By Justin A. Rice
Brighton High won its first ever Division 2 Eastern Mass boys basketball title on Monday night by beating Stoughton High at TD Garden.
The 53-42 victory propels the Bengals (21-3) to the Division 2 State Championship game at 4 p.m. on Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester against the winner of tomorrow’s game between St. Bernard’s and Mahar.
“I told them in the locker room this is the moment, we’re going to enjoy it, we’re going to go home and when we fall asleep and wake up tomorrow it’s a done deal,” Brighton Coach Hugh Coleman said. “We want to have the best week of practice and school and go out there and let the chips fall where they may.”
Going into the second half tied 26-26, Brighton ended the final quarter with a 5-0 run that gave them a 35-32 lead. Brighton struggled to put the game away but eventually stepped on Stoughton’s neck in the final quarter.
After opening the quarter with a 4-0 run, junior guard Theo Oribharbor hit important 3-pointers with 3:39 to play to put the Bengals up 41-35 and then another long triple with 1:24 to play to go up 48-39.
Oribharbor and junior guard Daivon Edwards tied for the Bengals team-high with 11-points apiece.
“It was kind of difficult during crunch time,” sophomore guard Malik James said after the game. “We weren’t playing to the best of our ability. As soon as we started playing like a family again we put them away.”
Stoughton (20-5), who was led by junior guard Aaron Calixte’s game-high 17 points, had its opportunities down the stretch but ended up finishing 4-for-20 from the field in the second half.
“Those guys have long arms and there’s always someone challenging you,” Stoughton Coach John Gallivan said afterwards. “Sometimes the ball doesn’t go down. It’s a tough place to shoot.”
Brighton’s victory came a year after losing to eventual state champion New Mission in the Division 2 North final. This year Brighton beat New Mission twice in the regular season, including by 20 points in their second meeting.
“I knew it was their year,” Coleman said of New Mission last year. “[My team] needed to understand how much work it takes to move on. It showed the growth in the off season and regular season. We knew it just was not going to be handed to us. We have to go out and work for it.”