tried to contain Kyle a little bit, we switched up our press a little bit and tried to take the ball away from and make somebody else make some plays,” said Parry. “For the most part, it worked. The man to man gave them less open looks. They worked harder for everything they got in the second half.”
Lam was perhaps the biggest key to the second half surge, acting as the President’s do everything Swiss Army knife. He poured in 13 points to go with eight rebounds, seven assists, three steals and two blocks.
“James was the quarterback of our football team, and he sees everything out there,” said Parry. “He sees the whole court and just always knows where to be.”
J.T. Bain notched a team-high 18 points and Brendan Cunningham chipped in with 10 in the loss.