By Kevin McCaskill Jr.
I was back in East Longmeadow on Thursday night. The undefeated Paulo Freire Panthers were on the road to face the undefeated Spartans of East Longmeadow.
One team would walk away with the zero still on the right side of the W-L tally.
Tonight, that team was Paulo Freire. They held on for a close victory 55-53.
This game, like multiple others, started with a 7-0 run by one team. Tonight that team was Paulo Freire. Their oft mentioned press was very active to open the game and got some early turnovers for easy baskets.
After the early lull for East Longmeadow, the Spartans came back, even taking the lead briefly in the 2nd quarter 23-22. The Spartans got back in the game by using the Panthers own methods against them, namely full-court defensive pressure. The Spartans applied their own press and it got a few turnovers. The Spartans really locked down though on half-court defense in the 2nd quarter. They picked up the ball at half-court and they played the passing lanes well.
The half ended with Paulo Freire up 25-23. East Longmeadow could have had a lead but they missed too many shots that could have been converted. Ray Carter forced a couple shots but he also got fouled many times in the lane and didn’t receive the whistle. Paulo Freire was getting to the basket and getting fouled; they couldn’t convert at the line.
The Panthers went 3/10 from the FT line (10/17 in the 2nd half).
The Panthers got back to their defensive roots and turned up the press on the Spartans. The Panthers were able to get some easy buckets including 2 dunks by Emmanuel Cruz and Freshman Alex Barber.
The 3rd ended with Paulo Freire up 46-35.
Thursday was Senior Night for 5 East Longmeadow Seniors - Cam Shaw, Jack Sweeney, Anthony Guimares, Brady Mackechnie and Joe Mara (usually Ray Carter starts but HC Abad wanted to honor his Senior Joe Mara by starting). The Spartans made a comeback that almost won them the game.
The defensive pendulum swung once again back to East Longmeadow. They were able to force turnovers and get baskets to put them back in the game.
They had a clean look by Pat Crenshaw in the left corner to win the game but he didn’t hit it 🤷🏽♂️.
I’m sure I’m late to the party since I’m not in/on the AAU circuits in this area [yet]; Alex Barber could be one of the best players to play in Western Mass. As a Freshman he is 6’5”, maybe 6’6”. He can shoot from 3-pt range; his dribbling skills are good [but can improve]; he goes to the basket aggressively and can finish at the rim. If he can stay locked in, 👀.
(Alex Barber shoots FT)
Will Johnson is also a problem. He doesn’t need a running start to convert a dunk which he proved in the 1st half. I don’t have any footage of it 😢 but he got a deflection, took one step, jumped off both feet and dunked, two hands 🙌🏽. He is in the same height range as Barber. He is also a good 3-pt shooter.
Chandler Wilson fouled out of game on Thursday. He didn’t have a gaudy point total but he ran the offense effectively when the ball was in his hands.
Wilson, Johnson and Barber played outstanding defense on Ray Carter. All Carter’s shots were tough because he had those guys draped on him all night.
(Panthers prepare to defend Carter)
(Chandler Wilson defends Ray Carter; Sandro Diaz provides help-defense for Wilson)
Scorers for Paulo Freire:
Alex Barber - 16 points
Will Johnson - 15 points
Chandler Wilson - 9 points
Emmanuel Cruz - 8 points
Zyir Harris - 5 points
Sandro Diaz - 3 points
Bryan Jimenez - 1 point
(Emmanuel Cruz shoots FT)
Scorers for East Longmeadow:
Anthony Guimares - 16 points
Cam Shaw - 15 points
Ray Carter - 13 points
Brady Mackechnie - 3 points
Jack Sweeney, Pat Crenshaw, Erik Donaldson - 2 points each
These two teams will play again on Monday at the South End Community Center in the Scibelli Gymnasium.