By Sam Canavan
The Newton South boys’ basketball team won a hard fought game against crosstown rival Newton North in the first round of the division one south section of the state tournament by a score of 78-72.
The Lions started the game with a 4-0 lead, but were down 19-13 after the first quarter. Despite having a deficit as much as ten in the second, the team was able to cut the lead to one by half, making the score 30-29.
The Lions had strong performances from senior Oskar Coulter (14 points) and junior Robbie Hodin (12 points) and solid defensive and all-around game from senior captain Andrew Bereket (8 points).
After losing to North earlier in the season, the Lions knew preparation for the game was crucial.
“Our focus in practice this week was really high,” Coulter said.
Despite leading the game in their matchup in the regular season, North’s aggressive press defense earned them the win. The Lions were sure to have a gameplan and not make the same mistakes.
“We knew that once we got out, we had to get past the press because that is what really killed us last time,” Coulter said.
The Lions shared the ball well all game as they had five different players reach double-digit points.
South’s ability to hit free throws greatly contributed to the win. After earning the bonus mid-way through the second quarter, the team was able to go seven for seven on free throws, which helped cut the lead to one by halftime.
South shot 76% from the line, making 32 of 42. The Tigers on the other hand only made 15 of 24.
After going up 50-42 after three-quarters, a combination of strong defense, an organized press break and free throws helped shut down North’s chances at a comeback.
Senior Daniel Chafetz (13 points) hit three big free throws late in the fourth quarter to help ice the win. Bereket also hit six from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter.
The crosstown rivalry is always highly anticipated by both schools. However, this was the first time the two schools played each other in the playoffs in recent memory.
Newton North’s junior standout Ethan Wright had an impressive 41 points on the night to lead the Tigers.
A rowdy fan section helped motivate the Lions throughout the game and avenge their loss earlier in the season.
“It amped the intensity a ton. The atmosphere in the gym was unbelievable for both teams. It made the game really fun to play in and made both teams play much harder,” Nathanson, who had 12 points on the night said.
The Lions travel to Needham on Friday to play the three seeded Rockets. South hopes to use their momentum to help beat Needham and advance to the sectional semifinals.
“We need to get on shooters, that is what really killed us last time, switch on screens,” Coulter said.