SUDBURY, Mass. -- When you're seven feet tall, and you're towering over your classmates, you tend to become somewhat of a cult phenomenon when they see you on the court. So it probably wasn't a shock to hear Lincoln-Sudbury's Bowdoin-bound senior John Swords get the loudest ovation from the stands as he took a seat on the bench with two minutes left and the Warriors' Division 1 North first round game in hand.
But on this night, Swords deserved every shred of the pop. He was nearly flawless from the field, going a near-perfect 8 for 9 for 16 points, to go along with 13 rebounds and five blocks in the Warriors' 57-39 win over East Boston, in a Division 1 North first round matchup. With the win, L-S (18-3) moves on to Sunday, where they will face the winner of Friday's clash between St. John's Prep and Billerica.
East Boston ended its season at 16-5.
"It definitely allows us to pressure more," said L-S senior Mitch Perez, who ended up with 15 points. "In the zone, we can extend more because the middle guy has to shoot over him. When they drive, they've got to get over him, they have a couple of slashers and they weren't doing much because he was clogging the middle. He did a great job."
Indeed, the Warriors' defensive mettle was never questioned in this battle with the Jets, widely considered one of the best defensive teams in the city. Where Swords lacks in mobility he makes up for in precision around the rim, timing his blocks and grabbing errant perimeter shots out of the air. And with that in mind, the Warriors sat in a 2-3 zone almost exclusively, forcing the shooting touch of Eastie that on this night was absent. The Jets went a mere 9 for 30 from the field in the first half.
Yet in spite of all that, they trailed just 24-21 at the half. At the break, L-S head coach Pat Callahan stressed a need for more execution in the halfcourt, among other things.
"For us, it was just we needed to up the intensity, because we knew they were going to up theirs," Callahan said. "And offensively, we needed to calm down, get set, and every time you get double-teamed, move the ball."
The Warriors opened the third quarter on a 10-0 run to extend their lead to 13, highlighted by the first of several crowd-popping two-handed slams from Swords, off an entry pass by Perez.
"We talked about it earlier today, there was a thought that one of the strategies might be to try and draw a bunch of fouls on me," said Swords, who had just two fouls and went to the line just twice (missing both times). "I really relied today on the first line of defense guys, my teammates pitching in, so that it wasn't just up to me. And then by the time it gets to me, it's much different. They just threw it right to my hands, they did a great job with that."
Eastie countered with some full-court pressure, but the Warriors had the perfect guy to break it with. Callahan placed swords at center court, providing a release valve to either sideline for a quality press break.
All of it left East Boston head coach Malcolm Smith dejected following the loss. Jeff Amazon led the Jets in the loss with 11 points.
"It's by far our worst game of the year," Smith said. "I guess when you say that eventually you're going to have your worst game of the year, it's too bad it was tonight. I think we shot 27 percent today...obviously the zone did give us some trouble, but I didn't it was as much trouble as us just not being prepared to shoot against it. For some reason, we practiced and prepared for it all day, it just caught up with us."