Saturday, January 17, 2015

MacDonald Hits 10 3's as Central's Wins 33rd Straight Game

Evan MacDonald drained not 1 but 10 3-pointers on Friday night - through the first 3 quarters of the game. I've never seen a kid do that in my 8 years covering high school basketball. Central ran previously unbeaten Pinkerton out of the gym, as they led 67-40 after 3 quarters. The Little Green made a statement that they are the team to beat in Division I boys basketball, extending their state-best winning streak to 33 games with a 77-64 win over Pinkerton at Simon Gymnasium. Joey Martin has started in all 33 of those games. He has not lost a game since moving to NH from Florida.

"After the first one I felt pretty good" said MacDonald, a 6-foot-2 junior wing. "I struggled shooting against Memorial. But good shooters keep shooting. If you miss 39 in a row you need to have the confidence to still take the 40th one. My teammates are unselfish and kept finding me."

It was close at halftime, with Pinkerton only trailing 36-30. But Central opened up the flood gates in the 3rd quarter, outscoring the Astros 31-10. The Little Green connected on a total of 15 3-pointers on the evening. MacDonald, Martin, Jonathin Makori and Jaylen Leeroy all hit shots from downtown, while senior point guard Oumaru Kante (13 points) distributed the basketball and scored on drives to the rim. This Central team is fun to watch. They play a fast, up-tempo game. They share the basketball very well. They're all fast and they move the ball fast, so there's always someone open. They find the open man and they can all shoot it. If they keep playing like this they could be on their way to a second consecutive undefeated season.

"We didn't expect it to be that big of a blowout" said Martin, who had 9 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists. "But with a coach like Doc and a team this it can happen. Offensively and defensively it was our best game. I thought we played really tough tonight and that was the difference."

Central was hitting on all cylinders in the 3rd quarter. MacDonald hit a 3, plus got fouled. He missed the free throw, but Martin grabbed the offensive rebound, went up strong with it, got fouled and hit both foul shots. Kante sprinted back on defense, leaping up and blocking a layup attempt in transition by Pinkerton's Drew Green. That triggered a Central fast-break opportunity, as they quickly got the ball up the floor and over to MacDonald who hit his seventh 3-pointer of the game to make it 46-30 Central.

Makori hit a 3, and then just seconds later the Little Green got the ball back. Makori drove to the rim, his shot was no good but Martin tipped it in for the bucket. Kante slashed to the rim for an and-1 finish and it was 54-34 Central with 3:43 left in the 3rd quarter.

Meanwhile, Pinkerton sophomore point guard Geo Baker (a Division I college prospect) was doing everything he could to keep his team in it. He was making some very athletic, high level plays. Baker leaped high up in the air to fight for a loose ball with a Central player and while still in mid-air he not only tipped the ball but tipped it directly to an open teammate under the basket for what should have been a layup but the shot was missed. Then he hustled towards the Central bench to deflect a pass on 'D' and dove out of bounds to try and save it. Then he made a great lob pass to teammate Thomas Romick for a layup.

Baker didn't have enough help though, and Central was just too fast for the Astros to keep up with the faster the tempo of the game got.

"We're used to playing that way" said Makori, a 5-foot-9 junior guard. "A lot of us play AAU and that's how we play there too."

MacDonald hit his eighth 3 of the game to make it 57-36 Little Green. Kante blew by his man off the dribble for another layup and then just seconds later Central again pushed the ball quickly in transition before finding MacDonald who hit his ninth 3 of the game. Central was putting on a clinic out there. They showed tremendous ball movement, ending the possession with a layup by Kante. MacDonald hit a step-back 3 late in the 3rd quarter, his tenth shot of the game from downtown and it was 67-40 Little Green after 3.

"When Oumaru pinned that kid, that play was what really got us going" said Makori, who hit four 3's en route to 18 points.

The 4th quarter was elementary, with Central up by so much. Matt Rizzo hit a 3, and then Leroy got fouled on a 3-point attempt and hit 2 of 3 FTs. Rizzo hit another 3, this one off a kick out by Baker. Rizzo and Baker scored a team-high 17 points each. Kante made a good move - he had the ball on the left wing beyond the arc, a defender came to close out on him so he used a shot fake to get him in the air and slashed to the rim for 2. That made it 73-50 Central with 4:40 remaining. Teams began pulling starters with 2:00 left, and the Little Green cruised to the 77-64 win.

"We saw Evan had the hot hand so we looked for him a little more" said Martin, a 6-foot-3 senior wing.

It was fast, up-tempo basketball in the 1st half. Also there was not many fouls or timeouts by either team, which together created a great flow to this contest. MacDonald started the game off with a 3 from the corner and then Leroy hit a 3 from the corner off a kick out pass by Martin. Central was moving the ball well and hitting shots against the Pinkerton zone. Baker countered with a 3 of his own from the top of the key and the Central lead was cut to 8-7.

MacDonald hit another 3 from the corner off the catch followed by a 3 by Makori and it was 14-7 Little Green. The teams combined to hit 13 3-pointers in the 1st half alone, 9 by Central and 4 by Pinkerton.

Baker pushed it hard up the floor, creating a 3-on-2 break before making a nice dish to Rizzo who made a strong finish through contact. Kante slashed to the rim for 2 and it was 16-9 Central with 2:21 left in the 1st quarter. All 5 starters for the Little Green had each scored already.

Green hit a 3 off the catch to cut the Central lead to 16-12, and then the Astros converted a nicely executed give-and-go with Baker zipping a pass to Rizzo on the left wing and then Rizzo dished it back to a cutting Baker for a lefty finish in traffic. Pinkerton was only down 18-14. Martin hit a 3 off the catch after Central got an offensive rebound and it was 21-14 Little Green after 1 quarter.

The 2nd quarter was more fast paced action with more 3's. MacDonald hit another 3 to make it 24-16 Central. Baker made a good pass ahead to push the ball and create a fast break opportunity which lead to a nice fadeaway jumper by Rizzo. Makori hit a 3 off the catch and it was 27-18 Little Green. Leroy hustled for 3 offensive rebounds on the same possession. The most underrated part of Central's performance on Friday night was how tenacious Leroy and Martin were going after offensive rebounds and loose balls.

Makori took a charge on Rizzo. The Little Green pulled down yet another offensive rebound, leading to another 3 by MacDonald. Baker answered right back with a 3 of his own. Then Baker stole the ball, pushed it hard up the floor and made a nice dish to Romick for a layup to cut the Pinkerton lead to 30-27. MacDonald hit his fifth 3 of the 1st half. Then came a controversial no-call, as Baker drove into the lane and got tied up (it was either a jump ball or a travel). Instead no call was made, he dished it out to Rizzo who drained a 3 and it was 33-30 Central. Makori buried a 3-pointer at the buzzer and it was 36-30 Little Green at halftime.

Central has 3 of the best shooters in the state on one team with MacDonald, Martin and Makori. Leeroy can shoot it pretty good too. Doc Wheeler is a heck of a coach and has this team playing excellent team basketball. They played at a blistering pace with the same 5 kids out there for the vast majority of the game, which is a testament to how well condition they are. Central was playing without senior guard Nathan Guillermo and freshman wing Ayei Akot, who both started in the Queen City Invitational Basketball Tournament (QCIBT).

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