No. 3 Cambridge's hot start cools Somerville

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- A chant of “We want Brockton!” echoed against the walls of the War Memorial Gymnasium, at the beginning of the fourth quarter of the Falcons’ Friday night game against their rival Somerville.

The boisterous, standing-room-only crowd was witnessing what the Cambridge boys' basketball team has done so often this season: take such a large lead into the final quarter that the game already felt it was over. It came into the game beating opponents by an average of 27 points. It took a 30 point lead into the final quarter, which allowed the fans to already look ahead to Cambridge’s next challenge, a pivotal Feb. 21 showdown with the No. 17 Brockton Boxers.

“It was a great crowd; it was a live crowd,” said Cambridge forward Deondre Starling (18 points, 7 rebounds). “Sometimes we couldn’t hear what Coach (Lance Dottin) was saying so we had to go out there and play with each other and know what we see on the floor.”

“We had to get the play from the point guard and see what his view was because he commands the floor,” he added. “We went by what his call was because we couldn’t hear what the call was coming from the bench.”

The impressive part of their 70-39 victory was that it did not come against a conference basement dweller, but against Somerville, the team that was a game behind them in the Greater Boston League coming into Friday.

With the win, Cambridge (16-0) clinched the GBL championship and came one game closer to ending the regular season with an undefeated record.

“We were able to beat a good basketball club, a team that came in at 13-2,” Dottin said. “It’s a league rival so it’s important to us. Tonight, unfortunately it was our night. The guys came out ready to play, and obviously the outcome was what we wanted.”

Somerville (13-3) had a difficult time dealing with the inside presence of 6-foot-9 center Jacquil Taylor, who finished with 16 points and 8 rebounds. While those aren’t eye-popping numbers, his presence in the paint and shot-altering ability lead to many rebound opportunities for he and his teammates, which they turned into transition baskets in the offensive end.

“We definitely want to get out and run,” Dottin said. “Off the glass we want to be able to get out and run and we were able to do that tonight. That’s good for us because there’s been a couple games where we’ve been stagnant and we haven’t been able to do it, so tonight was really good for us.”

Starling was a beneficiary of those transition baskets early, but as the game went along, he was using his quick hands and nose for the ball to create turnovers himself and contribute offense of his own. That included two thunderous dunks that boosted the already loud Cambridge crowd.

“I’m a defensive player, I just try to play everyone,” said Starling. “I just match up to the ball and go hard.”

Taylor and Starling accounted for 20 of Cambridge’s 30 points at halftime.

“They give us good offensive performances basically every night,” Dottin said. “Both of them are great offensive players, but they’re even better defensive players. With our height we’re also able to take advantage on the glass, and tonight we were able to do that.”

After falling behind 17-5 after the first quarter, Somerville abandoned the idea of attacking the basket and settled for long-range jump shots that could not seem to find the bottom of the basket. Because of its noticeable height advantage, Cambridge was able to corral most of those rebounds and extend their lead even further with transition baskets.

From the middle of the first quarter to the middle of the second quarter, spanning a total of 7 game minutes, Somerville did not score a basket. They were able to rally back a bit, and cut the lead to 9 with about a minute and a half to go in the half.

In the second half, Somerville had a difficult time hitting shots, and saw the Cambridge lead balloon to as much as 30 in the third quarter. However, regardless of the score, Skerby Odivin (eight points, five rebounds), Kevin Silva (eight, five), and Johnson Thomas (seven rebounds) were still hustling and diving for balls as though the score was much closer than it was.