BOSTON — The Whitman-Hanson Regional High boys’ basketball team’s improbable tournament run has come to a close.
Playing in front of a sea of red Monday evening at historic TD Garden, Whitman-Hanson fell to Brighton by the final score of 94-48 in the Division 2 state semifinals.
North champion Brighton (22-5) stepped on the gas pedal early on and never let up, as its 3-point shooting and presence inside proved too much for South champion W-H (19-4) to handle.
“They’re an outstanding team, they have so much talent,” W-H head coach Bob Rodgers said of Brighton. “They’re so talented, so athletic, can shoot the ball so well. They shot the ball great tonight. They’re very skilled. They deserved to win this game tonight.”
The 94 points is the most allowed by the defensive-minded Panthers all season.
The Bengals darted out of the gate – connecting on seven of their first 11 attempts – and a Tyrone Perry 3-pointer gave Brighton a 16-7 lead with 3:24 remaining in the first quarter.
“Usually you got to take one thing away and then hopefully the other thing doesn’t beat you,” Rodgers said. “We really didn’t do a good job at either one of those. They were able to get to the paint anytime they wanted and every time they had a wide-open three they took it and when they missed, they did a great job at rebounding.”
Down 18-7, the Panthers would score the next five points via a Luke Tamulevich layup and Nikko Raftes trey, to pull back within single digits, 18-12.
However, Brighton would respond – outscoring W-H 11-2 to close the opening frame to push ahead 29-14.
“We had a bit of momentum,” Rodgers explained. “I said, ‘Maybe we’ll get to halftime and get it under 10.’ But the fact is it just wasn’t Whitman- Hanson’s night, it was Brighton’s.”
The Panthers buckled down on defense in the second quarter – limiting the high-powered Bengals offense to 16 points – but could only muster 12 points themselves and fell behind 45-26 at halftime.
The third quarter proved decisive for Brighton – which shot 10 of 13 from the field as it outscored W-H 31-9 to build a commanding 76-35 cushion.
“Our identity all year has been to play great defense,” Rodgers said. “When you’re facing a team like that and you have to deal with their ability to penetrate, it’s really hard to get out on their shooters as well.”
Up substantially, Brighton didn’t let up in the final frame – holding W-H to 13 points while pumping in 18 (six via treys) itself to further pad its victory.
Sophomore guard Tajh Hunter netted four of the Panthers’ fourth-quarter points.
W-H, despite the loss, was able to cycle in all of its players onto the court.
Seniors Raftes and Tamulevich, like they have done all season, led the Panthers in scoring with 11 points apiece. Junior Sean Leahy chipped in five points and four boards as nine Panthers, including seven players set to return in 201718, tallied points.
“It was awesome that a lot of the guys were able to get some points and get that ability to play at the [TD] Garden, it will be a life memory for them, and I guess that was one of the bright spots when you have a game like that,” Rodgers said.