To the TD Garden they go.
The No. 7 Newton North boys basketball team used a momentum-shifting third quarter to defeat No. 3 New Bedford, 67-44, Tuesday night, which catapulted the Tigers to the Div. 1 South Sectional final to be held at the Garden.
“This is the best game of the season,” said Tiger senior captain Avi Adler-Cohen. “We were locked in. We came in with a game plan. We knew what we had to do to execute it.”
With the triumph at the University of Massachusetts’ Clark Athletic Center, Newton North improves its record to 19-6. The Tigers will now battle No. 1 Mansfield, which knocked them out of the tournament last season, for the Div. 1 South title Friday. The time has not been determined.
Notwithstanding the Newton North’s potent offense, a defense that committed 10 steals on the night was the main subject of praise from Tigers’ coach Paul Connolly.
“I think our defense right now is phenomenal,” he said. “The last team (Weymouth) we played, which was averaging 67 points per game, we held to them to 45. This team was averaging 69 and we held them to 44. I feel really good right now.”
And what coach wouldn’t be with his team playing high-caliber basketball. That was on full display in the beginning as Kevin Falzon, who again had a monster night on the glass grabbing 14 rebounds, hit back-to-back baskets giving the Tigers the early 10-7 lead.
Moments later, Falzon tipped a missed shot in and that was followed by an Adler-Cohen three-pointer allowing Newton North to finish the first quarter winning 15-7. Adler-Cohen scored a game-high 19 points.
In the second period, the Whalers fought back as Jonathan Fortes drained a three-pointer and a turnaround jumper helping New Bedford tie the game at 20-20. But the Tigers managed to end the first half up 26-23.
The back-and-forth theme continued early in the third quarter as a three-point play from Steven Wynn gave the Whalers the 29-28 lead. Unfortunately for New Bedford, that ignited a fire underneath the Tigers as they would go on outscore the Whalers 18-5 for the remainder of the period.
During that stretch, Newton North would dominate in the paint as Luke Westman (15 points) and Adler-Cohen hit several key lay-ups. That included a Westman steal and finish giving the Tigers the 46-34 advantage going into the fourth.
“As soon as they got the lead, I think that is when it really clicked,” said Adler-Cohen. “We really stepped our game up and went on that run. And we never looked back.”
Indeed they didn’t as the Tigers went on for the easy 67-44 victory making Connolly one content man.
“I really like my team right now,” he said.