BOSTON -- Cohasset boys’ basketball coach Bo Ruggiero didn’t mince words at halftime, with his team down 28-24 to Boston Cathedral.
“I said, ‘We’re not playing well. We’re shooting the ball poorly. Sam Richardson and Robert Jones, our two mainstays for three years, are playing terrible.’” relayed Ruggiero.
Those two players responded as Cohasset matched the thunder provided from the Skippers fans to storm back on the court, overcoming a six-point fourth quarter deficit to take a close contest, 65-64 to win the MIAA Division 4 Boys’ South Sectional Championship.
“This is a gutsy group of kids,” said Ruggiero. “My guys, who are supposed to be the players, became the players. We got a great effort from our five.”
It took some hot hands to spark the comeback, with guard Sam Richardson scoring 12 points on 6-of-7 shooting in the third quarter, keeping Cohasset (22-2) close.
Richardson gave way to the point guard Jones, who hit a perfect 5-for-5 field goals, including four 3-pointers as the trump card in the comeback Cohasset win. Those shooting performances were looked at a responsibility for Jones and Richardson.
“I didn’t really have an option with what I had to do,” said the senior co-captain Richardson. “I played lousy in the first half. I wanted to win.”
“We had some discussions at halftime and came out in the second half and ran a more disciplined offense, which ended up getting us more quality shots,” said Ruggiero. “When you take bad shots and throw the ball away like we were in the first half, they (score) quickly.”
Cathedral (20-4) demonstrated its athleticism from the start, punctuated by Kyle Lawyer’s dunk just a few minutes into the contest, part of his 17-point effort. Forward Joe Green led all scorers with 23 while 5-foot-3 point guard Carlos Bermudez (perhaps a generous height listing), pushed the tempo with 17 of his own, accenting six steals as a thorn in the Skippers’ side.
“You can’t press little shorty (Bermudez). He’s just way too good of a player,” said Ruggiero, who switched defenses from a trap, to man-to-man and back to his base 1-2-2. “Our mixing and matching of the defenses kept the game in reach.”
Adding to the early adversity was Kyrel Jaundoo’s four first half fouls. He brought down ten first half rebounds and was a defensive standout for Cohasset. Rather than curtail his high-energy game, Jaundoo kept the pace high as Ruggiero rolled the dice by starting him in the second half.
“We’re not in that game without Kyrel Jaundoo,” said Ruggiero. “There was no way we were going to win that game without his presence. He’s a tremendous athlete. He’s come a long way. He is a major reason why we were even around early in that game.”
Jaundoo never did foul out, as he and junior Robbie Mahoney muscled their way to double-double performances.
The exclamation point came as Jones nailed a three-pointer while falling down, boosting the Cohasset lead to 63-59 with 15 seconds to go, a shot he didn’t realize found the twine.
“I thought I bricked it,” he said. “I fell down and tried to sell the foul. Sometimes they fall I guess. (That was) all luck.”
Bermudez spotted-up for a three at the top of the arch to close the gap to 63-62. Richardson was intentionally fouled, hitting both shots to increase the lead back to three points. With fouls to give, Cohasset took the clock down to 4.3 seconds. Bermudez heaved a three in pressure, which failed to catch iron. Green put the chance home, but Cathedral came up one point short.
Now, Cohasset will try its hand at a state title at the T.D. Garden, a place Ruggiero hasn’t coached in since the 1974-75 season, as a member of the Medfield coaching staff.
“Everything that’s in the past is in the past,” said the coach. “The present is right now, enjoying this game. The future is Tuesday.”
Asked what the present felt like for Richardson as he clutched the trophy after the game, he went through the spectrum of emotion.
“I’m jittery. I’m everything. I’m pumped,” he said. “No one ever thought we be here. Proving (we could get here) is one thing and actually (winning it) is another. It’s awesome.”
HULL 50, GREATER NEW BEDFORD 38
Jumping out to a 13-2 to run, Hull’s early start foreshadowed the team’s later jumps for joy, winning the MIAA Division 4 Girls’ Basketball South Sectional Championship over Greater New Bedford, 50-38.
The Pirates (15-10) received balanced scoring and rebounding, dominating in the paint throughout. Nicole Heavern and Amy McDonald each netted 13 points, with Lauren Geary’s 12 not far behind.
Hull’s early run opened up a 13-2 advantage, but the Lady Bears (15-7) chipped away, thorough transition offense and Vanessa Conceicao’s drives to the hoop, leading all scorers with 16 points. But the Greater New Bedford offensive never got too comfortable, as the Pirates opened in a full court press and never allowed much room to breathe.
“We’re an in your face defense,” said Hull coach Elizabeth Londergan. “We’re going to be in your face all game. So, get ready for it. Defense wins championships. Now we’re the champs.”
The Pirates led 27-16 at the half, but received more good news when Lady Bears’ forward Stephanie Antoine fouled out in the third quarter. Without one of its best defenders and toughest interior players, Hull swept the offensive boards clean, out-rebounding the Lady Bears, 48-29, led by Katie Manning’s 12 rebounds.
Entering the fourth quarter down 40-27, Hull needed just two field goals (part of 10 points in the quarter) to keep Greater New Bedford at bay.
The win was a triumph in more ways than one for Hull, which opened the school year with no budget for the team, getting the necessary $240,000 by holding yard sales, bake sales, anything to raise the money.
“It’s really good for the town of Hull because the last two years we’ve had no budget,” said Londergan. “We’re thanking the boosters, the AD and all the parents who continue to work hard so these girls can have a chance. Without them, we wouldn’t even be here. We’d be not playing.”
Now, they’ll continue playing in hopes of a state championship. The game plan will be the same for that game as it has been for every other contest throughout the season. In the Pirates’ locker room, a “Little Things” poster is on display, with items written on it from members of the team. The poster includes little things like diving on the floor and making free throws. Londergan said if the team followed the poster, they’d be playing in the T.D. Garden.
“I don’t think they believed me,” she said with a smile.