BOSTON -– For the first time since winning the Division 2 state championship back in 2008, Catholic Memorial is going back to the TD Garden.
The Knights (23-1) held off a feisty North Quincy (23-2) squad in the Division 1 South championship game on Saturday, knocking off the Red Raiders 65-58 in front of a massive crowd at UMass Boston’s Clark Athletic Center.
Guilien Smith scored 17 points and Aamahne Santos had 16 points for the Knights, who trailed North Quincy 25-24 at halftime.
“We went in at halftime and we said the defense is fine...they were on pace for 50," CM coach Denis Tobin said. "We were in trouble cause we only had 24, but that being said we just weren’t making shots that we normally make -– it’s like there was a lid on the basket there for a little while."
Smith added: “[Tobin] said we played good defense holding them to 25 in a half, but we had speed it up and play CM’s game…not North Quincy’s. If we speed it up the game is in our hands, if we slow it down it’s in theirs.”
The “lid” on the basket may have been partly due to North Quincy’s 6-foot-9 center Anthony Green Green dictated CM’s shot selection for much of the first half -– getting tips, blocking shots, and leading the Red Raiders in rebounding. Green came up one block shy of a triple-double –- 15 points, 10 rebounds, and 9 blocked shots.
“He played a great game, he really did. We knew coming in that he was a terrific shot blocker, but we’re a team that attacks the rim -– we’re not going to change,” Tobin said, “And he met the challenge, I don’t know how many blocks he had, but he had quite a few. Eventually the pace of the game and our depth wore them down a little bit towards the end.”
CM big man Gerard Adams spent several minutes on the bench because of foul trouble, but it was the Knights’ depth at Guard that picked up the offense in the second half. Kellan Grady scored 11 points for CM, while fellow sophomore Brandon Twitty scored eight second half points for the Knights. Junior guard Denis Tobin came off the bench to hit three clutch treys for the Knights when they desperately needed a couple of baskets.
When asked about the difference in the game down the stretch, the older Tobin had no doubt that it was CM’s impressive depth at guard.
“I would say the strength of the backcourt, and our depth where we went eight or nine deep with guys who can all contribute and score,” he said.
Efthim Butka led North Quincy in scoring with 17 points; an inside out presence for the Red Raiders, he knocked down three three-pointers and also pulled down seven rebounds.
The Knights will move on to the TD Garden where they’ll take on Division 1 North champion Central Catholic at 7:30 on Monday for a berth in the state championship game. While it isn’t Tobin’s first trip to the Garden, he said he can’t wait to enjoy the experience with the tightly-knit Knights – his son included.
“It’s always a super feeling. It’s a little extra for me as a dad having a son on the team as well. Chemistry-wise, it’s such a great group of kids. I couldn’t be happier for them.”