BEVERLY, Mass. –- Elijah Macon had reason to celebrate.
On defense and up 61-57 with six seconds left in the game, Macon bolted to the opposite post to swat a Northfield-Mount Hermon (27-5) lay-up attempt out of bounds. Northfield called timeout, and Macon was excitedly swarmed by his teammates while running into the huddle -— pumping his chest, and throwing up his hands in celebration.
The blocked shot was the most memorable clutch play of the evening, but in the grand scheme it was just one of many times over the course of the game where the West Virginia-bound forward put his team on his back.
The Bobcats’ sixth-man would start on almost any other prep team in the country, but Brewster coach Jason Smith said that Macon made it clear from the beginning of the season that he didn’t care whether he started or came off the bench. The move has clearly paid dividends for Brewster (29-4), the win over Northfield was their 16th consecutive win—they haven’t lost a game since dropping a close one on the road against New Hampton in mid-January.
“Elijah’s been our most important player over the last month and a half—during this long winning streak," Smith said. "He’s done a great job of getting in better shape—great energy and excellent motor. He’s really been our energy guy off the bench, obviously he probably deserves to start.
“We’ve always had a guy like that who puts the team first and understands how important it is to have that energy guy off the bench. It’s guys like that who are the reason we have these long winning streaks, because they provide that spark.”
Macon finished with 13 point and eight rebounds. Guards Martez Harrison (2-3 from three-point range) and Ron Patterson (six rebounds) each chipped in 10 points for Brewster.
Northfield guard Sam Donahue started out on a tear, scoring 11 points in the first four minutes of the game—including two of his patented long-range three pointers. Behind a spirited first half performance from Harvard-commit Zena Edosomwan (14 points, 12 rebounds), the Hoggers led 36-31 at halftime.
“[Sam]’s just a tremendous shooter," Smith said. "Every time we talk about the strong side staying, we say that we have to guard this kid like Sam Donahue. He’s going to BC as a walk-on, but he’s a scholarship-level player. He’s somebody who will carve out a nice niche there and have a good career.”
That lead didn’t stick around for long though, Macon and Patterson caught fire in the opening minutes of the second half—keying a 16-5 run that gave Brewster their first sizable lead of the game.
“It was just a gut-check time," Smith said. "It’s March now —- you’ve got to bring the energy and play with passion on the defensive end. That’s what we’ve hung our hat on the past month and a half: getting stops defensively.”
Macon seconded his coach’s approach.
“At halftime we talked in the locker room that we needed to pick it up on defense," he said. "We weren’t playing defense as well as we should in the first half.”
Moore, Notice carry St. Thomas More:
Brewster will take on St. Thomas More (28-3) in the NEPSAC AAA championship game on Sunday, the Chancellors won the first game of the evening 71-53 to advance.
A balanced offensive attacked, led by Marquise Moore (17 points, five rebounds), Gabe Levin (14 points), Marquis Salmon (13 points), and Duane Notice (12 points, eight rebounds) was ultimately too much for a New Hampton (25-10) squad who was playing without big man Tory Miller—one night after the Huskies picked up an emotional, but exhausting, overtime victory over South Kent.
New Hampton star Noah Vonleh, who shot 7-of-9 from the floor, finished with 18 points and eight rebounds for the Huskies. The Indiana-signee had to work hard for every single one of his shots—getting double and triple-teamed every time he touched the ball.
“Our objective is to make the best player on the floor have a difficult evening," said St. Thomas More coach Jere Quinn. "We had several different players defend him; we had them deny the ball. He’s a very, very talented player.”
The Chancellors led 36-30 at halftime, but slammed the door shut on New Hampton with a hard-nosed defensive plan, while working their offense until they got the best shot possible. Quinn was confident in knowing that his team led despite missing some easy shots in the first half, and therefore said he didn’t have to do much to light a fire into his team at halftime.
“I said, ‘lets just attack’ -— if we’re going to lose, then we’re going to lose playing the way we play," Quinn said. "Our objective is to play with organized chaos, to some degree, and get the ball down the court and play.
“We really try to space the ball properly...We have shooters on the wings, so it’s a difficult decision for any coach, do you play them of help off? Duane and Marquis did a nice job. It looked like we had fresher legs, they had a beast of a game last night...But that’s the world of prep school.”
St. Thomas More, the top seed in the AAA tournament, has played the most consistent basketball of any team in the league this year. Given the magnitude of Sunday’s game, Quinn especially sees no point in trying to change their gameplan now -— giving off a "we are what we are" mentality going into the final against Brewster.
“They’re very talented, they’re well–coached," Quinn said. "We’re going to show up on Sunday, give 100 percent on the defense end and hopefully we hit a few more shots.”