Somerville Girls’ Basketball Takes Third Over O’Bryant in Eleventh Annual Highlander Hoopfest

(written, shot, edited and narrated for Somerville Patch)

Led by sophomore forward Melissa Baptista‘s double-double and junior guard Indira Evora‘s game-high 12 points, the Highlanders beat the O’Bryant Tigers in the consolation round of the 11th Annual Highlander Hoopfest, 53-37, Wednesday at the SHS Field House. Needham defeated Fontbonne Academy later that night, 44-43, winning the tournament.

Melissa McGovern sank a layup on the opening possession of the game, giving the Highlanders the only lead they’d need. The Tigers’ strong interior presence frequently put them on the foul line, but they could only chip at the Highlanders’ lead, never tying or actually taking the lead.

“This tournament is always a learning experience for the kids, because the teams out here, most of them are from the suburbs,” said Tiger coach Gertrude Fisher. “They’re a different breed of team.”

Tiger free throws also usually keyed long scoring runs by the Highlanders. When the Tigers cut the lead to 7-4 in the first, the Highlanders scored the next six, highlighted by Baptista grabbing her own rebound following a miss and putting it in for the 11-4 lead.

Two second-quarter Tiger free throws cut the Highlander lead to 16-13, but the Highlanders scored the next five, highlighted by a perfect three-pointer from junior Chyenne Miles.

And when a third-quarter Tiger free throw made it 25-21 Highlanders, the Highlanders put the game away for good. Junior Esther Joseph knocked down a three-pointer, senior Marie Koutsoubaris hit a layup, then Evora grabbed an offensive rebound and drained it to put the Highlanders up 34-22.

Continue reading Somerville Girls’ Basketball Takes Third Over O’Bryant in Eleventh Annual Highlander Hoopfest

Ryan Fitzpatrick’s Football Intelligence Not Up to Harvard Standards

The Bills' Ryan Fitzpatrick just hasn't been the same since signing his six-year, $59 million contract on Oct. 28, throwing more interceptions than touchdowns and struggling against weak competition. (AP Photo/David Duprey)

Humorist Dave Barry once wrote that Harvard University “for more than three centuries has produced graduates who, no matter what their philosophical differences, are all dedicated to the lofty goal of subtly letting you know that they went to Harvard.” Former Harvard Crimson and current Buffalo Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick hasn’t needed to purse his alma mater’s self-gratification.

Instead, football commentators and analysts have done the work for him, pointing out at every opportunity possible that Fitzpatrick did indeed once play for Harvard. And based on his play since signing a six-year, $59 million contract, Fitzpatrick may still think he’s playing in the Ivy League.

Lots of Money, Few Results

Since Fitzpatrick signed his deal on Oct. 28, his success in the NFL has plummeted. His accuracy dipped from over 67 percent before the deal to under 60 percent after. His 2:1 touchdown-interception ratio became 1.3:1 in the opposite direction. His QB rating has dropped from an average of 95.4 through the first six games to 71.4 for the final nine.

Since the Bills basically bet the farm on Fitzpatrick, the team’s success has died with Fitzpatrick’s. Of Buffalo’s six wins, four came in the first week. Buffalo has gone 2-7 since extending Fitzpatrick, at one point losing seven consecutive games and plummeting from first all the way to third in the AFC East.

Despite the incredible beginning of their season, the Bills could actually finish last in the division: They play a Patriots team seeking home-field advantage on Sunday, whereas the Dolphins play the Jets. The Dolphins hold the tie-breaker over the Bills.

Weak Competition Weakens Bills

As disappointing as the Bills’ collapse has been for their fans, what’s strange is that it’s come against weaker teams than they played before Oct. 28. Pre-contract Bills opponents have a current average winning percentage of .555; post-contract opponents average .459. Since Fitzpatrick’s extension, the Bills have played the God-awful Redskins, the equally awful Dolphins twice and the sub-.500 Chargers.

The Bills went 1-3 against what should have been their easiest opponents all season, only beating the Redskins. Fitzpatrick really struggled against the Dolphins and Chargers, completing just 53.3 percent of his throws and throwing just two touchdowns to seven interceptions.

Continue reading Ryan Fitzpatrick’s Football Intelligence Not Up to Harvard Standards

Somerville Track & Field Grabs Four Medals at Boston Holiday Challenge

(written, shot and edited for Somerville Patch)

Somerville junior Andre Rolim ran the fastest 600 Meter Run in both Massachusetts and New England Tuesday at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center in Boston. The run capped a four-medal performance by the Somerville Highlanders at the Boston Holiday Challenge, the first major track meet of their winter season.

Though Rolim has often won the 600 Meter by simply staying with the leaders for the first two laps, then exploding in the final 100 meters, this time he set a blistering pace almost immediately.

“Usually I follow the rabbit, and in the end I pass him,” Rolim said. “But I just kept my pace [this time], and I finished.”

