Score 60-55 in second win
by Steev Riccardo
NORTHBRIDGE – The Bartlett Indians scored the first 14 points of the second half and erased a 13-point lead and went on to stifle the Northbridge Rams 60-55 in overtime in a battle of two of the Southern Worcester County League’s strongest teams, on Friday night.
The Indians looked strong early, opening an 11-4 lead sparked by a thunderous dunk by senior co-captain Akeem Belnavis, holding on to a 11-9 advantage at the end of the first quarter.
The powerful Rams were not to be denied and put together a big second quarter, outscoring the Indians 21-6 mostly due to the dominant inside play of sophomore Antonio Becerril, who scored 13 points.
The Rams seemed to be in control with a 30-17 half-time lead, but Belnavis and the Indians came out of the locker room on a mission and put together an incredible 14-0 run, shocking the Rams and their fans while taking a 31-30 lead.
Belnavis hit two huge three-pointers and junior Alex Givins-Perry and sophomore Jacob Mailloux played superb interior defense and controlled the boards during the comeback. Mailloux also had three enormous blocks, establishing a massive inside presence for the Indians.
The Rams were able to regain their composure and take a 37-36 lead after three quarters, but the Indians were playing with much more confidence and had an edge defensively.
Both teams exchanged baskets in the early going of the final quarter, but it looked like the Rams were ready to take over as they took a 47-42 lead with 2:55 left, but the Indians made some huge plays down the stretch.
A Mailloux block led to a Belnavis three-pointer which cut the score to 47-45. Belnavis and Evan Anderson then both made a pair of key free throws on consecutive possessions and the game was tied at 49 apiece with 1:30 left.
Anderson then made a huge defensive play, drawing an offensive foul and giving the Indians a chance to win, but they couldn’t convert in the final seconds and the game went to overtime.
Givins-Perry came up big in the overtime stanza, scoring 6 points, while the Indians played solid defense and held on for the important win.
“I told my guys that this game is going to pay huge dividends down the road,” said Indians coach Tony Paranto. “We found a way to play as a team in the second half. In the first half we didn’t play team basketball,it was more one on one, too much dribbling. You got to play with five guys and we figured that out.”
Paranto had much praise for his players. “Alex had a great effort when it counted and Akeem got us back in the game single handedly in the third quarter.”
“Mailloux did an outstanding job. As a sophomore we put him on their best player (Jason Ganley). He’s long and athletic and he disrupted a lot of shots for them on the perimeter. He does a lot of intangibles and he creates a lot of havoc out there with his length.”
Another player who always seems to come with the big defensive play when you need it is Anderson and this game was no different.
“He (Anderson) is going to do the dirty work, he is going to go after every loose ball; he a smart player and he took a big charge down the stretch. He is not afraid to sacrifice his body. He’s a gamer, I can’t say enough about him.”
“I was very proud of the kids tonight, we gave up a lot of points in our first game (Hopedale) and we figured out that the only way we are going anywhere is to play defense and the kids are buying into that. An overtime win on the road against a perennial power, this game is going to help us down the road.”
Belnavis led all scorers with 24, while Givins-Perry finished with 20 points. Mailloux had a superb game on defense and also contributed 10 points. Anderson also was a spark on defense and added 5 points including some clutch free throws down the stretch.
Earlier in the week, the Indians knocked off the Tantasqua Warriors 69-56 for their first win of the year.
Belnavis led the Indians with 25 points and 12 rebounds. Givins-Perry added 18 points, 10 rebounds and 6 steals. Mailloux also had a nice game with 14 points and 12 rebounds in a solid effort.