By Justin A. Rice
The fact that East Boston lost its first game of the season one game before its highly anticipated matchup with the undefeated New Mission High boys’ basketball team didn’t take any luster out of Sunday night’s game between the two highly ranked teams; it merely poured more jet fuel into the Jets’ tank.
“This one means a lot,” East Boston senior John Flakes said after the 68-66 victory against the Titans on Sunday night at Emanuel College. “We just came off a loss against Franklin and it was a redeem game. They were undefeated and now they’re not. Now we can say we got one on them and they don’t got one on us.
“I’m looking forward to seeing them again in the cities.”
Going into the game Beantownhoops.com had New Mission (12-1) and East Boston (12-1) ranked No. 5 and No. 6. Before Eastie’s first loss the Boston Globe had the Jets at No. 6 and the Titans at No. 11.
After Sunday’s game East Boston coach Malcolm Smith said that Boston’s 85-81 loss to Franklin High on Friday night alleviated some pressure—until moments from the tap that was.
“In the city this is bragging rights,” Smith said. “I didn’t think I felt the pressure until maybe three minutes before game time and yeah there was a lot of pressure. The guys were very calm cool and collected but I was nervous today.”
Junior Jeff Amazan proved to be the coolest Jet on Sunday night, sinking three consecutive free throws to put his team up 63-60 with 1:12 left to play.
Those three points came moments after he missed two from the foul line with 1:23 to play. But East Boston got the offensive rebound after his second missed foul shot. Amazan was awarded three more free throws after being fouled while shooting a 3-pointer.
“I thought I was going to miss all three of them,” said Amazan, who finished with 11 points. “I’m like Shaq at the line right now. I don’t know what’s going on.”
But he was money from the 3-point line 37 seconds later. Trying to make his way back to the free throw line, Amazan drained a triple to put Eastie up 66-60 with 35 seconds to play.
“I didn’t know if it was going to go in,” Amazan said. “I was just trying to get contact on it and it went in.”
New Mission junior Kachi Nzerem (17 points) hit two 3-pointers in the final moments, including one at the buzzer, but it was too little too late.
New Mission was without starting point guard Osmel Odena, who missed the game due to personal matters.
New Mission coach Cory McCarthy said Odena averages 17 points and nine assists.
“He’s the best point guard in the city,” McCarthy said. “Just remember this, very few teams could miss their best ball handler and go without a point guard and compete at a state championship level. And that’s what we did tonight.
“We still should’ve won the game. If you’d seen the game, we beat ourselves. And for us to do that I’m happy with my guys. I’m not happy with the breakdown but that’s life.”
After extending its 26-23 halftime lead to 36-29 midway through the third quarter, New Mission succumbed to East Boston’s full court pressure as the Jets went on a 13-2 run. At one point the Jets press forced five consecutive turnovers.
Despite tying the game-high 17-points, New Mission junior point Guard Samir McDaniels struggled to fill in at point guard.
“We had three or four guys with four fouls,” McDaniels said. “Guys started to be more tentative and their press eventually got to us. We kind of had a breakdown but we fought back in the fourth quarter. It was a one possession game. They had better possessions than we did.
“It was hard getting the ball up the floor with their pressure. But that’s all we were really missing. I’m not a true point guard so that was our downfall tonight.”
NOTEWORTHY: Even with the added fire from the Franklin loss on Friday night, it took East Boston’s Amazan and Flakes a half to get going. While Amazan uncharacteristically scored 10 of his 11 points in the final quarter on Sunday night, Smith said Flakes normally takes a while to heat up.
“John can be very passive,” Smith said of Flakes, who also had 11 points. “Sometimes his attitude is just to go with the flow. I call him the best second half player in the city. Sometimes it takes him a long time to get into it.”
As for Amazan, Smith said he has had a chip on his shoulder lately and is finally rechanneling that energy “to not have so much disdain for me.”
“I think he realized today that nobody really cares [about his bad attitude],” Smith said. “This team is going to move on with or without him so he had a very spirited walkthrough today and today he came in and showed he’s multi-faceted.”
n Senior Dimitry Coronel led East Boston with 13 points while senior Elijah Chislohm had had 12.