By Kevin McCaskill Jr.
Tonight’s HS matchup brought me back to the South End Community Center in Springfield, MA. The Paulo Freire Panthers were hosting the Lancers from Longmeadow. The two teams went up against each other on Friday with Paulo Freire winning 77-73.
Tonight’s game was tight from the pass-in from out-of-bounds to the final play: a deep, contested 3-pt FG by Paulo Freire Junior Will Johnson.
He made it all net.
Paulo Freire beat Longmeadow, again. This time the score was 63-60.
This game was close the entire contest. The score was 8-7 Paulo Freire in the first quarter when Paulo Freire called a timeout. The defensive pressure Paulo Freire was trying to apply to Longmeadow wasn’t effective. The Lancers got through the press or on-ball ball pressure and got any shot they wanted. On offense, the Panthers were taking a lot of jump-shots. They were, however, converting on fast-breaks and drives to the basket.
(Emmanuel Cruz going up for shot in the lane)
The 1st quarter ended tied at 13. Longmeadow was missing wide open/easy shots; Paulo Freire was allowing too many drives to the paint.
In the second quarter the Lancers started to challenge the Panthers at the rim more. The Panthers, once again, decided to start settling for jump-shots. Longmeadow snuck ahead at the half 31-28.
At halftime, Paulo Freire HC Steve Rodriguez told his team to “dig in”. He wasn’t satisfied with their defensive intensity which is 🔑 to their press. HC Rodriguez told me after the game that his team’s commitment on defense helped their victory.
In the 2nd half [third and fourth quarters], the Panthers began to take the ball to the basket and get out in transition. Emmanuel Cruz attacked the basket as usual. Will Johnson also began taking the ball to the basket and getting offensive rebounds. This activity in the paint helped open up Chandler Wilson Jr. for a couple of 3s.
(Will Johnson shoots a FT)
Longmeadow made their run late in game. The Paulo Freire’s offense got stagnant. Their jump-shots weren’t consistently falling all-night. The drives in the lane were getting more resistance as Longmeadow gained momentum.
Longmeadow scrapped all the way back and they were even with Paulo Freire at the 1:10 mark.
Each team had a possession before the last possession.
On the last possession of the game, Chandler Wilson Jr. got the ball. He dribbled right and went off a double-screen, set by Will Johnson and Freshman Alex Barber. He tried to make a move to the paint and then he stepped back to possibly shoot. Both of his moves were defended and Wilson Jr. found Johnson behind the three-point line.
Johnson took one dribble to his left and launched a deep, contested 3.
(Game-winning 3 by Will Johnson)
All net 💦
The buzzer sounded and Paulo Freire snuck by Longmeadow by 3. Johnson was mobbed by his teammates and a brief celebration ensued.
When I spoke with Johnson after the game he told me the play was suppose to be for Chandler Wilson Jr. to get a shot. When he got cut off, he passed it quickly to Johnson. Johnson said that he looked at the clock and saw 4 seconds left so he had to “let it fly”.
“I shot it with confidence though”.
The ball didn’t hit one part of the rim 💪🏽.
He also told me that the team is “half-way to where they want to be”. Paulo Freire is now 5-0.
I also spoke with Freshman Alex Barber. He scored 6 points in Monday’s game. He said he was “rushing” his shot which was why he didn’t have a bigger offensive performance. He did play big on the defensive end, pressuring the ball and changing shots in the paint.
Chandler Wilson Jr. had 18 points; Will Johnson had 16 points; Emmanuel Cruz had 12 points.
AJ Miles had 17 points; Ryan Mulderig had 14 points; Nick Caterud had 11 points.
Paulo Freire’s next game is @ East Longmeadow; Longmeadow’s next game is @ Minnechaug.