NEWTON, Mass. -- Newton North head coach Paul Connolly found himself joking to reporters, following his No. 15 Tigers' 55-45 win over No. 14 Weymouth, that perhaps a change in music was in the works.
The jury's probably still out on Barry Santana's musical exploits, but you get the idea. On an afternoon when the attention went to Tiger stalwarts Mike Thorpe and freshman sensation Aaron Falzon, and how they'd collectively shut down uber-talented Weymouth swingman Jared Terrell, Santana slipped under the radar and had himself a pretty nice day at the office, with 16 points to go along with 15 boards. Junior Jared Masinton also stepped up with 12 points.
"We've got a lot of games coming up, so I want to play a lot of guys," Connolly said. "We played 10 in the first half, 12 for the game, and I think we've got some pretty good depth in our team. Guys really stepped up, Barry had a great game for us. That was a good win for our team today."
Down the stretch, as the Tigers locked up defensively, Santana put things away by hitting five of six free throws. And with it, North (12-4, 9-3) avenged Jan. 11's loss at Weymouth, a 56-51 upset that gave the Tigers their first Bay State Conference loss. Weymouth (13-3, 10-2) stays one game ahead of the Tigers in the Carey division, with the loss.
"The game plan was banging them first, be the toughest team out there," said Santana, a 6-foot-2 junior. "You know? Punch them first. They fell in the beginning, but they fought back, but we punched last. We finished strong."
Indeed, the Tigers threw a haymaker to start this afternoon contest, opening the game up on a 15-2 run and leading 18-6 after one quarter. North forced the Wildcats' stars, junior Damian Lugay (10 points, five rebounds) and super sophomore Terrell (13, nine) into settling for perimeter shots as opposed to their trademark physical drives to the lane. Terrell went 0 for 5 from the field in the first quarter, creating his own shots off step-backs but unable to sink them.
But the Wildcats found a renewed urgency heading into the fourth quarter. Trailing 39-31 to start the final eight minutes, there was considerably more bounce in the steps of Terrell, Lugay and Khary Bailey-Smith as they tipped away loose balls to start transition, swiped entry passes or deflected them back out to the perimeter. Meanwhile the the Wildcats exploded for an 11-4 run to start the quarter, using penetration to kick passes out to the baseline, and out to the wing for sharpshooters Patrick Deegan and Jon Perez (10 points, three 3-pointers).
That penetration, combined with athleticism, led to alot of trips to the line for Weymouth in the second half. But as was the case in their other two losses this season, sub-par shooting from the charity stripe left alot of points off the board. The Wildcats, who went 43 of 70 from the line combined in losses this season to Needham and East Boston, were just 6 of 17 on free throws in the second half.
Weymouth cut the lead to 45-44 with 3:20 left when Terrell swung it to Perez on the right wing, and Perez -- after hesitating for a second -- calmly sank the three-ball. That was their last field goal the rest of the game, however, as the Wildcats managed just a free throw the last three minutes.
"You know what happens is, you get down early and then you use so much energy to get back in, that we just didn't finish," Weymouth head coach Jim Dolan said. "They hit their foul shots and we certainly didn't hit ours. That's kinda been our Achilles heel, if you will, but my kids didn't quit and I'm really proud of them for that."