NEPSAC AAA: Brewster 68, New Hampton 63

BEVERLY, Mass. -- There is starting a game slowly, then there is what Brewster Academy did on Sunday.

In the NEPSAC Class AAA Championship game against New Hampton, Brewster was down by as many as 16 points less than nine minutes into the game. It would not be a championship game without a little drama however.

With six minutes to go in the game, Isaac Copeland (8 points), a Georgetown commit, hit a transition layup to give Brewster its first lead of the game. It held on to win the championship with a 68-63 victory.

“I’ve been doing this long enough to know there was something missing in practice recently and in the last few games,” said Brewster coach Jason Smith. “We did kind of have a wakeup call last Saturday at Northfield Mount Hermon. We were down 18 in the second half and managed to come out and guard in the second half. That’s exactly what we did tonight. We played great defense in the second half. We just kind of went through the motions in the beginning of the game.”

Smith was forced to call two timeouts less than 10 minutes into the game just to try and slow New Hampton’s momentum. The second timeout came after a Tyler Lydon (10 points, 8 rebounds) three-pointer made it 23-7. Lydon, a junior, is verbally committed to play his college basketball at Syracuse University after next season.

As the first half continued, Brewster seemed to gather itself and picked away at the New Hampton lead. With 2:30 to go in the half, sophomore Donovan Mitchell hit a three to make it a six-point game.

“We’ve been starting off slow the whole year and that’s been our killer,” said Jared Terrell, an Oklahoma State commit and the No. 79 ranked player in the ESPN 100. “Coach called a couple timeouts at certain points in the game and that calmed us down and helped us realize this is a big game and we had to step up.”

Terrell came alive in the second half. During one sequence, he stole the ball on the wing and took it to the basket himself and threw down a dunk that livened up the Brewster faithful. On New Hampton’s next offensive possession, he did the exact same thing to bring his team within three points.

He finished the game with 14 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 steals. He was able to use his ball handling skills to get to the basket and draw fouls, shooting 10 free throws in the game.

“Jared’s just a competitor,” said Smith. “He’s tough, he’s hard-nosed, he competes and wants to win every time, no matter if it’s in practice. He just wants to win. He’s a competitive guy.”

Before Terrell’s back-to-back steals, New Hampton’s Tory Miller made arguably the most jaw-dropping play of the day. The Colorado commit had the ball near the baseline to the right of the basket. With one dribble he elevated and threw down a forceful one-handed dunk through not one, but two Brewster defenders and still drew a foul. The crowd was still on its feet as he went to the free throw line.

He finished the game with 14 points and 7 rebounds.

With 4:02 to go, 6-foot-9 UCLA commit Jonah Bolden caught a rebound and put it back for an easy two to give Brewster a three-point lead.

Two minutes later, New Hampton’s Mike LeBlanc (10 points, 2 steals), a Princeton commit, hit a three to put his team up 63-61. On the ensuing possession, Devonte Graham (15 points) hit a three of his own to swipe the lead back.

Clinging to a one-point lead with 23.9 to go, Mitchell (15 points) went to the free throw line looking to extend the Brewster lead. He made four free throws in the final seconds to make his team back-to-back NEPSAC AAA champions.

“There’s been a totally different Donovan since preseason and open gyms at Brewster,” said Terrell. “He was this out of control kid taking wild shots because he was coming from a school where he could do that. He had to change his game a little bit, had to be more under control and understand the game and how to play at Brewster. He’s done that.”

National Prep Bound: Brewster now turns the page to potentially make a run at a national championship to go along with its league championship. Even with his team seen by many as the gold standard of the NEPSAC, Smith was effusive in his praise of the overall strength and competition found within the league.

“It’s the best high school league in the country, I just with the rest of the population would realize how great of a league this is,” he said. “Everyone talks about the Oak Hill’s, the Findlay Prep’s, I would love to play them because we would kick the absolute crap out of them. Anyone in this league, any one of the three or four teams in this league could compete against those teams on a nightly basis.

“I would put New Hampton, St. Thomas More, Northfield Mount Hermon, and ourselves against Findlay and Oak Hill. People always talk about the traditional high schools and they kind of leave out the prep schools, but we’re the best league in the country and it’s not even close.”