BOSTON -- Catholic Memorial coach Denis Tobin has been with the Knights for over 30 years, and even after all that time he still has but one way to describe a tournament game against a Catholic Conference foe.
“Nerve-wracking,” Tobin said with a laugh, “The hour before the game when you see the packed house and can’t do anything about it...you calm down once the game starts. [We] were probably nervous at the beginning, but then it calms down and becomes a basketball game.”
One player who clearly wasn’t nervous was sophomore star Kellan Grady. In the highest scoring output of his high school career, Grady led the Knights with 32 points –- including eight 3-pointers in all, and 19 points in the second half to seal the 83-73 victory for CM (21-1) over rival BC High (14-8).
Grady had another way to describe the scene leading up the game -- a scene where dozens of fans, turned away because the gym was filled to capacity, stood outside Ronald Perry Gymnasium in hopes of catching the next installment of the teams’ 106-100 overtime thriller three weeks ago.
“I wouldn’t say nervous, I’d say a little more anxious. Last game we didn’t play well against BC High. Even though we scored 106 [points] last time, we really wanted to send a message and beat them on our home court,” Grady said.
Though a close game through the first quarter, the Knights were able to build a 13 point lead by halftime to gain some momentum going into the third quarter. Grady hit three treys in the first half, but in the third quarter he managed to one-up an impressive first half performance, knocking down four three-pointers in the quarter –- including treys on back-to-back possessions while heavily guarded to build the Knights’ lead up to 62-40.
“Huge breakout game, he’s just a sophomore," Tobin said. "I’ve seen him do it in summer leagues, I’ve seen him do it in fall leagues, but to break out on this stage for him is terrific. He was in the zone, he was really in the zone and he has been the past couple of games. My sophomores seem to like to step up against BC High, Brandon [Twitty] had 31 in the first game here, and Kellan had 32 [tonight]."
"They have a great sophomore in Jack Loughnane themselves, so we’ve got two more years of terrific CM-BC High games coming. Kellan’s worked hard all year and he has unlimited potential.”
Loughnane, whose 17 points led the Eagles to an impressive comeback victory over Wellesley on Wednesday, was able to manage just eight points against the Knights. Aamahne Santos (13 points), Grady, and Guilien Smith (19 points, 7 rebounds) harassed Loughnane on the defensive end all night before he fouled out late in the fourth quarter.
Young fuels Eagles’ comeback: When Catholic Memorial went up by 22 in the third quarter it looked as if the deficit might simply be too much for the Eagles’ offense, which had been sputtering to say the least, to keep up.
Putting in a warrior’s effort off the bench, Eagles’ senior captain Steve Young (19 points, 7 rebounds) scored eight straight points to start off the fourth quarter -– helping BC High bring the lead down to seven points with over six minutes to go in the game.
Young, who suffered a slight tear in a ligament in his ankle back in December, looked as if he might be able to will the Eagles all the way back to tie the game up until he fell down hard on his ankle with five minutes left. He was able to return a few minutes later and the Eagles got the lead down to five in the closing minutes, but CM’s lead ultimately proved to be insurmountable.
“We made a good run to start the second half to go up 20, but we knew a Bill Loughnane-coached BC High teams was never going to just roll over -– we knew that they had a run in them," Tobin said. "I kept stressing to my guys ‘when the run gets made, keep your poise,’ and I thought we did. They got it to seven, we took a timeout, and then I think we scored off that timeout to kind of quell their final run a bit.
"They’re a very good team, we knew that coming in. We didn’t want to draw them, we haven’t had the luck of the draw the past few years. Our guys earned two homes games and I think playing on our home court was a big advantage.”
On to UMass-Boston: With the win, the Knights will move on to the Division 1 South semifinals on Tuesday. CM will take on a familiar name: defending Division 1 South champion Mansfield. The Hornets, who like CM lost just one game during the regular, knocked off Brookline 63-49 to advance to the semis.
Grady hinted that the Knights are chomping at the bit for a chance at the defending South champs:
“We can’t wait. Eastern Mass. champs last year and everybody is talking about them. We want to bring it to them and show them we’re the best team in the state.”