Boys' Basketball

Boston Latin's persistence pays off

By Seth Lakso
Globe Correspondent / January 16, 2012
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Three seasons ago, a Boston Latin boys’ basketball team loaded with freshman and sophomores suffered through a 2-20 campaign. Young and lacking experience, many of the Wolfpack players had doubts over whether they’d ever compete in the traditionally strong Dual County League.

Two seasons later, Boston Latin (11-1, 7-1) is off to its best start in coach Brendan Smith’s 11 years with the program, erasing those doubts one quality win at a time.

“[During the 2009-10 season] I just didn’t think of us as a program that could compete,’’ said Boston Latin tri-captain Jack Duggan. “Things have obviously changed since then.

“We didn’t want to be the team that we were last year (11-12), or the year before,’’ continued Duggan. “We push each other every day in practice and just want to keep on winning.”

Duggan, a senior, has played a big roll in the Wolfpack’s transformation, averaging a team-high 17 points per game and averaging five steals a contest.

Junior forward Miles Wright, a varsity player since his freshman year, has been a force down low for the Pack, averaging 14.9 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 blocks.

“Honestly, we’re not doing anything different from what we did two, three years ago,’’ said Smith. “It’s just that they’re better now. It’s just been sticking with them and being consistent.’’

Latin’s success has also had a lot to do with their versatility on the court.

“We basically adapt our game plan depending on who we’re playing,’’ said Smith. “This group, being Latin School kids, and Latin School being an exam school, is very smart. They can absorb a lot of information and I can throw a lot at them from one game to the next.

“I can say, ‘Guys, we’re going to press this team and really get up on them and go after them.’ Then I can turn it around the next game and say, ‘Alright these guys are a little bit faster than us, they pass the ball well. We’re not going to press these guys. We’re going to sit back and not take as many chances.’ ’’

Boston Latin’s play has caught the eye of Westford Academy coach Ed Scollan, whose team is tied for second in the DCL with Acton-Boxboro at 6-1. The Colonials represent the lone blemish on Latin’s record.

“Smith’s done a nice job with the team,’’ said Scollan, whose team fell to Boston Latin, 51-44, Dec. 22. “He hung in there with that group of kids and has really turned it around. They’re a strong team and their defense really took us out of our game. The last two seasons were tough for Latin, but now coach Smith is reaping success for staying with them.

“I’m looking forward to getting another shot at them later this season,’’ added Scollan.

Both Smith and Duggan point to the win over Westford as the moment they started to really believe the team could compete with anyone.

“The win at Westford was our big win,’’ said Smith. “These kids had never beaten that team in their varsity careers, going 0-6 against them. It’s the first time these kids have beaten a lot of these schools in their high school careers. It’s been a pretty cool thing to watch.’’

Duggan remained focused on the overall team goals when talking about the Westford win.

“It was a great win for us,’’ he said. “We came out with a lot of energy and everyone contributed. But that’s just something you have to do if you want to compete for the DCL title.”

After putting in the effort the past two years, Boston Latin is just trying to enjoy the ride.

“We’re having a great time,’’ said Duggan. “It’s much better than the 2-20 season where we were miserable after almost every game. We’ve just gotten serious and committed to basketball and it’s paying off.

“Our goal all season has been to win the DCL and make a run in the tournament,’’ Duggan continued. “It’s going to be a challenge coming up, but we’re looking forward to it.’’

You can’t blame coach Smith for sharing some of the enjoyment in the succes.

“It’s crazy,’’ Smith cracked, “because when we were 2-20, they were all like, ‘Coach stinks.’ When we were 11-12, they were like, ‘Oh, coach is pretty good.’ And now we’re 11-1 and I don’t hear complaints about coach anymore.’’

Boston Latin is set to take on Wayland Tuesday and Catholic Memorial Saturday, as they’ll look to continue winning.

Games of the Week

No. 2 BC High vs. No. 3 Catholic Memorial, Tue., 7 p.m. – The Eagles (8-2) have put together six straight wins since falling, 60-50, to Acton-Boxborough. BC High boasts the top-ranked defense in the Catholic Conference (47.2 points allowed per game), while CM comes in averaging a league-best 84.8 points per game.

No. 5 Charlestown at No. 13 Madison Park, Thu., 7 p.m. – Not that the Townies (6-2) need the extra motivation for a Boston City League showdown, but after losing badly to St. Peter-Marian (7-2) on Saturday, Charlestown will be looking to send a message.

No. 2 BC High at No. 9 St. John’s Prep, Fri., 7 p.m. – After losing to BC High, 53-47, Jan. 3, the reigning state champs need this game more than ever if they want to have any shot at repeating as Catholic Conference champs.

No. 3 Catholic Memorial at No. 15 Boston Latin, Sat., 1 p.m - The Wolfpack are off to an 11-1 start with marquee wins over Brookline and Westford Academy. If coach Brendan Smith’s team want to prove they’re for real, this is their chance.

No. 1 Central Catholic vs. No. 9 St. John’s Prep, Sun., 5 p.m. – How can you not love a battle of the last two Division 1 state champs? Central Catholic (7-0) is still unbeaten after surviving an overtime scare against cross-town rival Lawrence Saturday.

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