MLK Invitational: No. 5 New Mission 59, Walpole 43

BOSTON -- Heading into halftime trailing 25-20, New Mission needed to find a spark and way of creating offense against Walpole’s 1-3-1 zone. Head coach Cory McCarthy and his staff had plenty to say to the Titans at the break and it seemed to work, as New Mission turned things around quickly in the third quarter.

“That’s our game plan every night -- to be the best third quarter team in high school basketball,” McCarthy joked after the game. “We’ve had some huge third quarters this week. They’re making [the coaches] look smart.

The Titans used an 18-4 run in the third quarter to take the lead and the momentum away from Walpole. New Mission never looked back and pulled away for a 59-43 victory over the Rebels on Sunday night in the MLK Invitational at Wentworth Institute of Technology.

“That’s been our defense all year,” explained Walpole head coach Dave St. Martin. “To beat that, you need to knock down some shots, which they did. Their big guys really play well together, high-low, and I just felt that defensively we held them to 59, but offensively we missed a lot of shots that we usually take.”

“We haven’t seen a 1-3-1 all year,” explained McCarthy. “I knew they were going to play it, but they were so quick to close the gaps that we couldn’t do what we normally do. These guys are so smart that you start doing something over and over then you actually start making the right decisions.”

He added, “Once we swung the ball to the wings and get the ball inside to the big guys, then we started to finish and dominate.”

Early in the game, the Walpole zone limited New Mission’s ability to get the ball inside, but when the Titans were able to enter it into the post it was very successful. Senior forwards Fred Rivers (game-high 22 points) and Asante Sandiford (10 points) combined for 17 points in the opening half, all of them in the paint.

Scott Arsenault knocked down three shots from beyond the arc for the Rebels in the first half and senior forward Adam Quinlan (team-high 17 points) scored eight points, including a lay-up that made it 25-20 with only second s remaining in the half.

In the third quarter, New Mission turned up the defensive intensity. Walpole’s offense started to wilt against the pressure and turnovers allowed the Titans to get out into transition for easy baskets. Senior guard Shaquan Murray provided the offensive spark with eight points in the third. His corner three-pointer gave the Titans a 33-31 lead -- a lead they would not relinquish.

“We wanted to force the ball handler to the sidelines to cut the floor in half and make it harder for them to get it to the shooters and give us time to close on their shooters,” explained McCarthy about New Mission’s intense half-court trap.” I think after a while they got flustered because they had to cover a lot of ground to get shots off.”

St. Martin admitted that the defensive pressure forced his team to rush things on the offensive end and the empty possessions allowed the Titans to get out in transition. He also noted that senior point guard Ryan Fogarty (seven points) was in only his second game back from an ankle injury and facing as much pressure as he will see all season.

He remarked, “They pressured him all game. If he can handle this pressure, then he should be fine for the rest of the year.”

The defensive pressure continued in the fourth quarter. Murray (16 points -– all in the second half) knocked down a pair of threes, Tyrique Lee had an old fashioned three-point play on the break and both Sandiford and Rivers got easy lay-ups in transition. Quinlan tried to keep Walpole in the game with seven points in the fourth, but it was not enough.

“They’re a heck of a team and I think for us it was a great test because I think we have a good team,” asserted St. Martin. “Not a lot of people know about us, but our goal is to try and meet those guys again in the Garden.”

McCarthy pointed to his three top scorers as the keys for what New Mission will achieve this season. He said, “We’re going to go as far as Fred, Asante and Shaquan go. It has to be all three of them turned on and when all three of them are on then we’re as good as anyone.”