After Dartmouth erased a 17-point deficit in the fourth quarter of the South sectional final at UMass-Boston, it became clear that somebody was going to have a chance to be the star.
Yesterday, it was Brendan Monteiro's turn. After the Indians' Mike Toole scored with less than 10 seconds left to tie the game, the Knights senior guard drove inside, pulled up, and hit an 8-foot jumper with 1.1 seconds left to send CM back to TD Banknorth Garden with an 81-79 victory. The Knights will try to defend their EMass title tomorrow at 6 p.m. against North champion Reading.
"I wanted to get back to [the Garden]," Monteiro said when he was asked about what was going through his mind on his final drive. "I had a lot of time. Coach [Denis Tobin] set a one-on-one play, I took the shot, and it just went in."
The Knights looked like they were going to cruise to the South title, holding a 63-46 edge in the third quarter. But Dartmouth went on an 18-5 run over the next six minutes to pull within 4. Jeff Tagger answered for CM with a trey, but the Indians rattled off a 7-0 spurt, capped by a Jordan Todman put-back, to tie the game at 71.
Tobin figured that Dartmouth was going to make a late run - a belief that became amplified when CM starting forward Julian Colarusso fouled out with 4:48 left.
"With Julian out, I knew we were vulnerable," he said. "When we got in a bit of a scoring drought, they started scoring and I was hoping we could score a few hoops. We feed off emotion. But when we're not scoring, we kind of get still. But once we got a couple of hoops - Allen Harris had a big drive down the lane - it got us going again and I thought we'd be able to hold out."
A Monteiro layup followed by a Harris score pushed the CM lead to 75-71. But Owen Higham hit a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 1. The Knights' Mike Ennis hit two free throws with 58.5 seconds to go, but a wild final minute was set up by the Indians' Justin Mello, who buried a 3-pointer to tie the game at 77 with 45 seconds left.
Reading 53, Wakefield 42 - "We're going to the Garden," Reading forward Evan Smotrycz proclaimed.
That's a direct quote from yesterday, after Reading defeated Middlesex League rival Wakefield at Tsongas Arena to clinch a trip to TD Banknorth Garden. But it's also a prediction the Rockets junior made before the season. And though he may have looked like Miss Cleo after they finished the regular season with an 11-9 record, he looked like Nostradamus after the Rockets defeated Wakefield in the North final. It was the first championship game for Reading since 1947.
Smotrycz led all scorers with 22 points and was part of a stingy defense that shut down Wakefield's senior playmakers, forward Jared Iosua and guard Nick Serino. Serino finished with no field goals and more fouls (3) than points (2).
"Those are two great players," Reading coach Paul Morrissey said. "We have tremendous respect for them, and we knew we had to stop them if we were going to win."
Junior guards Matt Crampton and Ted Notis were part of a relentless Rockets attack. Crampton (14 points) was a red blur on the court, maneuvering around defenders and consistently finding Smotrycz for wide-open shots. Notis finished with 7 points and was part of a tough defense that stuck to Wakefield all game.
Both teams were shaky out of the gate, with each team committing traveling violations and playing sloppily under the basket. At the end of the first quarter, with Wakefield leading, 11-10, the teams' combined shooting percentage was 32 percent.
"They were beating us to the glass early [in the first quarter]," Smotrycz said. "We knew we had to do a better job boxing out and playing hard under the hoop."
Smotrycz turned it on the second quarter, draining two 3-point shots and breaking up Wakefield's offense by deflecting passes under the rim. With 38 seconds remaining in the half, he grabbed an offensive rebound off his shot and put it back in. Smotrycz, who was fouled on the play, extended Reading's lead to 10 points and the Rockets never looked back.
"Evan's a special player and he's still learning how to play the game," Morrissey said. "He had a very good game."
Junior forward Martin Hyppolite led the Warriors with 16 points, but Wakefield was never able to build on its first-quarter lead. The Warriors began their full-court press with more than a minute left in the third quarter and got their chances at the line, attempting 20 free throws in the last quarter, but Reading's lead was too much to overcome.