BOSTON –- Even when some of the shots weren’t falling for New Mission, it was very clear the Titans were the tougher team when taking on Central Catholic (7-4) at the BABC Winter Classic on Monday afternoon.
The Titans (11-1), led in scoring by Asante Sandiford (16 points, nine rebounds) and Bam Rivers (12 points, 11 rebounds), put in an outstanding team effort defensively on Fairfield-commit Tyler Nelson. Holding Nelson to just 10 points, the Titans were able to pull out a 58-50 victory over the Red Raiders.
Though they didn’t lead the Titans in the scoring column necessarily, the unsung heroes for New Mission were guards Tyrique Lee, Kordell Harris, and David Pierre. Given the assignment of face-guarding Nelson from baseline to baseline, the trio’s scrappy defense and in-your-face style had Nelson frustrated for the entire first half.
The box and one approach was one that New Mission had used a lot this year, according to Titans coach Cory McCarthy.
“We played so many good players all year that that’s a defense we’ve been running all year. Tyler Nelson’s a hell of a player, he might be the Gatorade Player of the Year in this area, but I thought we played him well and we frustrated him,” McCarthy said. “In basketball you have to make people do things that they’re not used to doing, it helps your cause. Not that we completely stopped him, cause he still probably still shot 70 percent, but we limited his shot attempts.”
Central forward Nick Cambio anchored the Red Raiders’ attack in the first half, scoring 12 of Central’s first 13 points and 19 points overall. Getting the opportunity to beat Sandiford down the floor on several occasions in the first half, Cambio finished nearly every shot he got a look at around the rim. The second half was a different story though, as Cambio was able to muster just four points after halftime.
“I thought Bam and Asante were able to slide over on Cambio and frustrate him a little bit. They’re a good team, in my opinion they’re the staple team in the MIAA, you always want to compete against them and you want to beat them,” McCarthy said. “I’m proud of my guys today. They won’t hear the compliments from me too often but they’ll hear them today because Central Catholic is a hell of a team.”
Sandiford, Rivers clean up the glass: Rivers and Sandiford are one of the toughest forward combos in the MIAA because of their ability to step out and shoot the three, score off the dribble, rebound, and play tough defense on players of several different positions. Outrebounding Central’s forward combination of Cambio and Aaron Hall by a considerable margin, Rivers and Sandiford gave the Titans some stability with their ability to stay on the glass.
“Two 6-4 kids who play bigger than what they are," McCarthy said. "Their versatility: to put the ball on the floor, shoot the jumpers, hit the mid-range, make the right pass, know everything that happens on the court and communicating. When we’re talking and communicating we’re really good. To everybody else who is coming to scout us, if we’re not talking then you’ve got a chance.
"If we’re talking, then it’s gonna be a long day. Bam and Asante, those guys are what we live by. And it’s tough to stop them inside, you can’t hold them, you’ve got to follow them out to the perimeter."
Central coach Rick Nault, obviously frustrated by his team’s lack of defensive effort, praised the Titans for their defensive effort and ability to keep Cambio and Hall off the glass.
“They did a great job on Tyler with the box and one, it really frustrated him and made his looks look difficult. With Aaron Hall and Cambio we expect to be a good rebounding team, and it just didn’t happen tonight,” Nault said. “They’re very good and very talented, well coached –- very well coached and they play extremely hard defensively. We just, it seemed like we couldn’t do anything tonight.”