(written, shot, edited and narrated for Somerville Patch)
Prospect Hill Academy (Somerville) boys basketball coach John Carolan said before Saturday afternoon’s MCSAO semi-finals at UMass-Boston’s Clark Athletic Center that he wanted to keep no. 2 MATCH Charter School (Boston) out of the paint. If the Mountain Lions were going to beat the Wizards, Carolan said, they would have to do it on the perimeter.
Unfortunately, that’s exactly what the Mountain Lions did.
MATCH Charter School drained seven three-point shots and beat Prospect Hill Academy, 52-26, advancing to Sunday’s Massachusetts Charter School Athletic Organization finals.
Prospect Hill Academy’s only real threat to MATCH came in the opening minutes of the game. Junior guards and tri-captains Wole Tunde-Lukan and Mitchi Paul made plays on both ends of the court, each stealing a pass and draining a three-pointer during an 8-1 Wizards run.
But MATCH, led by two three-pointers from Tayon Watson, responded by going on a 21-2 run of their own, Watson finished the game with 16 points, including four three-pointers.
PHA finally broke the MATCH run when Paul stole another pass (the team had nine steals, but only two in the second half) and took it all the way to the basket for a lay-up to make it 22-12 MATCH. Paul led all PHA scorers with nine points and three steals (tied with Tunde-Lukan).
Prospect Hill tried to make another dent in the sizable lead after halftime, when sophomore forward Erik Orellana hit a jumper to make it 25-15 MATCH. But MATCH responded with another run, this time scoring 13 unanswered points on the strength of three more three-pointers. Now up 38-15, the game was basically out of reach, as the teams traded buckets down the stretch.
Senior forward Jonathan Tata tried to make his last game in a Wizards uniform a memorable one. In one sequence of plays, with about nine minutes left in the game, he scrambled and jostled for a loose ball, grabbed an offensive rebound for the put-back bucket to make it 39-19 MATCH, then blocked a shot and grabbed a defensive rebound. He finished the game with four points, seven rebounds, two steals and a block.
Although MATCH did most of its damage from long-range, they were also very successful at penetrating into the lane and drawing fouls. The Mountain Lions shot 23 free throws and made 13. Prospect Hill took 12 free throws, but only made three.
The Wizards, meanwhile, struggled in the paint, missing five lay-ups from within two feet of the basket.
Carolan said that Prospect Hill, missing freshman offensive leader Rayoni Matos, just could not match MATCH’s offensive execution Saturday.
“Without our leading scorer, without our leading ball-handler, we were at a little bit of a loss,” he said. “We got off some good shots in the beginning, but unfortunately we couldn’t sustain it today.”
Their season now over, Carolan congratulated the seniors for their leadership, and said this loss should be a learning experience for the Prospect Hill underclassmen.
“My main hope is that the younger guys on the team, the freshmen, the sophomores, the juniors, got a sense of what it’s gonna take to win an MCSAO championship,” Carolan said. “It doesn’t feel good to lose in the semis. We want to be playing on Sunday, and it’s gonna take a little bit more from them over the course of the season to get there.”