Rolim pulled ahead of the pack just halfway through his first of three laps, widening the gap between himself and the next runner to nearly half a lap by the end of the race. He finished in 1:21.67, beating second-place Mike Fitzpatrick of Revere by nearly four seconds.

“If I followed them, I wouldn’t have gotten the fast time that I got,” Rolim said.

Continue reading Somerville Track & Field Grabs Four Medals at Boston Holiday Challenge

The DigBoston Column That Wasn’t

My first column for DigBoston should have been about watching the Celtics’ season opener at a bar on Christmas Day. Unfortunately… all the bars were closed. I still watched the game, though, and went ahead with the column.

DigBoston nixed it, but I’ve published it on Goose’s Gabs so all my loyal readers can get a preview of what I’ll be doing weekly for DigBoston in 2012. Enjoy!

Continue reading The DigBoston Column That Wasn’t

Patriots Report Card: Week 16

He wasn't perfect, but Tom Brady's gritty second-half performance – including two rushing touchdowns – carried the day against the Dolphins. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

The Miami Dolphins narrowly avoided disaster Saturday against the New England Patriots. Somehow a group of talented, motivated football players broke into their locker room, knocked everyone out, stole their uniforms and took the field for kickoff. The “Dolphins” went into halftime up 17-0.

Luckily, the true – and truly terrible – Dolphins regained consciousness and took back their uniforms for the second half. The Patriots scored 27 points in a row and held on to win, 27-24.

The Patriots clinched a first-round bye, and the Dolphins continued their mission of destroying the legacy of a once-great franchise.

Which Patriots graduated with honors, and which will have to take summer school classes? Here’s this week’s report card.

Quarterback: A-

Tom Brady couldn’t do much in the first half, what with all the Dolphins constantly in his face. Whatever happened at halftime, the protection improved in the second half, and Brady came alive. Brady’s second-half line: 20-27 for 217 yards and a touchdown, finishing 27-46 for 306 overall. Brady continues to play with guts, QB-sneaking not once but twice for rushing touchdowns in the second half.

Continue reading Patriots Report Card: Week 16

Patriots Clinch First-Round Bye, Overcome 17-Point Deficit Against Dolphins

Tom Brady's second rushing touchdown proved the game-winner Sunday afternoon against the Dolphins at Gillette. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)

The New England Patriots took every punch the Miami Dolphins threw at them in the first half of Sunday afternoon’s game at Gillette.

In the second half, the Patriots came out swinging, and the Dolphins went down for the count.

The Patriots scored 27 points in the second half, overcoming a 17-point deficit to beat the Dolphins, 27-24, and clinch a first-round playoff bye.

Brady Comes Alive in Second Half

The Patriots entered halftime down 17-0, dispirited and disheveled. Missing Matt Light and losing Logan Mankins early in the game, the Patriots’ offensive line had crumbled under the Dolphins’ pass-rushing onslaught, leading to three sacks. Tom Brady could never sit comfortably in the pocket, completely derailing the passing game.

The Patriots went three-and-out four times in the first half, and Stephen Gostkowski badly missed a 51-yard field goal attempt in the waning seconds before halftime.

Whatever Bill Belichick said to his team, they exited the locker room with renewed energy and resolve. Brady began the second half with an 11-play drive – highlighted by a 15-yarder to Chad Ochocinco – that ended with a 45-yard field goal and put the Patriots on the board.

Continue reading Patriots Clinch First-Round Bye, Overcome 17-Point Deficit Against Dolphins

Somerville High Winter 2011-12 Preview: Indoor Track & Field

(written and photographed for Somerville Patch)

With the 2011-12 Somerville High winter season underway, Somerville Patch will be previewing all seven of the Highlander teams. Unsure how the Highlanders did last year? Want to know who might impact the upcoming season? Just want to know when the first game is? Read on and find out.

Boys’ Indoor Track & Field

2010 record: 4-0 in Greater Boston League; GBL Championship

The Highlander boys’ track and field team had about as successful a 2010-11 season as one could hope for – going undefeated and winning the Greater Boston League, then winning two state championships in individual events.

“We had a large group of kids – seniors – that last year was their fourth indoor season,” says coach Dave Dickerson, adding: “You could tell them, ‘Here’s the plan today,’ put it up on the wall, and the kids that are the captains, the leaders, can go and just get started doing that.”

With many of last season’s top runners graduated, Dickerson says this season will likely be a “take a breath” year.

“My hope is that by the end of the year, a lot of these guys are going to get the bug for track and really want to be doing it,” Dickerson says.

Continue reading Somerville High Winter 2011-12 Preview: Indoor Track & Field

Strong Start Powers Celtics to Second Preseason Win Over Raptors

Rajon Rondo shoots against the Toronto Raptors during Wednesday's preseason game at the TD Garden in Boston. (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)

Doc Rivers gave his starters the first half of Wednesday’s home game against the Toronto Raptors, then turned it over to the bench.

