ROXBURY, Mass. -- Sometimes, it’s better to look at the scoreboard than the state sheet.
That is something that East Boston boys basketball coach Malcolm Smith will have to remind himself after Thursday night’s 61-59 win over Madison Park. The stats did not paint a pretty picture for the visiting Jets. They made just 2-of-25 free throws in the second half (yes, you read that right). Madison Park out-rebounded the Jets by a 45-27 margin.
However, Eastie forced Madison into 32 turnovers –- including 20 in the first half –- and the Cardinals (6-1) could not capitalize on the Jets’ inability to put the game away late.
“I’ll take any win,” said Smith, whose team improves to 5-2. “As I told everybody before, we’re just not that really good. We just play with a lot of emotion and we play very hard.”
And they play suffocating defense at times, which Eastie them build a 40-27 halftime lead. Led by Dakim Murray (18 points, 16 rebounds) and Rayshaw Matthews (19 points), Madison began to chip away in the third quarter, twice getting within four points. But baskets by Eastie's Kyle Fox and Kenny Ramos pushed the advantage up to 51-41 heading into the final stanza.
A drive into the lane and finish from Madison's David Stewart (seven points, 12 rebounds) cut the deficit to 53-48, before a put-back from Ramos and layup by Pat Santos off another Madison turnover made it 59-49 with just 2:10 to play.
The game was not close to being over, though, as the Cardinals -- led by Murray and Matthews -- went on an 8-1 run to make it 60-57 with 50 seconds left.
Eastie continued to miss free throws, and Terell Matthews of Madison made a pair with 21 seconds left to make it 61-59.
But despite the Jets missing four more freebies in the final 17 seconds, the Cardinals could not get any quality looks in the final moments and Eastie escaped with the win.
It's in the Books: The first quarter took about as long as most halves because of problems with the scoring books. First, East Boston was hit with a technical foul because Algeno Jean went to the free throw line but was apparently not in the Madison Park book. That ordeal lasted maybe 10 minutes.
Shortly after, the game was stopped again because of an inaccuracy over the score. While East Boston was up, 15-10, the Madison Park scorekeeper had it at just 12-10. The delay caused some frustration and confusion all over the gym, but was eventually sorted out.
The Eastie Swarm: The East Boston halfcourt press made life miserable for Madison Park in the first half and it proved to be one of the keys to victory. One reason why the Jets can play with such a ramped-up intensity level is their depth. While East Boston does not have a ton of size, the Jets do have a seemingly endless well of aggressive guards to bring off the bench and act as pests to opposing ballhandlers.
On Thursday night, the player who stood out the most for his effort was senior Travon Moore. Despite coming off the bench, Moore led Eastie with 12 points, and his hustle set the tone when other facets of Eastie’s game were not up to par.
Cards Control the Crease: Although Madison played inconsistent, especially against Eastie’s pressure in the first half, part of that had to do with the Cardinals missing starters O’Shea Joy (asthma) and Dane Lawladownie (ankle).
However, the Cardinals can take solace in the fact that they had a very strong effort in the paint. Murray is 6-foot-4 and burly enough to push his way into position, while Stewart is an athletic presence at 6-3 who can go up and snatch rebounds away from taller players. If the Cardinals can get healthy and take better care of the ball, they will be a tough out in the city.
“We only have ourselves to blame,” said Madison Park coach Dennis Wilson. “We missed too many foul shots and made too many turnovers. But that’s what happens with a young team.”