BOSTON –- Chasing nine points headed in to the fourth quarter, the top-seeded North Quincy boys basketball team seemed to come to life to deliver an impressive comeback win over No. 5 Newton North, 50-46, at UMass-Boston's Clark Athletic Center in the Division 1 South Sectional semifinals.
“It’s March, right? It’s not over until the buzzer sounds,” said North Quincy coach Kevin Barrett. “As long as I’ve got Kyle Richardson on my team, I like my chances until they tell us to go home.”
Richardson certainly enhanced those chances on Tuesday night. He netted 14 points -– including eight in the fourth quarter, and dished out five assists to lead the comeback win.
“Credit to him, he wanted the basketball in key situations and he made great decisions with it,” said Barrett.
On the other end of the floor, he was equally brilliant, and was a big reason NQ held Tigers’ sharpshooter Tommy Mobley to 13 points.
“He requested to cover Mobley, and he got his wish, and I thought he did a nice job,” said Barrett.
Added Richardson: “Knowing it could’ve been my last game, I wanted to take the best assignment. Matt (Gerakis) did a great job wearing him down, but in the fourth quarter, I felt like it was my responsibility. I told him I’d check him and keep him scoreless until we could get back in the game.”
The fourth quarter was one where Richardson’s motor never ceased, and he served as a beacon of light guiding the Red Raiders to their second straight Division 1 South finals appearance.
“We looked up and realized, for us seniors, this could be our last game,” said Richardson. “We didn’t want to go like that and it was time to start fighting.”
Added Barrett: “Our energy wasn’t where it needed to be in the half, and even into the third quarter. I think the urgency set it in, especially for the seniors. When your backs are up against the wall, you need to bring it, and that’s what we did.”
Fourth quarter sidekick: If Richardson played the part of hero against the Tigers, Jackie Chen provided him a sidekick that helped to save the day, and the season, for the Red Raiders.
Chen scored seven of his eight points in the fourth, including a 3-pointer midway through the quarter to pull North Quincy within four.
“He gives us energy, not just on the defensive end, but we needed to be in attack mode on offense,” said Barrett. “We weren’t doing that and he gave us a nice spark.”
Late in the game, he came away with a steal and quickly hit Richardson in transition, who was fouled and scored on a pair of free throws.
“People don’t realize how great an on-ball defender he is for us,” said Richardson. “He does a lot for us on the perimeter, shutting people down out there. He doesn’t get enough credit for that.”
With 14 seconds to go, Chen put the Red Raiders on top with two free throws of his own. The two-point lead he gave them was their first of the game.
Anthony Green pulled down a defensive rebound on the ensuing possession, and was subsequently fouled as well. He hit a pair of free throws to ensure the comeback would hold up.
Early on, it was senior Efthim Butka who kept NQ in the game. He scored 11 of his 16 points before half time.
“He’s our offensive stud,” said Richardson. “He kept us in the game in the first half. We wouldn’t have been there if he wasn’t that hot early on.”
History repeats itself: It marked the second straight year North Quincy got the best of the Newton North by four points in the sectional semifinals following last year’s 51-47 win over the Tigers.
“That team is good, they’re the number one seed, they’ve got a 6-9 kid, a 6-5 kid who is a terrific player and they’ve got a really good point guard who made some spectacular plays for them,” said Newton North coach Paul Connolly. “Those three kids –- Richardson, Butka and Green, were on the court in this game last year, and we had guys that were in this game last year. They just made more plays than we did.”
The loss may have ended the season for Newton North, but that doesn’t change the success they endured all year – something that seems to be a regular tradition at this point.
“I couldn’t be any prouder of my group. We had a fantastic season,” said Connolly. “19-4, seventh straight sectional semifinals, to get to UMass Boston is really hard. You win a game in the tournament, it’s a good year. You win two, you’re on a run.”
North Quincy did a good job limiting open looks for Mobley all night, never letting him score more than five points in any quarter. With Mobley facing endless defensive pressure, Sam Jefferson stepped forward to give the Tigers a big boost on the scoreboard.
Jefferson knocked down six 3-pointers as part of a 22 point attack. Life got tougher for Newton North in the final minutes of play when the hot-handed shooter joined starting point guard Liam Bruno on the bench as both had fouled out.
“Foul trouble hurt us,” said Connolly. “Liam was already on the bench with five fouls, and then Sam had foul trouble. We’ve been pretty deep all year, but we’ve been battling through some injuries here late too. It just didn’t work out tonight, but I’m proud of my guys and I’m proud of that effort.”