After erasing a 19-point halftime deficit at North Quincy last Wednesday night, the Plymouth South boys’ basketball team was in a familiar situation.
The Lions started the year with four close wins, including last-second victories against Scituate and Hingham with clutch shots late.
So when 11-year-coach David Costa called timeout with his team trailing, 39-38, and nine seconds left in the fourth quarter, there wasn’t any panic in the huddle. Nor was there any panic from junior captain Declan Davis, who lost his defender with a subtle head fake, jump stopped into the lane, and drained a floater for the 40-39 win.
“We have a great group and everyone trusts each other,” said Davis. “That was built from years of playing together in youth. Each game we have a chip on our shoulder to prove a lot of people wrong, especially the kids at our school who didn’t think we would do well this year.”
When they take the floor for warmups, the Lions (6-0) certainly look the role of the underdogs. The tallest starter is 6-foot-2 forward Ricky Sheppard, who played point guard for the freshman team a few years ago.
Yet the Lions, ranked first in the Globe’s Division 2 Power Rankings, haven’t lost the rebounding battle in any game, and their quickness has proven to be an asset — they are allowing just 44 points per game.
“This is a very intelligent group, in the classroom, and on the court,” said Costa, a Plymouth North alum who is in his 15th year teaching physical education at Plymouth South.
“You tell them one thing and they usually get it on the first try. So we have a smart team, which goes a long way when it comes to the critical situations, or late-game situations. They’ve been there before. They’ve drilled it, and they’re confident they have what it takes to execute.”
The Lions’ six wins this season have come by an average of 6 points.
Another undersized forward, 6-foot-1 senior Pete Lamborn, provided a putback in the final seconds to down Hingham, 52-51, on Jan. 4. The previous week, Lamborn scored 10 of his 15 points in the third quarter to help the Lions erase a 12-point halftime deficit at Scituate, and Davis made the pivotal play down the stretch, driving to draw two defenders and finding senior guard Cam Sullivan for a triple with 1.5 seconds remaining to earn a 51-49 victory.
For Costa, Davis is like another coach on the floor the way he reads situations and makes selfless plays without hesitation.
“Anyone in that position would’ve wanted to take the shot,” Costa said about Declan’s last-second drive at Scituate.
“But [Davis] trusts his teammates and his teammates trust him to make the right plays and lead us in the right direction. It’s refreshing to have that kind of relationship between a coach and captain, and the captain and the players. They’re all feeding off each other.”
Davis and his twin brother, Liam, play complementary roles on the court, and put in extra mental reps when scouting an upcoming opponent. Davis said he will watch clips on HUDL during free periods, after school, and at night, allowing him to come to practice with a head start in terms of preparation.
While Declan spearheads the offense, Liam typically takes on the opposition’s top scorer. Facing his twin brother, and banging down low with their older brother, Cillian Davis (now a wide receiver at Saint Anselm), helped Liam develop the toughness necessary to contain the best scorers in the Patriot League.
“Declan is probably best ball handler in the South Shore, so those games of one-on-one have helped me,” said Liam. “If I can guard him, I can guard most people. And [Killian] always bullied us on the court, which gave us more of a chip on our shoulder.”
Last Friday, Liam stepped up on offense with a team-high 12 points to facilitate a 52-43 win over Hanover. The Lions look to keep it going Tuesday night against another Patriot League power, Whitman-Hanson, that has a ton of size and physicality. And Friday, they take on Patriot Fisher leader Pembroke (8-0) another surprise program with a slew of close wins this season.
“Every night, in our league, you have to bring your ‘A’ game,” said Costa. “If you don’t, you’re going to get beat. And that’s how we’ve been addressing each game. It’s not about what’s on the horizon it’s about what’s in front of us right now. The next game is the big game.”
▪ Mike Perry has been at Cardinal Spellman for 45 years, including the last 42 years as varsity boys’ basketball coach. He’s also been coaching the varsity girls’ soccer program since its inception in 1987, and dabbled in baseball and softball each spring as an assistant. So, it was business as usual for the veteran coach when Spellman squeaked out a 54-49 win over Bishop Feehan on Tuesday, and it was only afterwards that he realized the victory marked his 1,000th win between basketball and soccer.
“I completely forgot about [the milestone], to be honest, until our assistant AD Danielle Jacobs made an announcement after game,” said Perry, who taught at Bridgewater-Raynham for 36 years and lives in Easton.
“It’s been a nice journey. I was just lucky to be in a situation where the kids worked hard and the school and the families are behind you, it’s certainly not something you think about when you start coaching, but as the years went on, it just kind of added up.”
▪ Newton South coach Steve Matthews, who spent eight years at Matignon before taking over at South four seasons ago, reached 100 career wins on the hardwood when his Lions pulled out a 55-46 win at Weymouth Thursday.
▪ A week after dropping a career-high 36 points in a win over Lowell, Central Catholic senior guard Xavier McKenzie topped 1,000 career points during a 60-43 victory at Methuen Friday . . . BC High senior guard Mike Loughnane topped 1,000 career points during a 72-43 win over Xaverian Tuesday, then paced the top-ranked Eagles with 25 points in a 66-44 win at Malden Catholic Friday.
▪ Boston Public Schools extended its pause on athletic practices and events past Jan. 10, with Jan. 18 set as the scheduled date for practices to resume. It is still to be determined if Boston City League teams will be able to play games this weekend.
Games to watch
Tuesday, Dover-Sherborn at No. 18 Norwood, 7 p.m. — Two of the top teams in the Tri-Valley League cross over from Large to Small for a midseason litmus test.
Friday, No. 12 Taunton at No. 3 Mansfield, 6:30 p.m. — During the shortened 2020-21 season, the Tigers beat the Hornets for the first time since 2016 with Trent Santos scoring 22 points. Santos will look to lead Taunton again in a road test at the Hockomock League power.
Friday, Needham at No. 17 Natick, 6:30 p.m. — The Redhawks have been on pause for weeks with four straight postponements, but look to get back on track when they host the Rockets in a Bay State Conference battle.
Friday, Whitman-Hanson at Hingham, 6:30 p.m. — The top teams in the Patriot League Keenan Division will meet Friday after the Panthers battle Plymouth South Tuesday and Hingham plays back-to-back contests on Monday and Tuesday against Bridgewater-Raynham and Quincy.
Sunday, TechBoston at No. 10 Beverly, 12:30 p.m. — After a long pause in play for Boston City League teams, TechBoston hopes to get back into the fray with a tough test against a talented Panthers team.