Malik James stared from the Brighton bench at what could be his last game in a Bengals jersey, after picking up his fourth foul at the end of the third quarter in the Emass championship and state semifinal against Scituate Tuesday night.
“I’m definitely not coming back to Brighton next year," James, who will try to play for a prep school next year, said after scoring the winning basket in the 55-52 victory,"There are a few options, I have an interview coming up but my coach he has all that information. It’s been planned. That’s why I’m trying to carry them so far, getting them this ring so I can leave on a good note."
The fourth year junior certainly left this one on a good note. With four minutes left in the fourth, James scored 14 of his 21 points to lead Brighton to victory.
With the fourth year junior on the bench to start the fourth, senior John Foster scored 6 of his 14 points through the first four minutes of the quarter to give Scituate a 49-38 lead.
“It was tough because I thought I had to stay out,” James said. “I just promised myself that when I got back in the game, I was going to work hard for me, the coaching staff, everybody; the fans and my teammates and we just came out victorious.”
James, with the help of key steals by junior Mark Mojica and a clutch 3-point shot by senior Daivon Edwards, then helped Brighton close the lead to 50-49 with 1:15 left.
However, the point guard, 0 for 3 at the line to that point, was then sent to the stripe with a chance to tie the game up.
James went 1 of 2 at the line to keep the Bengals alive.
Senior David Cox then looked like he saved Scituate from the collapse by connecting on both of his free throws with 53 seconds to go.
However, with 8.4 seconds left, James once again rose to the occasion by tying the game with two free throws. James then made a 3-point play in transition after senior Nate Hogan forced a turnover to seal the win and keep Brighton’s season alive.
“There’s no way I can miss these [free throws] and let my team down,” James said. “So I just took a deep breath, got myself together, and I made them.”
The comeback came after Brighton had to sit both juniors Nick Simpson (16 points) and James because of foul trouble to allow Scituate to get a 39-33 lead to start the fourth.
“Nick’s on the bench, I’m on the bench, and he’s our best all around player on the floor so without him, never mind me, it’s definitely going to be a dogfight. It’s going to be a struggle,” James said.
Coach Hugh Coleman also said that his Bengals, who favor the 3-point shot, helped jump start their offense by taking the ball to the basket.
“Stick with it, stay focused, it’s important to get stops and then offensively I told them to go at the basket. It’s better for us to get easier baskets than settle for the long ball,” Coleman said.
James's first half and free throw shooting struggles plus the team fighting through Simpson and James not playing for the end of the third made Coleman say this game was a perfect example of fighting through adversity.
“Four minutes, down 11, an average team, a team that hadn’t gone through adversity would give up easily, but I think we’ve proven to ourselves it’s never over until the buzzer rings, so that adversity has built so much character in our program,” Coleman said. “That’s why we were able to do what we were able to do.”
Brighton will play South Hadley Saturday in Worcester for the Division 2 state championship.