BEVERLY, Mass. -- It is not often that Indiana State commit Khristian Smith gets to sign autographs. After Maine Central Institute’s Cinderella-esque run in the NEPSAC Class AAA tournament, however, Smith was smothered by kids of all ages to get his signature after a near-perfect 28 point performance against New Hampton.
“It was a great day for me. It feels real good to win it all,” said the overjoyed Smith. “Indiana State won their conference championship today, too, so we both had a great day.”
Smith had every right to be glowing after only missing five shots in his team’s 73-56 victory over New Hampton. MCI took over the game after the second half, when it went on a 14-4 run in first five minutes to seal the deal, extending a 35-30 halftime lead to 49-32. big man Raphael Maia nice and1 14:16, drop-step, miss drop step, got own rebound put back for and-one, 43-34
“I wanted them to get into the flow of the game and get their rhythm,” MCI head coach Dave Campbell said. “We wanted to play our tempo and we missed some easy shots to start off with. Defensively, we knew we had to pick it up defensively and push them out offensively because they are a very good shooting team.”
It looked as though it was New Hampton’s game to win, after Nick Paulos hit three 3-pointers in the first half. After an early 11-4 run by New Hampton, coach Campbell pulled his players aside and reminded them about their plan.
“[I told them] to trail their screens better, play harder, and push them out of their comfort zone," Campbell said.
Said Smith, “We were looking to keep their big men off of the boards and really contest their three-point shooters. Basically the same thing we did against Brewster."
After Paulos got cold, and Jordan Laguerre (16 points) and Zach Auguste struggled to stay on the floor with foul trouble in the second half, Smith saw his opportunity to take over. He hit pull-up jumper after pull-up jumper, and could not be stopped.
“I visualize [shots] before the game happens," Smith said. "It is something that I’ve worked on since I was little. Now it is easier for me. I’m quicker off of my first step so hitting pull-up jump shots is easier for me. I just need to work on the rest of my game now.”
But the win was not all about Smith. MCI also had nice contributions from sweet-shooting guards Daishon Knight (eight points) and Adrian Rodgers (15), while Campbell and Smith suggest that it was more than just individual performances that won them their championship.
“The one thing that this team had was very good chemistry,” Smith said. “When you have good chemistry and you have three or four months to get that chemistry together that tells you something about that kind of kid we had. My assistant and I both live in the dorm with them. We are with them 24/7. The kids all get along. They do things together all the time. I think that lends to the fact on how good you are going to be.”
“I’m proud of my team,” Smith said. “We came together as a real team. This isn’t just my MVP. I’m bringing it for everybody. I’m just happy to bring a championship back to MCI.”
The 3-1/2 hour car ride from Pittsfield to Endicott College might just have been worth it for the Huskies.