Cavaliers secure top seed in 53-48 win over rival Milford

Staff photo by TOM KING Hollis Brookline's Matt Simco drives to the hoop despite the defensive efforts of Milford's Max Fortin during the Cavs' 53-48 win in Hollis on Thursday night.

HOLLIS – They’re No. 1.

The Hollis Brookline High School boys basketball team clinched the top regular season spot in Division II on Thursday night, but it certainly wasn’t easy.

The Cavaliers knew the Spartans of Milford would give them a fight and they did, the hosts eventually prevailing, 53-48, holding Milford to just five points in a fourth quarter – and zero over the final 4:55 – that began with the score deadlocked at 43.

“They were really battling us,” HB’s Matt Simco said. “We just got together in the huddle as a team and said that this is going to be our night.”

The Cavs and their fans hope it’s going to be their season, too, as they go into next week’s Division II tournament with a 16-2 record, riding a 12-game winning streak.

It looked a couple of times as if that streak might come to an end, as the Spartans had a couple of five-point advantages and led 48-46 thanks to a Jake Greska 3-pointer with 4:55 to play.

But shockingly, that would be it for 10-8 Milford’s scoring.

“Our defense held strong in the second half,” HB coach Cole Etten said. “They really stayed focused and were able to keep guys in front of them in the second half. That made a huge difference for us.

“They’re (Milford) a really tough matchup for us.”

But not tough enough, despite 16 points from Jamie Pare. But the Cavs’ trio of Matt Dowling (12 points) and Matt Simco (11) was too strong. Plus three key Spartan turnovers, and a big charging call, certainly helped the hosts, who could see the Spartans again if both survive the first round of the tourney.

“There were some tough calls down the stretch,” Milford coach Dan Murray said, his team also getting nine each from Gavin Urda and Jake Greska. “But we battled. We struggled a little bit offensively. They’re a real good defensive team. … It slipped away. They only had five fouls in the second half, we had about 15. It’s tough to battle that.”

The Cavs, who led 14-13 after one and 31-30 at the half, didn’t quite take advantage of that, going 9-for-21 from the line. But a traditional three-point play by HB’s Grant Snyder gave the Cavs the lead for good, 49-48 with 4:12 to play.When Simco put back his own miss with 1:31 to go, it made it 51-48 and a Brackett free throw made it a two-possession game, 52-48, with 27 seconds left.

Now, the tournament arrives.

“Thanks to our seniors, their work really paid off,” Etten said. “Once the playoffs start, seedings don’t matter. We’re going to focus on whatever’s next for us.”