O'Neal's Clutch Shot Saves Brookline Boys Basketball
Stephen O'Neal's heroics helped clinch a 54-50 Brookline win.
Following a tight 53-51 loss to BC High on Monday night, Brookline boys basketball head coach Mark Fiedor had reason to be concerned that his team was running out of gas in the fourth quarter against Needham last night.
But junior guard Stephen O'Neal proved he and his teammates had plenty left in the tank when his three-pointer at the top of the key hit nothing but twine with 28 seconds left to give the Warriors (2-1) a 52-50 lead and an eventual 54-50 victory.
It was a game of ups and downs for the Warriors, who were shorthanded with eight active players. The home team pushed the ball up the floor early on and used an effective press on the Rockets to establish a 13-4 edge at the end of the first quarter.
Both teams struggled to score in the first half, but the Needham defense came alive in the second quarter when the Rockets took advantage of Brookline over-dribbling and walking the ball up the floor by creating Warrior turnovers. This led to a 10-0 Needham (1-1) run during the second and a 20-18 Rocket lead at half.
"Tonight was our first game of the year and we came out with a lot of adrenaline," Fiedor said. "But last night was a tough game and I think we got a little gassed during the mid-point."
Needham continued to control the game in the third quarter when senior forward Kevin Farley (14 points) hit two of his three total three-point shots. The Rockets used solid, aggressive rebounding to extend its lead to 40-36 as the teams entered the fourth quarter.
"Needham hustled and attacked the boards," Fiedor said. "They had a number of second-chance shot opportunities."
After Needham senior guard Kevin Brennan put buck Shyheim Davis-Smith's free throw back up with 6:40 in the fourth quarter, the Rockets had a 43-36 advantage. Despite Brookline's missed layups and struggles with outside shots in the fourth, EJ Rogers (15 points) sparked the Warrior offense in the final minutes of the game.
"EJ is a talented freshman who has a great deal of physical ability and tools," Fiedor said. "This was only his third varsity game and the sky is the limit for him."
Rogers had consecutive steals and layups toward the end of the third, but it was his three-pointer with 2:20 that closed the gap to 48-46 and energized his team and the Warrior fans. After a Farley layup, Lake Berry was fouled during a three-point attempt with 1:16 and hit one of three free throws to make the score 50-47 Needham.
The Warriors were aided by four missed Needham free throws and a traveling violation during the last minute of the game. O'Neal then took over. His defensive pressure helped force Farley's travel and his driving layup cut the deficit to 50-49 with 0:45 helped set up his dramatic three-pointer with 0:28.
"That was a big three from Stephen; he played well tonight," Fiedor said.
Rogers rebounded a last-gasp shot from Needham in the closing seconds and heaved a full-court pass to Josh McDowall to give Brookline the 54-50 win.
Brookline will next play Norwood at home on Jan. 4.