WORCESTER, Mass. -- There is cleaning up on the glass. And then there is flat out owning.
In last night's Division 2 Central/West boys basketball state semifinal at the DCU Center, Northbridge might as well have fallen unto the latter. The Rams controlled the glass, especially defensively, holding a 39-15 advantage over Western Mass champ Sabis International as they used a strong third quarter to cruised to a 57-41 victory.
Northbridge (20-5) moves on to face Eastern Mass champ New Mission in Saturday's Division 2 state championship at the DCU Center.
"We knew we had to control the game, because they (Sabis) are very tenacious," said senior forward Thomas Murphy, who combined with his younger brother, junior Harrison, to pull down 14 rebounds. "We focused on helping, because we knew they were going to beat our guards at some point; and rotating, because as long as we help and rotate, we'll still be able to get a hand up, and then we'll still be on the box. It doesn't matter if you're covering somebody else's man, as long as you're covering somebody we'll still get the rebound."
Said Northbridge head coach Paul Baker, "They (Sabis) are very athletic, they get on the glass, and we really focused on rebounding tonight. We've been a good rebounding team all year, but we really went after it tonight."
While at times Murphy's assertion of the backcourt play by Sabis (15-9) proved true, with Jahson Hollett (13 points) and Xavier Garcia (13) giving trouble with their dribble penetration, it was the play of one of Northbridge's own guards in the third quarter that lifted the spirits. Senior Corey Pryor (24 points) sparked an 11-1 run to open the third quarter and extend their lead to 35-20, with three nifty baskets.
First, he took a handoff from Thomas Murphy on the right wing, planted and sunk an 18-footer near the corner. Pryor then grabbed the loose board on the ensuing Sabis possession, ran the length of the court and lofted up a soft finger roll while twisting his body to avoid a charging call. He then capped the run and made it 35-20 with a three-pointer just a few feet behind the spot he had just sank an 18-footer a few possessions ago.
"I just tried to let the game come to me," Pryor said. "I don't try to force shots -- if someone's there, I try to give the ball off to them. But just lately, everything's been falling for me, so I'm just going with it."
In all, Northbridge outscored Sabis 19-9 in the third quarter, including a 13-2 advantage on the glass. And all of it left Sabis head coach James Mack dejected afterwards.
"I thought we lacked energy the first three quarters," Mack said. "I don't think it was just the third. We didn't do a great job on the boards, we didn't do a great job of containing, our transition defense was not very good. I think that let us down."