ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Where do you start when analyzing Bishop Feehan’s 72-54 non-league romp over Durfee on Friday night?
One could start with the fact that the Shamrocks (15-1), who began the game ranked 14th in the latest ESPN Boston poll, put four players in double figures: Nicholas Botelho (20), David Carchedi (15), Frank Oftring (12) and Mike Nelson (10).
One also could underscore the fact Feehan shot a scalding 90.5 percent (19-of-21) from the free throw line.
But the most appropriate place to start is in the first half when Feehan’s man-to-man defense grabbed the Hilltoppers (9-7) by their collective necks and never let go.
“We’ve scouted them and seen a lot of teams play Durfee,” Feehan coach Matt Freeman said after his team won its 10th consecutive game. “A lot of teams have been playing zones against them. We just said ‘You know what? We’re going to play these guys man-to-man and make them have to earn it.'
“In the two times we played them (Feehan prevailed, 61-47, at Durfee on January 14), that caused them some problems – having to use post moves and run a set, structured offense and score out of it.
“I think we showed them we could hold them in check,” Freeman added. “So, I really was proud of the defensive effort. It set the tone.”
Blazing start: Before an SRO crowd at Feehan, the Shamrocks went on a 20-2 run in the first half which increased a 10-7 lead to 30-9 lead with 4:09 left in the half.
Altogether, Feehan forced Durfee into 12 first-half turnovers and scored nine points off those miscues. But as Freeman alluded to, the Shamrocks’ tenacious, man-to-man defense took the Hilltoppers completely out of their offense as Feehan led 36-15 at intermission.
“I think they were a little bit bewildered when they realized they realized they were down 20 at the break,” Freeman said. “I definitely was very pleased.”
Freeman had mixed feelings once Durfee mounted a mini-rally and sliced its deficit to 15 points (53-38) late in the third quarter. But during one stretch, Botelho tipped in a missed shot; Carchedi blew through Durfee’s zone defense for an easy layup; and Botelho buried a 3-point shot.
Altogether Botelho, a sophomore forward, scored 11 of his points in the second half.
“The third quarter is what we’re going to use as fodder moving forward because we gave up as many points in the third quarter (25) as we gave up basically in the other three quarters combined, minus the three (by Yamgel Rivera) right at the end,” Freeman said. “We’re always looking for cannon fodder to get on our guys.
“They broke us down off the dribble too many times for our liking. Luckily, we were keeping pace with them scoring-wise. But once it gets down to, 13, 14 or 15 it gets a little dicey. I think we hit a couple of bombs at that point (one was a trey by Stephen Gagnier with 33 seconds left in the third). And I think a couple of their guys lost a little bit of their composure and we took advantage of that at the foul line and made our free throws.”
Free throw city: The sequence Freeman referred to commenced at the start of the fourth quarter when Durfee was whistled for a flagrant foul which resulted in two freebies, each of which was buried by Austin Burlone.
Before the final period ended, Durfee was slapped with two technical fouls. Burlone converted both ends of the first while Nelson (who was 8-for-8 at the stripe) sank both ends of the second.
Two Hilltoppers did reach double figures, Nick Salmon and Chris Farmington with 13 points apiece. But one notable absentee from the double-figure column was Tyree Robinson, who torched Dartmouth for 34 points during a 77-64 victory last Tuesday.
In this game, Feehan held Robinson to a microscopic six points.
“We know how talented and dynamic a player Tyree is,” Freeman said. “Nick Botelho is a talented sophomore and we wanted him to play (Robinson) physically, fairly and hard. We challenged him again tonight.
“I don’t think Tyree ever was on the verge of taking over the game.”