District playoffs next
by Steev Riccardo
WORCESTER –Few people gave the Oxford Pirates any chance at all in their semi-final Clark Tournament match-up with the highly ranked Quaboag Cougars, but the Pirates gave a valiant effort and made it interesting for about three quarters before falling 64-49 on Tuesday evening, February 19.
Pirates’ senior co-captain Tyler Barrie hit an incredible shot from beyond half court at the buzzer making it 11-10 Cougars after an exciting opening quarter.
With the momentum on their side, the Pirates scored the next ten points, opening a 21-11 lead following a pair of 3-point shots by senior co-captain Mike James and a third by fellow co-captain Donny Freeland, but following a timeout the Cougars regained their composure and mounted a run of their own.
Paced by one of the best players in Central Mass, point guard Thomas Jankins, the Cougars went on a 19-4 run including an equally impressive heave from beyond half court by Jankins at the buzzer to give the favorites a 30-25 halftime lead.
The Cougars played solid defense and outscored the Pirates 13-10 in the third quarter, extending their lead to 43-35 after three quarters.
Despite 3- point shots by James and Barrie and a tenacious defensive effort, the Pirates could not contain Jankins and his teammates, who put 21 fourth quarter points on the board while allowing 14 points, and this one was over.
“It’s extremely disappointing,” said Pirates coach Sean Halloran on the loss, “I thought the effort was there, I thought the game plan was perfect, we held (Jake) Wisniewski to nine points, he had one point at the half. We did everything that we wanted to do defensively. Their defense was just so tough and in your face.”
Barrie’s defense on the much bigger 6’5” Wisniewski, who averages 19 points a game, was a superb effort by the 5’11 senior.
“I’m not usually a big rebounder but Wisniewski is a much bigger kid than I am so I took the initiative to get him out of there,” said Barrie. “I figured if I stopped him from going to the basket he wouldn’t score as much so I focused on cutting him off.”
“I applauded the kids for their effort. It was unbelievable, they worked really hard. Mike James had 10 rebounds and Tyler (Barrie) had 13 rebounds and they are guards,” said Halloran
“The Quaboag defense was just too much for us, we couldn’t get over the hump. When we built that 10-point lead, I was pretty happy even though I knew they would make a comeback because they are a great team. We just couldn’t get it going after that. They had 21 points in the fourth quarter; that’s just not like us.”
James had a career game with 21 points, 10 rebounds, and four assists, for the Pirates in a fantastic losing effort, while Barrie scored nine points and had a career high 13 rebounds, and Freeland finished with 10 points and three steals while doing his best to contain Jankins.
“He’s a great player, probably the best in Division 2,” said James about Jankins, who raked up some incredible numbers with 22 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, and four steals.
The 14-7 Pirates can now focus on the playoffs, which start this week. “This is only a pit stop on the ride,” said Halloran. “It looks like we could get a favorable seed in the districts, hopefully get a home game and that’s one win and then we go to WPI, and anything can happen there. We are excited for the post-season, we are disappointed right now but it’s not the end of the road for us.”
Barrie thinks a home playoff game could be key for the Pirates. “Getting a home game is very big. We lost one game at home all year (Bartlett) - we shoot lights out at home and that’s what we do.”
“We are going to play harder than we ever have and we are hoping to make a run,” said James, who like his fellow co-captains Barrie and Freeland is close to ending what have been superb basketball careers at Oxford.
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