Cavs’ drive helps them survive in win over Pelham
By TOM KING
HOLLIS – The Hollis Brookline High School boys basketball team never met a layup it didn’t like.
The problem on Monday night was, in the second half they weren’t making as many, but that’s OK as they held off the Pelham Pythons, 61-51, for their seventh straight win to move to 11-2 in Division II.
“It was just important for us to keep our composure down the stretch,” Cavs coach Cole Etten said. “Pelham picked up the pace and it was important for us to keep our composure out there.”
This looked like it would be a much easier win as the Cavaliers, thanks to their constant drives to the hoop, were cruising with a 32-15 halftime lead.
But the Pythons, as Etten said, decided to push the ball and suddenly it was a nine point game with 5:44 to play. Pelham was sparked by sophomore guard Drew Brown, who buried four 3s and finished with a team high 18 points.
The Cavs used the combination of Jonathan Brackett (20 points) and Matt Simco (18), but they may have suffered a blow when Brackett had to leave the game late in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury.
“We’ll have to check with the trainer,” Etten said on Brackett. “We were able to get them some good looks in the first half, and they were able to read the defense well. Some good things happened.”
Not for Pelham (7-5) in the first half.
“We knew they were a tough, physically strong team,” Pelham coach Michael Larson said. “We were going to be tested physically. Unfortunately they came out and took it right to us on the boards, and on offense they were getting whatever they wanted.
“So we decided at halftime we had to turn it up a little bit, take advantage of our strengths, which is speed and quickness. … We were able to put a little bit of a dent into it but we weren’t able to get close enough to threaten the outcome.”
They did get within 55-48 with 1:01 to play, but the Cavs hit four of six free throws down the stretch to put it away. Grant Snyder added eight points and Matt Dowling blocked four shots for HB, which remains atop Division II among a good mix of contenders. If they can bottle up that first-half aggressiveness, they’ll be tough come March.
“It’s great,” Etten said of his players’ willingness to drive to the hoop. “We talk about taking the right shots for the team, and I think we did a good job of that tonight. All the guys play hard, they got after the ball and got some rebounds at the end and we were able to finish the game.”
Of course, many are thinking to a month from now on how they’ll finish the season after bowing out in last year’s semis. One game at a time, says Etten; but Simco says they have a good feeling.
“We’ve been playing together for so long,” Simco said. “I think we’ve really got that chemistry. And in practice we’ve been working hard, we’ve got a tight-knit group, compete against each other and make sure we can be the best players we can be.”
They look pretty good so far.