WORCESTER, Mass. –- For the fourth straight year, the Boston City League brings home a state championship in boys’ basketball.
City League power New Mission (23-2) met Central Mass. champ Concord-Carlisle (22-3) on Saturday at the DCU Center for the Division 2 state championship. The Titans proved to be victorious, winning their 20th consecutive game, 53-43, for the Division 2 state championship.
The Titans were led in scoring by senior forward Asante Sandiford, who finished with 18 points and eight rebounds. A force on the inside throughout the game, Sandiford chose to shift the attention to his teammates after the game.
“I just give all the credits to my teammates, I was just working hard, posting hard," Sandiford said. "I’m trying to dive on the floor and get all the second chance points. I give all the credit to them, it doesn’t go to me at all. I appreciate them and I appreciate my coach."
The selfless sentiment was one repeated by New Mission coach Cory McCarthy. When discussing the legacy his seniors leave behind, McCarthy has few doubts about how his state champion Titans will be remembered in City League lore.
“They cemented themselves as New Mission and Boston City League basketball players," McCarthy said. "This is not a good team, it’s a great team. Why? Because they play basketball the right way.”
The pressure was on New Missions guards early in the game when Sandiford and senior forward Fred “Bam” Rivers were both on the bench with foul trouble. In that time, it was on guards like senior Shaquan Murray (14 points) and Tyrique Lee (9 points) to help hold the Titans lead while there big men were on the bench.
Murray said he couldn’t recall a time this year when the Titans played with Sandiford and Rivers on the bench.
“Oh man, I don’t know,” Murray said with a laugh," he said. "We actually played it well, we went small a little bit to speed up…we handled ourselves pretty well when they were on the bench.”
McCarthy had no problem speeding the game up a little bit with his bigs on the bench, even if it mean sacrificing a little bit in the rebounding department. The Titans’ speed proved to be too much for Concord-Carlisle to keep up with in the first half, as McCarthy put four guards and senior forward Sochika Nzerem on the floor.
“We can bring guys in who have lighting speed, who know the system, who know what to do, who know when to switch off, who know their weaknesses. When you know who you are in basketball the game will complement you accordingly,” McCarthy said. “We’re deep. When we went to the bench we sped the game up. In order for us to speed the game up, that’s how we manufacture points. We don’t have heroes coming off the bench, we have guys who will contribute right away…one through fifteen, these guys are tough bastards.”
A program built: The win makes three state titles in five years for McCarthy and the Titans, but that doesn’t mean the coach forgets where it all started: taking busses for three and four hours after games to make sure that all his players and coaches were home safely after practices.
“I just remember being cold on that 22 bus on the T. I took four buses in three hours after a game, taking a bus with young girls to their houses to make sure they got home, then get my assistant home –- the whole nine. I was so cold I couldn’t feel my toe for like four days,” McCarthy said with a laugh.
Oh, how things have changed. After three state titles in five years, the Titans are considered a perennial power and a constant threat in the Boston City League. McCarthy proudly announced after the game that all seven of his seniors planned to go to college in the fall.
“Now it’s like we’re a program, we were a team trying to build something back then," he said. "I got into coaching by accident, so I was like ‘well, let me do a little something’ and then it manifested itself into being this New Mission Titan thing. The definition of a Titan is something powerful, and I feel like when we walk in the gym we have a powerful presence...even if we have a bunch of Napoleons running around. They feel they can beat anybody on any given day.”
Sandiford, whose MVP performance led the Titans to a Boston City League title, said the bond between McCarthy and the players can’t be duplicated. The senior captain said he considers his coach more of a family member than a coach/
“Cory was one of my father’s best friends before my father passed away my freshman year," Sandiford said. "He’s like an uncle to me. He’s not like a coach to me, he’s like a family member like one of my teammates.”