NEWTON — Behind a game-high 36 points from senior guard Ethan Wright and superb defensive effort from the entire roster, the Newton North boys’ basketball team defeated Cambridge, 70-45, on Friday to end the Falcons’ 53-game winning streak.
After taking down the visiting two-time Division 1 state champions, the Tigers were enveloped by an onrushing contingent of student fans.
“That’s the kind of stuff you dream of,” said Wright. “It’s a really exciting moment seeing all your friends and family jump around. I just felt pure joy.”
Cambridge (8-1) jumped ahead by attacking the paint, but Newton North (6-2) responded with a 27-3 run to take a 31-13 lead midway through the second quarter. Wright accounted for 19 of the points during that run and scored 10 straight in the first quarter.
“Ethan had a phenomenal start,” said Newton North coach Paul Connolly. “We were a little nervous and it took a little while for our guys to get acclimated to the crowd and the speed of the game. But once Ethan got the ball in the open court, he was hard to guard. He’s a special talent.”
While Wright handled the bulk of the scoring, a supporting cast of Tigers came up with a multitude of hustle plays, tracking down 13 offensive rebounds and forcing 22 Cambridge turnovers.
“Everything in my program is based on is effort,” said Connolly. “I’ve got kids that might not be as athletic as others, but we grind and we defend.”
Junior forward Ezra Pemstein and Noah Neville, who chipped in 9 points apiece, credited Wright for jump-starting the offense.
“It brings a calmness to everyone,” Neville said of Wright’s hot start. “Once his shot starts falling, it raises the confidence of the whole team.”
With Wright struggling to a degree in the third quarter, Cambridge trimmed the deficit to 12 (42-30), but would get no closer, as Pemstein drained a 3-pointer and Neville followed with a transition bucket to push the lead back to 17 and keep the hosts firmly in control.
Speaking after the game in a swelteringly hot gym on an unseasonably warm January night, Wright talked about how Cambridge’s championship pedigree helped elicit maximum effort.
“We didn’t treat it differently from any other game,” said Wright. “We just wanted to go into it with the same mind-set, but there was some extra motivation and we were pretty hyped up.”