The Brighton boys’ basketball team got off to a bad start in last year’s state final. And the game hadn't even begun.
A day after beating Stoughton in the 2012 Division 2 EMass championship game at TD Garden, Brighton’s coaches set out to scout the Western Mass. title game between St. Bernard’s and Mahar at the MassMutual Center in Springfield.
“It was my fault, I put in the GPS 'UMass Amherst' for some reason,” Brighton coach Hugh Coleman said Tuesday. His Bengals had just defeated Scituate, 55-52, to return to the state championship game (Saturday, 4 p.m. at the DCU Center) for the second straight year.
“You know why? Back in the day when I played for Charlestown we played out there. I took us to Amherst and the game is in Springfield and we even got to Amherst late so we couldn’t even drive over to Springfield.”
This time around, Coleman didn't have the opportunity to scout the next opponent, since the WMass final between St. Bernard’s and South Hadley was also played Tuesday night.
“I had one of my very best friends, Megan Waterbury, who used to be over at Snowden and is currently at the Burke, [go scout the game,]” Coleman said of his co-teacher, who is an assistant coach with the Bulldogs. “She is phenomenal with scouting and knowing her Xs and Os, and you know what, she sacrificed being here tonight to go scout for us.
“I’m very grateful for that because one of us would have had to go because it’s important.”
Waterbury said she told Coleman she would scout the game if he didn't have an alternative.
“He was like, ‘Oh, you don’t have to do that,’ and I was like, ‘You are not losing a state championship game again because you don’t know anything about the team, I’m going,’ ” Waterbury said.
So what did she learn about South Hadley in its 63-48 victory?
“They are a good team, they have some good shooters who will pull up from NBA range with people on them and stuff like that,” said Waterbury, who sat in traffic for nearly an hour and a half before rushing into the DCU Center, camcorder in hand, as the starting lineups were announced.
“I think it will be a good game [Saturday],” Waterbury continued. “I think Brighton will beat them if they play their basketball, if they pressure them, if they take their shots and everything like that. If they are shooting well it will be a high-scoring game because they like to come down and jack the ball up. They like to come down and shoot, shoot, shoot; they reminded me of Brighton in that aspect. But I think as long as Brighton plays their game they should be able to win.”
South Hadley hit nine 3-pointers in advancing to its first state title game, including T.J. Fitzell’s trey at the start of the fourth quarter that broke a 40-40 tie.
Fitzell, who along with Evan Marcus notched a team-leading 20-points, hit six 3-pointers. Marcus had two.
While videotaping South Hadley’s fourth-quarter heroics, Waterbury was also receiving text messages about Brighton’s last-ditch efforts against Scituate.
“I got the text message midway through the fourth quarter that they were down by 11,” said Waterbury, who added there was radio silence until after Brighton guard Malik James's a 3-point-play with 1.2 seconds left gave the Bengals the narrow victory.
After grabbing a bite on the road, Waterbury met up with a Brighton assistant coach at a Mass Ave. gas station in the wee hours of the night to hand over the video tape.
“Once we’re done with the season I just want the city teams to win," she said. "I don’t care who it was, I’d do it even if you beat us by 40 points. I’d go help you win. You want the city teams to win. I think and I hope that at this time everybody rallies together and supports the city and it doesn’t matter how we did against each other, we’re the Boston Public Schools.”
Waterbury hopes Coleman will one day return the favor.
“Hopefully,” she said. “Or we’ll both be in [the state championship] and we’d have to find someone else to go. That would be even better, we’re both in it, Burke and Brighton, are in it and we’ll have to find someone else to go. “
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