WEST ROXBURY, Mass. -- Forgive Roger Paul if he wants to grin a little bit. Heck, the last time his West Roxbury Raiders were in the Boston City League Championships, Dubya still was in office, and people couldn't shut up about some whiz kid named Gerard Coleman.
"When I was a freshman, that's all they used to talk about -- Gerard this, Gerard that," the senior laughed when asked about Coleman, currently a freshman guard at Providence and one of the MIAA's most electric scorers during his three-year run with the Raiders. "Ever since my junior year, that's all people want to talk about, we'd never be the same once Gerard left. Now we're back in City's, and everybody's forgotten about Gerard."
That last point's debatable, yes, but you get the general idea. In punching their first ticket to the Boston City Championships since 2008, thanks to a 72-60 win over Brighton on their home floor -- their second win over the Bengals in three days -- the Raiders have made a whole lot of followers quit dwelling on the past, and embrace the present.
Because as things currently stand -- sitting at 14-5 overall, seasoned by a competitive non-league schedule, and rounded out by a young but cerebral backcourt -- the Raiders look as good as just about anyone else in the wide-open Division 1 South.
"I still don't think we've put together a full game this year," Westie head coach Martin Somers said. "So, I believe if we do, we can beat anybody. So I'm just waiting for that game to happen, where we put four great quarters together."
This afternoon, the Raiders managed to put together three such quarters, taking a 62-39 lead into the final stanza before the Bengals (11-4) opened up the fourth on an 11-0 run to make a game of it again. Five-foot-5 sophomore Nate Hogan (10 points), playing in his first varsity action, provided plenty of spark off the bench, running the point in place of Kevon Young (suspension), who is expected back Friday.
Edward Toney (14 points, seven rebounds) provided mettle down low, and the Bengals caused a handful of turnovers with a full-court 2-2-1 press to spark the fourth quarter run. But in the end, just like their 73-70 overtime loss Monday to these same Raiders, there was too much to overcome.
"(They're) very well-disciplined," Brighton head coach Hugh Coleman said of Westie. "They're young, but they're mature. Mature, disciplined, they took their time running their sets, they did a great job. Great job."
Paul (15 points, five assists) and Jason Hall (11 points, eight rebounds) did their part in directing traffic in the half-court, running patient sets that wore down the Bengals' 2-3 zone. The Raiders hit four of their first five 3-point attempts, and shot 51 percent overall from the field in the first half while notching assists on 10 of their 14 first-half field goals.
Shoring up the other other end was the loose yet heady play of starting freshman guards Damion Smith (14 points, five rebounds) and Mike Rodriguez (10 points). The backcourt tandem came into the season with some hype, and has lived up to the billing these last few weeks.
"They each play their own part," Hall said. "They both complement our team real well, and I'm glad that they came here."
Said Somers, "They're seasoned guys even though they're young. They play on the AAU circuit, the national level, they've played in big games. They're not nervous out there, they've bought into the program, and I'm really proud of the freshmen. They've stepped up, and really given us big minutes."