Sports 03-21-2018

AMAZING ANGEL

Price-Espada lights it up from start to finish

By Cary Shuman

Angel Price-Espada came out firing and hardly missed a shot – in the pre-game warm-ups.

And then the real game started and he was even better, toppling the Central Massachusetts champion Maynard High team with an avalanche of three-pointers, 10 overall, in the Tigers’ 89-57 victory.

Price-Espada’s 49-points, matching his career high against Lowell Catholic earlier in the season, capped off a superb junior campaign that will undoubtedly garner him All-Scholastic recognition by both Boston newspapers.

Playing on the biggest stage in the city [Springfield] where basketball was founded in 1891, Price-Espada made the jump from star to superstar. His point total is believed to be a record for a state championship game in Massachusetts. He was an astonishing 10-of-12 from three-point land.

Interestingly, Maynard’s 3-2 zone defense was specifically designed to stop Price-Espada’s drives to the baskets and dishes to teammates. While the 5-foot-7-inch guard was able to penetrate the lane, it was his majestic, high-arcing, three-point shots (some from NBA-range) that will long be remembered by the many fans watching the game.

Maynard coach Paul Howes said he hasn’t seen a performance like Espada’s during his lengthy career in high school basketball.

“That’s the most points anyone’s ever scored on us,” said Howes. “I’ve coached in 500 games. Nobody has ever scored like that against us. He’s a terrific player. We had to pick our poison and we didn’t want him getting in the lane on us. I told the kids if he was going to make the 3-ball, we’re going to live and die with that and he was terrific. What a performance.”

Reporters engulfed Espada in the media room one floor below Blake Arena. They all wanted to know if he sensed anything beforehand.

“Once the jump ball came, I knew I was going to have a good game – I didn’t know I was going to have 49, though,” said Espada. “My teammates told me to keep shooting and I feel that in my mind, too – if you’re hitting all your shots, just keep shooting. After I hit the first three contested shots, I knew my game was on.”

Price-Espada said he was grateful to coach Leo Boucher for leading this team on such a memorable journey that ended with the school’s first state championship.

“I would just like to thank coach Boucher,” said Espada. “He lets us play our game. He motivates us to do our best. And he designs plays for us against any defenses.”

He credited his teammates for stepping up and contributing all season and in the MIAA Tournament.

“I thank my teammates for being great in this game, especially Marques [Bouyer] and Michael [Thompson],” said Price-Espada. “They played their best game and didn’t get in foul trouble. It was a team effort.”

Bouyer came up big in run to the title

By Cary Shuman

Marquis Bouyer was an undisputed co-star in the Pope John basketball team’s 89-57 win over Maynard in the Division 4 state championship game Saturday at Springfield College.

Bouyer scored 17 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and keyed the interior defensive effort against the Maynard frontcourt. The 6-foot-3-inch senior from Dorchester started his day with a lay-in and his eight first-quarter points helped Pope John take an 18-11 lead that the Tigers would expand the rest of the way.

“I knew I had to start off the game really strong,” said Bouyer. “My teammates get a lot of momentum when I start finishing my shots inside and also rebounding very well against Mansfield’s skilled big man,” said Bouyer. “It was tough competition under the boards, but I knew I had to do it for my team.”

The state title game was a continuation of Bouyer’s valuable inside presence during the season, especially so in the MIAA Tournament. His rebounding late in the Winthrop game, notably a sky-walking grab of a missed free throw, helped hold off the Vikings in a 63-59 overtime thriller. He had 12 points and was a force on the boards in the Tigers’ 70-62 win over Mashpee in the state semifinal at the Garden.

“I think I really stepped up for my team,” said Bouyer.

Like everyone else at Blake Arena, Bouyer marveled at teammate Angel Price-Espada’s 23-point takeover of the second quarter.

“I’ve seen him shoot like that in practice when Angel and Mekhi (Collins) switch teams,” said Bouyer. “Angel really can light it up anywhere on the court. I’ve seen him make shots all practice long without missing.”

Bouyer was asked what his thought were about being a leader of Pope John’s first-ever state championship team.

“It feels amazing,” said Bouyer. “Now we are cemented in the history of Pope John forever. The first team to win it all, I’m just grateful and blessed to be here at Pope John and to be able to create a legacy.”

Echoing the feelings of all the players, Bouyer said that coach Leo Bouyer did “an amazing job” piloting this team.

“Coach Leo kept us all together through all the adversity,” said Bouyer. “We went through a lot of trials and tribulations this season and it’s been great. He kept us together through it all and now we’re here, and we’re state champions.”

 

Thompson excelled for the Tigers all season

Senior Michael Thompson will always have the deluxe memory of his clutch 14-performance performance in the state semifinal at TD Garden, but winning a state championship might even eclipse that.

“I can’t even describe it – it’s the best feeling,” said the 6-foot-3-inch Thompson. “The whole team came together in the tournament. We knew we all had to do what we’ve been doing all year. I tried to do all the things that we needed help with, like rebounding, and Angel really didn’t miss a shot all game. He played outstanding.”

Thompson, who came to Pope John High School following the closing of the St. Clement School, sensed that something special was possible in September.

“In fall league when we all got together, we just knew that if we could get our personalities in order and play as a team, we could be here and win a title,” said Thompson.

And head coach Leo Boucher was able to bring those personalities together, blending them in to a powerhouse basketball team that won 24 games and ultimately the biggest prize of all – a state championship.

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