WORCESTER – All of Tommy Dunn’s points last night were important, but none were as big as his last two.
Dunn, a Holy Name freshman, hit an off-balance, one-handed shot while falling down with 48 seconds to play to help lead the Naps to a 64-61 win over South High at Francis P. Kelly Memorial Gymnasium.
“It was, ah, luck,” said Dunn, who finished with 13 points, while trying to explain what was ultimately the game-winning shot. “The shot clock was running down so I knew I had to do something; I knew I had to get a shot off. I came off an inside out and I got bumped and I was falling down to the right and I just threw the ball up at the basket with my right hand. It wasn’t the prettiest shot I’ve ever taken, but I’ll take it.”
So will Holy Name, which lost to St. John’s Tuesday night and plays at Burncoat Friday night and then hosts Doherty on Tuesday. The Naps improved to 3-7 with the victory over the Colonels, who fell to 5-3 with the loss. South, which won the first meeting, 53-52, has lost three of its last four.
Another freshman, Connor Knowles, provided Holy Name some breathing room when he canned his second three-pointer of the night with 12 seconds to play to extend the Naps’ lead to five, 64-59.
“Those two freshmen, Tommy and Connor, they really made a couple of tough shots at the end,” said Holy Name coach Jason Chavoor, who, like Dunn, couldn’t explain the game-winning shot. “The ball hasn’t really rolled our way all season so it was nice to see it finally roll our way tonight.”
South senior Michael Butkus (11 points) hit a layup at the buzzer to account for the 64-61 final.
The Naps looked like a team that lost by double digits the night before in the first half, playing passively and with very little intensity. At one point, when the Colonels were in the midst of a 9-1 run, Chavoor could be heard telling his players during a stoppage in play, “You guys look like you have never played basketball before.”
Holy Name trailed, 32-24, at halftime.
“In the first half we were making plays that we don’t teach and we were doing things that we don’t teach,” Chavoor said. “There is nothing more frustrating to a coach than when kids do stuff that you don’t teach them.”
Dunn said Chavoor did not mince words in the locker room at the break.
“Coach really laid into us at halftime, telling us we had to step it up if we wanted to get a win,” Dunn said. “I think the key for us in the second half was getting back on defense and doing a better job of passing the ball around and finding the open man.”
The Naps, apparently, listened to what Chavoor had to say.
After South junior Aaron Nkrumah (a team-high 19 points) pushed the Colonels lead to 10, 34-24, on a drive and layup 48 seconds into the third quarter, Holy Name went on a 14-0 run, taking a 38-34 lead with 4:05 left in the quarter. Junior Alvin Kouassi led the way, scoring six of his game-high 20 points during the spurt. Senior DeVandre Edmonds, who scored all 10 of his points after intermission, had four points in the run. Dunn added two free throws and senior Sam Ampofo (13 points) scored on a put-back of an offensive rebound.
“I think the key to our coming back in the second half was our defense,” Kouassi said. “We knew we had to work harder on defense. It was a very physical game; it always is against South because we all know each other. We all play against each other year-round, in the summer league, down at the YMCA.
“Personally, I knew I had to refocus,” Kouassi continued. “I had a lot of turnovers in the beginning of the game but I was able to settle myself down at halftime and mentally prepare for the second half. I just wanted to do a better job passing; a better job getting my teammates the ball.”
The teams essentially exchanged baskets the rest of the quarter, which ended with the Naps ahead, 49-44. With 4:20 left in the fourth quarter Ampofo scored on a runner in the lane to give Holy Name a 58-49 lead.
That when South began its comeback.
Junior Darrel Andoh (seven points) hit a free throw with 4:06 left in the game to pull South to within eight, 58-50. After a Holy Name miss and turnover, Colonels’ sophomore Bill Everson (nine points) scored on a drive with 3:10 to play to make it a six-point game, 58-52. Three possessions later Everson made it a three-point game, 58-55, by draining a right-side three-pointer with 2:18 to play.
Dunn then pushed the Naps’ lead back to four, 59-55, by hitting one of two free throws with 2:10 left in the game. South junior Papee Paye (13 points) hit a pair of free throws to make it a two-point game, 59-57, with 1:42 to play and then Butkus scored on a drive with 1:20 to play to tie the game, 59-59, setting up the late-game heroics provided by Dunn and Knowles.
“I thought we came out with better energy in the second half,” Chavoor said. “We really tried to get the game going fast, full-court, thinking that way maybe we could get some steals. Even though we were down big early in the second half I still thought we had time to come back and win.
“Not counting that basket at the buzzer, which didn’t mean anything, we outscored them by 13 in the second half,” Chavoor continued. “That’s important. I thought we played a lot better in the second half. We did some doubling and some trapping when we were down by 10 and all of a sudden we’re all tied up.”
While he was pleased with the win, Chavoor wouldn’t commit to it being a turning-point victory.
“The one thing I’ve learned about kids is they are very unpredictable,” Chavoor said. “We could come out on Friday and be absolutely useless; we could come out Friday and win by 30. We just try to take it day by day. Right now our focus is on tomorrow’s practice and our preparation for Burncoat on Friday.”