SOMERVILLE — Just when Snowden’s boys’ basketball team was learning how to play without the city’s leading scorer from last year, Paul Maurice (22 points per game), the Cougars found themselves entering the postseason without their leading scorer from this season, Kareem Murrell.
Murrell (19 points per game) was filling the void left by Maurice -- who won MASCAC Rookie of the Year with Mass College of Liberal Arts this winter -- before he was ejected from his second game of the season and forced to sit out the postseason.
Nevertheless, the Cougars are rolling.
After beating No. 7 seed Mystic Valley, 42-38, in the opening round of the Division 4 North tournament, the 10th-seeded Cougars defeated No. 2 Matignon, 54-45, in the quarterfinals on Friday night at Somerville High.
“We’re a family, we stick together, somebody has to step up and that’s what happened,” Snowden coach Paul Rogers said of his 10-10 squad.
That somebody was senior Jaquann Smith.
Trailing, 34-32, going into the final quarter, Smith scored the first 6 points of an 11-0 run to start the fourth, helping the Cougars break open a tight game.
“Yeah, I was feeling it,” Smith said. “Coach just told me to keep shooting and every time he tells me to keep shooting I just keep shooting. I’m not going to complain about that so I just kept shooting.”
First Smith scored an uncontested layup off a baseball pass from junior Derron Stone to tie the game at 34. Then he put back Dominique Walker’s miss before stealing the ball and hitting another layup to put Snowden up, 38-34.
After that, Smith stole the ball and passed to sophomore Rayshawne Mercury for a layup to make it a 6-point game before sophomore Javaughn Kittrell (13 points) nailed a 3-pointer to make it 43-34 with 5:23 to play.
After Matignon senior Kevin Louis-Jean scored at the 4:46 mark, Walker hit a 3-pointer to put his team back up 10.
“I wasn’t hitting my shot the first half,” said Walker, who finished with 10 points. “That shot, we needed that. I hit that shot for my team.”
But Snowden let Matignon (14-7) back in the game when Stone fouled Ronnie Slager as he made a layup with 1:12 left. Slager, who scored a team-high 16 points, missed the free throw but he hit a 3-pointer after a scramble for a loose ball at halfcourt to make the score 48-43 with 59 seconds left.
After that, Snowden went 3 for 5 from the free throw line to ice the game.
“They are a scrappy team, they are tough, you know what I mean,” Rogers said. “They are a very tough team and we knew we were going to be in for the battle of our lives and we had enough to get it done. We played with more effort than they did. It all comes down to how hard we worked. We’ve been working hard since November and it paid off there.”
Nobody played harder than Smith.
“He’s a senior and he’s a captain,” Rogers said. “He’s been in this position before and he stepped up and made big plays for us all year long and this is nothing different.”
Snowden will play the winner of Saturday afternoon’s Pope John-St. Mary’s game. St. Mary’s is the defending Division 4 North champ.
“From here on in everything is a challenge,” Rogers said.
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