BOSTON -- From the opening tip-off on Friday afternoon, Cambridge made it very clear who had the upper hand.
Led by point guard Isaiah McLeod, big man Fredens Deneus (13 points, 12 rebounds) as well as Diandre Shoulder-Williams (14 points) and Tevin Charles (13 points, 8 rebounds), the Falcons (2-0) blew out Springfield Central (1-2) 78-46 at the BABC Holiday Classic.
This win came in similar fashion to Cambridge’s first win, a runaway 101-70 victory over West Roxbury last week.
“It’s definitely a satisfying win, it being so early in the season and playing against a quality opponent. That’s what I’m trying to express to these young men, that you want to play against the best competition,” Cambridge coach Lance Dottin said.
The Falcons’ swarming pressure defense left Springfield Central to scramble for baskets in the first half, Cambridge made a living off of forcing turnovers, playing the fast break, and converting lay-ups or free throws at the other end. Despite having a deep stable of guards who can shoot it from behind the arc, the Falcons only attempted four three-pointers.
In what seemed like the blink of an eye, Cambridge jumped out to a 37-11 halftime lead. It was all according to plan, according to Dottin.
“We just really wanted to spread the floor a little bit against Central and look to find the open man and advance the ball if we could," Dottin said. "So that we could take advantage of the numbers on the fast break.”
Baldwin vs. Deneus: One of the biggest storylines in this one was the play in the post, with the 6-foot-6 Deneus facing off against Central’s Chris Baldwin -- two of the top big men in the state. Deneus got the best of Baldwin for the most part, asserting himself as the most dominant rebounder on the floor while also finishing a few high-rising dunks and lay-ups.
Deneus wasn’t a prospect seen on the AAU circuit in July, leaving him flying under the radar. But with several top Division 3 as well as a few Division 2 programs recruiting him, Dottin sees his big man as a potential break-out star in the MIAA this year.
“I thought Fredens was sensational today. Fredens, in a lot of ways, is a best-kept secret. He’s a kid who in my opinion is a scholarship kid who maybe a few people missed the boat on, but as they come around this year they’ll see,” Dottin said. “Especially on the defensive end, for most great teams that’s where it starts, and Fredens is a great defensive player.”
Baldwin was unable to do much scoring for the Golden Eagles, but often managed to make his presence felt in other ways, totaling 8 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 blocks.
“They had a big presence in the middle, their big fella must have had five or six blocks -- he’s a good young player and he’s only going to get better,” Dottin said of Baldwin.
Be the best, beat the best: The game against Central is a warm-up for what would end up being Cambridge’s toughest game of the regular season: a showdown tomorrow afternoon at the BABC Holiday Classic with Putnam, the top-ranked team in the MIAA and last year’s Division 1 state champion.
“This weekend we get a chance to play against two of the better teams out of the west, so it’s definitely a good win for us. I just want to make sure, in our case, that we get better every day. There were times where we weren’t that good today, too many turnovers,” Dottin said. “I’m satisfied with the win, but we really need to get better.”
“Our schedule dictates to us that we’re gonna’ play the best, tomorrow we’re playing the defending state champs. For us, it’s a good win, but we feel like we could be even better.”