The Boston Celtics bench played virtually the entire second half, maintaining a large first-half lead to beat the Raptors, 81-73.

A two-game preseason might not say much, but the Celtics finished theirs undefeated.

Rondo Runs the Offense, O’Neal the Defense

Missing Paul Pierce due to a heel injury, Rajon Rondo took over as the Celtics’ primary scoring threat. He set the offensive pace immediately, knocking down an 18-foot jumper to open the scoring, then doing it again from almost the same spot three minutes later to cap an 8-0 Celtics run to start the game.

Rondo’s second basket followed a block from Jermaine O’Neal – O’Neal’s second in the game’s opening four minutes. O’Neal may be the Celtics’ only center, but Wednesday night he showed he might have what it takes. The Raptors could never get an interior game going with O’Neal on the court, having to settle for long-range jumpers and three-pointers they couldn’t sink with much better than 30 percent accuracy.

Rondo and O’Neal hooked up again later in the first, with Rondo driving through the paint before kicking it out to O’Neal in the low post. O’Neal caught the pass, then in one motion fed it back to Rondo, whom the Raptors left under the basket. Rondo easily laid it in, putting the Celtics up 14-7.

Rondo finished the game with 17 points in 23 minutes. O’Neal didn’t score, but he blocked four shots and pulled down two rebounds in just 12 minutes.

Continue reading Strong Start Powers Celtics to Second Preseason Win Over Raptors

Five Lessons From BU

Thanks for all the help, BU! I leave a far better writer than when I entered.

Grad school’s done. I’ve written all my papers, and my “thesis” sits on my advisor’s desk – likely never to be read.

One grade remains unentered, but I already count it as my 10th “A” in 13 classes.

So what did I learn? Here are five lessons Boston University taught me about writing.

A good story raises questions

My favorite story written for BU was about the Berklee College of Music club hockey team. Boston.com published it, which was tremendously satisfying. But the reaction of my friends when they heard my topic satisfied me even more.

My first two stories written for Advanced Journalism Seminar – a course many disliked because of pain-in-the-ass professor Nick Mills, but I loved because of the freedom in choosing stories – didn’t strike a chord with anyone. My Ultimate story helped me develop the vocabulary with which I’d approach the unbelievably four Ultimate stories I’d write for Somerville Patch. The concussion story gave a local (Brookline) angle to a national issue – a tried and true strategy in journalism. But people reacted to those stories with a muted “Oh. Cool.”

But every time I mentioned the Berklee story, people said, “Berklee has a sports team?” Or, “how did you find out about this?” Those are the questions journalists love. They mean the story is something completely new.

I love new stories. And when you get asked questions like that, you know you’ve found another one.

Continue reading Five Lessons From BU

Patriots Report Card: Week 15

Aaron Hernandez led the Patriots with nine catches for 129 yards and a touchdown, plus 16 yards rushing, in Sunday's blowout victory over the Broncos. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

Whatever the source of the Denver Broncos’ new-found momentum, it ended in the second quarter of Sunday’s game against the New England Patriots. Neither Tim Tebow‘s speed nor his supplications could turn back Tom Brady‘s ruthless but balanced offensive attack. The Patriots beat the Broncos, 41-23, clinching the AFC East and moving ahead of both Pittsburgh and Houston for the AFC’s top seed.

Tebow majored in Family, Youth and Community Services, but are the Patriots the true bachelors of divinty? Vox Goisman, vox dei.

Quarterback: A

Brady didn’t play Sunday’s game like a quarterback who’d only won once at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, completing over two-thirds of his passes for 320 yards, two touchdowns and no picks. Given decent protection by his line, Brady had little trouble sitting in the pocket and waiting for his receivers to get open. He averaged nearly 9.4 yards per reception, throwing 15 first-down passes. He even rushed for a touchdown!

Running Backs: A-

The Patriots rushed for 141 yards Sunday – their highest total in nearly a month. Stevan Ridley continued transitioning his game to the NFL, leading the team with 11 carries for 65 yards. Danny Woodhead and BenJarvus Green-Ellis backed Ridley up with a touchdown apiece that showed off their complimentary running styles: Woodhead scampered 10 yards into the end zone in the third, Green-Ellis bulldozed past the left guard for 1 yard in the fourth.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: A

Aaron Hernandez was clearly sick of Rob Gronkowski getting all the praise this season. His response? Nine catches for 129 yards and a touchdown reception that started the Patriots’ 20-point swing in the second quarter. He also rushed for 16 yards on an end-around during the drive leading up to his touchdown.

Gronkowski and Wes Welker probably didn’t mind the lighter workload – they’ve combined for over half the Patriots’ receptions and receiving yards this season – but they still kicked in eight catches for 94 yards. Chad Ochocinco even got in on the act, slipping his defender and making a 33-yard touchdown bomb from Brady look easy early in the first.

Continue reading Patriots Report Card: Week 15