| The Enterprise
The last time the Abington and Middleboro High boys basketball teams met, there was no shot at victory for the Sachems.
No moral victory, and certainly not one on the scoreboard. Middleboro lost, 71-37, on Jan. 21, 2020 after trailing 38-12 at halftime to the eventual Division 4 state co-champs.
“We brought back a lot of juniors that played on that team and we started the year saying we don’t care if we win or lose every game, we need to beat Abington,” said Middleboro coach Michael Duarte. “That’s something that burned inside these boys’ heads. It’s something they took to heart. They were embarrassed. They felt ashamed of what happened and they wanted to prove that they could play.”
The Sachems did just that on Friday. Middleboro defeated Abington, 72-66, continuing a marquee week of wins for the Sachems, who beat South Shore League Sullivan Division power Norwell on Tuesday.
“This is a gigantic turn in Middleboro basketball,” said Duarte. “(Our athletic director Ryan Sylvia) can’t even remember the last time we beat Norwell or Abington and we beat them back to back.
“This program is not the same program. We’re not your grandfather’s Middleboro. We’re not that team. We’re full of young, athletic, exuberant basketball players who are multi-sport athletes.”
In Friday’s win, senior captain Wes James led the way with 24 points and 12 rebounds. He also posted a double-double (19 points, 11 rebounds) in the win over Norwell.
“I think I have the best player in the league, his name is Wes James,” said Duarte. “I don’t think there’s anyone who can stay in front of him 1-on-1. … He can facilitate, he can shoot. He’s a three-level scorer.”
Abington’s Matt Maguire finished with 22 points and 22 rebounds in the loss. Antwonne Graham Jr (13 points) and Tommy Fanara (11) were also in double figures for the Green Wave.
Duarte, who is in his second year coaching at Middleboro, came to town with a winning pedigree. He was an assistant coach on Bishop Stang’s 2015 boys basketball Div. 3 state championship team.
In the three years prior to his tenure as Middleboro’s varsity coach, the Sachems had an 18-42 record. Middleboro hasn’t been to the tournament since 2009. In Duarte’s first year, the Sachems finished 8-14.
Middleboro has embraced its new coach’s mantra, which they call ‘Mayhem.’
“We make it difficult,” said Duarte. “We’re going to guard you 100 feet and we’re going to make it real hard on you and the boys have really bought into it.”
Although James has been the headliner early in the year, there were plenty of contributors in Friday’s win.
Colby Allen, a senior captain, finished with 14 points and four 3-pointers. He missed the first game of the season against Rockland and played sparingly against Norwell.
“Today was his first real game and he ripped off four 3 threes in a row in the second quarter and really set the tone going into halftime,” said Duarte.
Sophomore Jacob Briggs finished with 14 points and 7 rebounds. Junior Gianni Perea had 12 points and 3 steals.
With starting senior center Cam Downey out, sophomore Charlie Botelho stepped up.
Cam LaPierre, who fouled out in the fourth quarter, finished with zero points, but had 4 assists and 11 rebounds.
“We have a lot of depth in the program,” said Duarte. “Part of the deal was trying to take our lumps last year and keep those kids down at the freshmen and JV levels so they know what success feels like. Now that they’re up with us, you can see it. These kids are confident, they’re stepping into those roles. It doesn’t seem like they’re affected by the bright lights just yet.
“They’re multi-sport athletes so they know what success feels like, they’ve just never had it in the winter season.”
In a season-opening loss to Rockland, 48-39, the Sachems turned the ball over 12 times in the first half. In the second half, that number dropped to one and Middleboro has been building momentum since.
That game was a non-league contest as Middleboro was a late fill-in for Cohasset, which had to bow out due to the school switching to remote-only learning. Next Friday, the Sachems host the rematch with Rockland in a league contest. Middleboro will look to improve to 3-0 in the SSL.
“You’re winning, you’re playing well. People in town are excited and we’ve got a responsibility,” said Duarte. “We got to come out there and bring it every single night. We can’t have any letdowns and it starts on Tuesday night. We’ve got to take care of business against Mashpee; otherwise these two wins mean absolutely nothing.”