With 44.1 seconds remaining, a Chad Nelson free throw gave the Big Blue a 62-61 lead over Revere. The Big Blue was in prime position to win its first come-from-behind matchup of the season.
Swampscott had rallied after an abysmal first half performance, scoring 24 points total in the fourth quarter – more than its sum in the first two quarters combined.
But the next play would suck the Big Blue’s confidence out of the building. Revere’s Mike Dreezen made a three-pointer with 29.5 seconds left, placing the Patriots up by two.
Fortunately, Swampscott could hold the ball for the last shot. But Swampscott coach Dave Born, in a controversial decision, opted not to call a timeout in order to organize the Blue’s final shot at victory.
“I believe that the way we were playing, we were getting pretty much what we wanted,” said Born. “We were getting pretty much what we wanted.”
Coach Born was right. Swampscott’s make-shift triangle offense between Chad Nelson in the paint, Joey Ragusa at the top of the key, and Ben Faulkner on the perimeter was almost impossible to stop. Both Faulkner and Ragusa were making their shots while Nelson dominated inside.
Born’s decision ended up backfiring, as Faulkner’s pass inside was intercepted by the Patriots. Dreezen’s fast-break layup sealed Revere’s fifth victory of the season, a 66-62 win over Swampscott.
Swampscott learned how to manage in close situations in previous matches against Beverly and Salem, but it still didn’t have the experience and composure to execute in crunch time.
Nelson had his second-most impressive double-double of the season, scoring 24 points while grabbing 15 rebounds. Ragusa had 17 points, mostly due to his four three-pointers.
Despite Swampscott’s error in the final seconds, the blame for Friday night’s loss can be placed on how it started the first half. The Patriots thrived off Swampscott’s lack of offense, responding to the Big Blue’s eight first-quarter points with its own 22 points in the second quarter. At halftime, Revere led 35-21.
That made the difference during Swampscott’s comeback, according to Born.
“We didn’t bring it like we wanted to bring it in the first half. You can’t ease into it, particularly when you had a week off,” said Born. “The intensity wasn’t there. They got some confidence.”
A new team emerged from Swampscott’s locker room in the second half. The Big Blue played strong on defense, executed on offense, and easily played its best basketball of the second season. If Swampscott was sleepwalking in the first half, it definitely woke up and smelled the coffee in the second.
Chad Nelson gave Swampscott its first lead of the ballgame with four minutes left, his layup making the score 56-54. Three-pointers were traded between teams in the following two minutes (naturally, it was Ragusa who made Swampscott’s three).
Another Nelson layup gave the Blue a 61-59 lead with just over two minutes remaining, but Revere responded within seconds to tie it up. The next basket wouldn’t come until Nelson’s free throw.
“It all changed in the second half, but too little, too late,” said Born.
It was another moral victory for Swampscott. The Big Blue played in the first half as it did in the first half of the season. It all changed in the second half, however. This team didn’t drop their heads. This team communicated on offense, played tenaciously on defense, and was aggressive until the very end.
But just like the Celtics, the Big Blue seems to be getting tired of moral victories. They’ll go for win number three on Tuesday at home against Peabody.