The Chelsea High boys basketball team turned in what will rate as one of the greatest victories in CHS hoop annals with a gritty, gutty, and exhilarating 60-54 win in double overtime at Shawsheen Tech Tuesday night.
“What a game! What a game!” said an emotionally-drained CHS head coach Jay Seigal of his team’s triumph that accomplished an improbable, late-season run to a berth in the state tournament.
Chelsea had entered the game needing a victory in order to secure at least a tie for second place in the Large Division of the Commonwealth Athletic Conference. A loss would have left Shawsheen in sole possession of the second spot (which qualifies under MIAA rules for the post-season) and the Red Devils would have been left out.
Ironically, the Chelsea players did not know what they were playing for before the game. “We didn’t realize that we still had a shot at the state tourney until just before the game,” said Seigal. “So we thought it best not to spring that on the team at the last moment and put that pressure on them. To their credit, they played their hearts out even though they thought they were just playing out the season.”
Chelsea got off to a slow start and trailed early, 11-4. However, the Red Devils picked up the pace, closing the gap to 17-15 by the end of the first period, and then completely outplayed Shawsheen in the second frame to take a 35-23 lead at the half. Sophomore guard Faisal Nasimi played a key role in the Chelsea surge, draining three three-pointers in the period.
Shawsheen fought back after the intermission and moved to within 40-33 after three quarters. Shawsheen completed its comeback by the end of regulation, deadlocking matters at 48-48. Shawsheen had the last chance to win the game before OT, but missed an open shot from mid-range.
The first OT session was an up-and-down battle that left the teams knotted at 52-52. Shawsheen once again had the last attempt at victory, but once again failed to convert.
With both teams exhauasted to start the second OT, it was clear that someone had to step forward to break the stalemate. For the Red Devils, that player was Oscar Sabillon, who sank a clutch trey midway through the four minute session to boost the Red and Black into a three point lead which they never relinquished. With the Chelsea defense stymieing their opponents’ effort to tie the game, Shawsheen was forced to foul in the waning minutes. Red Devils Carlos Vazquez and Jorge Ramos hit some key tosses from the charity stripe down the stretch to keep Shawsheen at bay (Chelsea overall was a fine 11-for-15 from the line on the night) for the final margin of 60-54.
Vazquez, whom Seigal lauded for “an immense game,” led the Red Devils in the scoring column with 26 points. Ramos also reached double figures with 11. Nasimi had nine points, followed by Sabillon with eight, Hector Sarmiento with four, and Eddie Irizarry and Victor Corrales with two each.
So with the win, Chelsea is assured of a 5-5 record in the CAC Large even if they were to lose their final CAC game last night (Wednesday) with Lynn Tech and finish in a three way tie for second spot. (Under MIAA rules, all three second-place teams would go to the tourney). On the other hand, if the Red Devils defeatedt Lynn Tech last night, they would be the sole possessor of second spot and knock out the other teams from the tourney.
On Monday the Red Devils played their rematch with Division 1 Lexington. Chelsea started fast, moving out to a 9-0 lead to start the game, but Lexington soon erased the CHS lead to take a 16-14 edge after one period. The contest remained a close one to the final buzzer (29-25 at the half and 37-33 after three quarters in Lexington’s favor), but Chelsea never could quite get over the proverbial hump.
Irizarry led the CHS scoring chart with nine points. Sarmiento and Vazquez hit for eight apiece, Sabillon added seven, Ramos chipped in five, and Nelson Vega and Nasimi contributed three each.
“I’m incredibly proud of the way this team has come together as the season has progressed,” said Seigal, whose squad started the season 0-6, but who, with a win last night, would have finished the final two-thirds of the season with an 8-6 mark. “Earlier in the year, we were hoping just to get into the win column, let alone reach the state tourney. But here we are and the boys were very excited when they learned that we had made the tourney.”
After last night’s season-finale game with Tech, Seigal and crew will await news of their seeding and first round tourney opponent in the Division 2 North Sectional.