Propelled by Clutch Long-Distance Sharpshooting, Magicians Edge Big Blue 61-60
Swipe or scroll on the above photos to see all of the athletes in action!
By Dwight Robson, Marblehead Beacon Contributor
On paper, Friday night’s boys’ high school basketball game between Marblehead and Swampscott looked like a potential mismatch in the Magicians’ favor. The actual game was anything but; however, as fans of both teams were treated to an exciting evening of basketball inside Marblehead’s Field House that wasn’t decided until the last second when Marblehead senior Tyrone Countrymon secured a rebound of a missed Swampscott free throw, sealing a 61-60 for the home team.
Marblehead, which is now 6-3 on the season, improved its record in conference play to 5-1—despite being down three key players due to an illness that has been making its way through the team.
The home team overcame the scrappy and determined Big Blue, propelled by late-game, long-distance sharpshooting from senior Magnus McCarthy and junior Nick Lemmond, who combined to hit five three-point shots in the game’s final quarter. Lemmond proved to be particularly clutch, as six of his game-high 23 points came on two successful three-pointers in the last minute of play, the first of which tied the game at 57 and the second that gave the Magicians the lead at 60-59.
After a Swampscott missed shot, Marblehead senior Isaiah Maker was fouled with 5.1 seconds on the clock and awarded two free throws. Maker, who had a strong performance with a near double-double of nine points and 16 rebounds, missed his first attempt before draining the second to put his team up 61-59.
But the Big Blue weren’t done, as five seconds was plenty of time for Swampscott freshman Connor Chiarello to streak the length of the court and attempt a game-tying layup as he was fouled by Maker. Fortunately for the home team, Chiarello’s shot didn’t go down. However, with .4 seconds on the game clock, Swampscott was still in a position to tie the game if Chiarello converted both free throws. The young freshman, who played a spectacular 4th quarter, scoring 10 points and hitting three clutch shots late that gave the Big Blue leads of 55-54, 57-54, and 59-57, respectively, calmly walked to the line and hit his first free throw. After a Marblehead timeout, Chiarello’s second attempt missed the mark and was snared by Countrymon as the buzzer sounded.
Marblehead Head Coach Mike Giardi was pleased with his team’s effort and improved execution in the second half, even as he expressed empathy for Chiarello.
“It was a hard-fought game by both teams,” Giardi told Marblehead Beacon. “As a coach, I really feel for the freshman who went to the line with an opportunity to tie the game and force overtime.”
Giardi highlighted his team’s more aggressive play after halftime and 4th quarter shooting as the keys that allowed Marblehead to overcome a narrow deficit and go home winners over their archrival.
Asked how he was able to maintain his composure and hit multiple three-point shots in the last minute of a nail-biter of a game, Lemmond said the pace of the action left him no time to contemplate the magnitude of his shots.
“On both plays we pushed the ball up the floor, so I didn’t have time to think,” Lemmond said. The junior, who transferred to Marblehead High School after attending and playing basketball at St. John’s Prep the last two years, noted that his confidence in his fellow Magicians lessens the pressure in key moments.
“I trust my teammates and know that if I don’t make the play, someone else will,” Lemmond said. “We didn’t play our best game overall, but we had some guys come off the bench who stepped up and hit big-time shots.”
The Magicians return to action tonight, Tuesday, January 17th, to face the Chieftains of Masconomet Regional High School before hosting Beverly on Thursday in a rematch of two of the Northeastern Conference’s top teams. The Magicians bested the Panthers 86-78 in the season opener for both squads on December 13.
Despite the big week for his team, Giardi’s focus over the weekend was on his team’s health. “We’ve had a lot of guys sick,” he said. “We gave the kids the weekend off because we wanted them away from each other.”
Having recovered from an illness that had him feeling sick during the Magicians’ trip to a basketball tournament in Florida right before Christmas, Lemmond appeared ready to get back on the basketball floor. “We need to lock in on Masco before we focus on Beverly,” Lemmond said. “And we need to pick up our intensity and start fast.”
The Magicians sharpshooter certainly sounds like he is happy with his decision to return to Marblehead. “All my best friends live in Marblehead,” Lemmond said. “It gives you a good feeling to play for your hometown.”