By Zolan Kanno-Youngs, BPSsports Correspondent
Madison Park withstood a late surge by Franklin on Thursday night to set up a Saturday afternoon showdown with powerhouse Brockton.
“We’re expecting a war,” MP senior center Dakim Murray said of Brockton after the 63-60 victory against Franklin. “We got to get to the Garden; I need me a ring.”
The Cardinals had to walk the tightrope on Thursday’s semifinal to get to the MIAA South Division 1 final at 4 p.m. on Saturday. Even as Franklin dwindled down what was a 20-point lead to just one point on Thursday night, the composure and leadership of senior center Murray propelled Madison Park to the victory.
“If we lose we go home,” said Murray, who finished with 23 points and 11 rebounds. “Next years the next year and I’m a senior, there is no next year for me. I refuse to lose. It’s a refuse to lose attitude and it prevailed today.”
MP Coach Dennis Wilson’s big men were simply too much for Franklin throughout the game. After the first half ended 35-19, the second chance opportunities created by Murray and junior forward David Stewart pushed the lead to 20.
“I told them we got to do a better job of getting second and third shots,” Wilson said. “When we can get second and third shots and get more shots than the opposition, we’ve got a better chance to win.”
However, a couple late quarter turnovers, including a charge taken by Franklin senior forward, Jason McKie, which lead to a 3-pointer by senior guard Brendan Skidmore, cut the Madison Park lead to just 11 going in to the final quarter.
Franklin continued to ride the momentum by opening the fourth quarter on a 7-0 run, including two consecutive charges taken by McKie, and a layup that cut the lead to four.
The lead would stay within four with two minutes to go until Skidmore hit another 3-pointer to bring the Madison Park lead to just one, 58-57. A Franklin foul would then send Stewart to the line with a chance to stretch the lead to three. After making his first, Stewart missed the second free throw, however, the size of Murray was too much for the Franklin defenders as he gave his team another possession.
After free throws for Madison Park and another clutch 3-pointer made by Skidmore, the lead was 63-60 with two seconds left, and Franklin had one more chance to tie. This time, Skidmore’s three rimmed out, sealing the win for MP.
“We’ve got a saying, ‘Big time players make big time plays, big time teams win big time games,’” Wilson said. “We don’t have any superstars. We have a team, a team of some tough warriors that play hard.”
Zolan Kanno-Youngs is a freshman at Northeastern University who does color commentating and sideline reporting at the NU home basketball games.