by Danny Ventura (Boston Herald Blog)
The five massive championship banners hanging on the wall behind one of the baskets serves as a constant reminder of the legacy which was once Charlestown basketball.
Maybe we saw the dawning of a new era earlier Saturday afternoon.
Facing the No. 1 team in the state, Charlestown not only took St. John’s Prep’s best punches, but showed some knockout power of its own. Locked in a life-and-death struggle through the better part of 28 minutes, Charlestown responded with a devastating 15-1 closing kick to hand the Eagles their first loss, 72-56.
“We had our worst practice of the year yesterday and I let them know about it,” said Charlestown coach Edson Cardoso. “They came in today, apologized and went out and played great defense against the top-ranked team in the state.”
Added Akosa Maduegbunam: “We believed in our heart we could do it. When we get out there and run, there aren’t too many teams who can run with us.”
In the eyes of one neutral observer, the difference was plain and simple: Charlestown’s top player (Maduegbunam) received much more support than St. John’s Prep’s ace (Pat Connaughtion).
Connaughton was his usual splendid self, scoring 29 points and pulling down 13 rebounds, He also supplied a pair of crowd-pleasers, converting an alley-oop feed into a dunk as well as a gorgeous behind-the-back drive to the hoop in traffic for a layup.
But to beat a good team, Connaughton can not do it alone and today was a prime example. The rest of the Eagles accounted for just 27 points, making 11-of-45 shots. In the fateful fourth quarter, the non-Connaughtons were 0-for-12 from the field.
On the other side of the ledger, Maduegbunam scored 22 points (though he took 27 shots) and grabbed five rebounds. Where the 6-foot-3 junior was more impressive was at the other end of the floor where he took the assignment of stopping Connaughton.
One would look at the 29 points and figure Maduegbunam didn’t get the job done. That couldn’t be further from the truth as Connaughton had to work for each and every point and let’s face it, he’s going to get his points – that’s why he’s going to Notre Dame.
But the rest of the Townies certainly came to play. Starting with point guard Rony Fernandes. He scored 23 points, but dished out seven assists and run the offense smoothly.
“That’s my job – get the ball to the other guys,” said Fernandes. “If the shot is there, I’m going to take it.”
Then you have the warriors in the paint. Tyrik Jackson pulled down 14 rebounds, Tyerese Hoxter had nine points and five rebounds, C.J. Dowdell went for six points and six rebounds.
“We’re more than just one guy,” said Cardoso. “If Akosa isn’t scoring, then Omar (Orriols) can score. If he isn’t scoring, then Rony can score.”
Yesterday, all of them proved to be more than enough to take down the top dogs.