BOSTON — As Beverly High boys hoop coach Matt Karakoudas aptly put it, “Every young (basketball player) dreams of playing at The Garden.”
On Saturday afternoon, that dream came true for the Panthers’ varsity squad as they took on Everett High for a midseason matchup on the famed parquet floor. Eighteen other programs joined them throughout the day — including a quartet of “Unified” teams — in what was another wildly successful edition of the Andrew James Lawson Foundation Invitational.
“It doesn’t matter your opponent, where you are in the standings, rankings, none of that stuff,” added Karakoudas. “This is just an incredible opportunity and to actually be able to be here and do this, that’s something they’ll remember forever.”
Lacing ’em up and stepping on that renowned court for the first time is certainly a moment worth cherishing. But as soon as the referee floated the ball into the air for the opening tip off, the Panthers were eager and ready to get down to business.
Thanks to some hot shooting from deep, Beverly build an early lead before withstanding a late Everett push to pull away for a 73-59 victory.
“Just a surreal moment being able to play on this court, the history, everything,” said Panthers’ star junior Ryder Frost, his team now 8-4 on the year. “The atmosphere was awesome, and it was just great to go out and get the dub in The Garden.”
Frost finished with 20 points, seven rebounds, four assists, three steals and a block in what was yet another terrific all-around performance for the 6-foot-5 recruit. Dylan Crowley was steady throughout as well, adding 15 points and four assists.
But it was junior Noe Diaz’s play that really allowed Beverly to flourish.
The feisty guard not only scored a game-high 24 points, but he willingly accepted the challenge of guarding Everett standout Steven Cordero (23 points). Diaz splashed three triples in the first quarter to help Beverly build a 21-13 lead. By halftime, he was up to 15 points as Beverly took a 40-31 advantage despite Tide big man Jomanuel Desruisseaux’s buzzer-beating bank shot 3-ball.
“I think that’s a big part of what I do for this team; I try to knock down shots and play good defense,” said Diaz. “I think I did a good job of that tonight.”
Diaz’s marksmanship from deep and overall aggressive play certainly rubbed off on his teammates.
The Panthers opened the third with a similar sense of urgency, refusing to take their foot off the gas as they took a 12-point margin (55-43) into the final frame. Crowley cashed in on a pair of trifectas in the quarter while Frost did a little bit of everything to help keep their team’s advantage a comfortable one.
“We were pushing the ball into their zone press and hit that open man, and we’ve got shooters everywhere,” said Crowley. “Everyone’s ready to shoot at any time, so honestly I feel like when one teammate sees one fall the other one’s like, ‘Now I’m not missing.’ That’s how it is with us; we’re all ready.”
As good as Beverly played over the first 24 minutes, Everett had no intentions of going down easily. The Tide opened the fourth with a 5-0 run, igniting their fan base. Behind some impressive play from Cordero and an overall uptick defensively, Everett got as close as four points midway through the fourth.
It was a 59-53 game with just over five minutes left before the Panthers made one final push to effectively put the nail in the coffin.
First, it was Diaz who got loose for a 3-ball at the top of the arc off a nice extra pass from Frost. An ensuing defensive stop allowed the Panthers to get out in transition, and Rook Landman (5 points, 5 rebounds, 3 steals) found himself open in the corner for another 3-pointer (his first basket of the game) to push the lead back to 12 in the blink of an eye.
Frost then freed himself up for a couple of key buckets in crunch time before Crowley found Diaz on the fast break for a perfectly executed layup that helped seal the deal.
“That’s kind of something we’ve done all year: when teams make runs, just try to battle back,” said Frost. “We just try to stay composed, play our game and we did exactly that.”
Max Hemsey (2 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists) also contributed on both ends for Beverly, while Joey Parsons splashed his only shot of the game from beyond the arc. Freshman Jacob Klass turned in some strong minutes off the bench, as did Mayen Kuot and Jack Ryan.
“Hats off to Everett because they played their butts off. That’s a good team,” said Karakoudas. “Anything can happen on a neutral site game like this because you don’t know where kids’ heads are at. (But) I told them it would be a lot better memory if you win instead of losing; it was a lot of fun.”
Beverly 73, Everett 59
at TD Garden, Boston
Beverly (8-4): Jacob Klass 1-0-2, Joey Parsons 1-0-3, Noe Diaz 8-4-24, Max Hemsey 1-0-2, Ryder Frost 9-0-20, Dylan Crowley 6-1-15, Rook Landman 2-0-5, Mayen Kuot 1-0-2. Totals: 29-5-73.
Everett (6-5): David De Souza 1-3-5, Steven Cordero 9-4-23, Cleevance Erilus 3-0-8, Giacobbe Ward 3-4-10, Jomaneul Desruisseaux 4-3-13. Totals: 20-14-59.
Halftime: Beverly, 40-31
3-pointers: B — Diaz 4, Frost 2, Crowley 2, Landman, Parsons; E — Erilus 2, Cordero, Desruisseaux.