(written, shot, edited and narrated for Somerville Patch)
For the first 16 minutes of the Massachusetts Charter School Athletics Organization basketball tournament Friday at UMass-Boston, Somerville’s Prospect Hill Academy could do nothing right against Boston Collegiate Charter School.
For the second 16 minutes, they could do nothing wrong.
Prospect Hill’s 35-point offensive explosion in the second half was more than enough to overcome a 15-point first-half deficit, beating BCCS 48-36 in the MCSAO quarter-finals.
Prospect Hill began the second half down 24-13, but went on a 10-2 run to get right back into the game. The offense was driven by the defense: during the run, the Wizards stole the ball six times.
Senior forward and tri-captain Gael Francois led the second-half attack for Prospect Hill, scoring 17 of his 19 total points after halftime. He was also solid on the boards, grabbing a key defensive rebound during the 10-2 run before going coast-to-coast, laying it in and getting to the free-throw line. Francois was perfect from the line Friday, and BCCS’s lead was cut to 26-18.
Francois grabbed another rebound, this time an offensive board, after junior center Leo Ziviani went 1-1 at the free-throw line. Francois laid it in, and the BCCS lead was now down to just four. Francois finished the game with five rebounds.
A BCCS three-pointer pushed their lead back to six, but Francois hit two three-pointers of his own. When BCCS called timeout with 2:39 left in the game, Prospect Hill was down just 35-33.
After the timeout, Francois picked off another pass, then hit the jumper on the other end to tie the game at 35, completing the comeback.
BCCS looked visibly dejected at the total shift in momentum, and it didn’t get any better.
On the Wizards’ next possession, after Ziviani grabbed his fourth rebound with a strong box-out, junior guard and tri-captain Wole Tunde-Lukan (nine points, four assists, five steals) gave Prospect Hill their first lead with a scoop shot with less than 1:30 left in the game.
After a BCCS traveling violation, Prospect Hill’s final tri-captain, Junior Guard Mitchi Paul (eight points), dribbled the ball the entire length of the court before sinking the lay-up and getting to the foul line.
Down 40-36 with less than a minute to go, BCCS had no choice but to foul the Wizards and put them on the free-throw line. Prospect Hill sank six free throws down the stretch, including two technicals called against the BCCS coach following Tunde-Lukan coming out of nowhere, stealing the inbound pass, and laying it in.
Matt Prokop led Boston Collegiate with 18 points, 16 in the first half.
Missing freshman offensive star Rayoni Matos, Prospect Hill coach John Carolan credited the defense with kick-starting the team in the second half.
“When we don’t have our number-one scorer in the game, we don’t have our offense,” Carolan said. “We really relied on some turnovers on the defensive end to open up things for us offensively and open up the court.”
Carolan said the key to overcoming the large first-half deficit was to approach it incrementally and not try and do too much all at once.
“That was kind of our mantra during the second half, play the next play,” Carolan said. “Little by little, chip away. It’s all clichéd stuff, but it really applies.”
The no. 3 Wizards took on the no. 2 MATCH Academy Mountain Lions in the MCSAO semi-finals on Saturday.
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Prospect Hill Academy’s girls basketball squad, the defending MCSAO champions, were not so lucky Friday night at the Clark Athletic Center, losing to no. 6 MATCH Academy, 42-38.
Sophomore point guard Hellen Assefaw and junior power forward and tri-captain Maishka Antoine each scored 16 for Prospect Hill. But MATCH’s Ayana Mumford scored 28, including four three-pointers. Girls coach and MCSAO executive director Jack O’Brien said three of Mumford’s three-pointers were from NBA-range.
“Too many turnovers and we didn’t match MATCH’s intensity,” O’Brien said in an e-mail. “They outworked us, got more rebounds and got more of the loose balls.”