NEWTON – The streak ends at 53.
For the first time in more than two full seasons, two-time defending Division 1 state champion Cambridge walked off a basketball court on the losing end as Herald Dream Teamer Ethan Wright and the Newton North Tigers ended any thoughts of another undefeated season for the Falcons with a no-doubt-about-it 70-45 nonleague victory last night in Newton.
Wright finished with a game-high 36 points (nine rebounds) while fellow senior Noah Neville and junior Ezra Pemstein combined for 18 points and 12 rebounds as the Tigers raced out to a 36-22 halftime lead and never looked back.
“Everything my program is based on is the effort – we just grind,” said Newton North head coach Paul Connolly after the first meeting since 1990 between the two old Suburban League rivals. “It took our guys a little bit to get going and to get acclimated to the big crowd and (Cambridge); that’s a really good team. Wright played great, but the other guys really stepped up tonight.”
It was Cambridge (8-1) that took an early 10-4 lead, but following a 3-pointer from sophomore Aaron Cooley midway through the first quarter that cut the deficit to 10-7, the Tigers and Wright took over. Behind an individual 10-0 scoring run from the Princeton-bound senior, Newton North closed the quarter on a 19-2 run to take a 19-12 lead into the second.
And in the second quarter, Wright started with a short jumper before back to back 3-pointers from sophomore Grayson Hargens and Wright pushed the lead up to 29-13. The Falcons would respond with a mini 6-0 run, but another Wright 3-pointer kept Cambridge in chase mode until halftime.
“We approached this game with the same mindset to just play our game and win,” said Wright. “But there was a little bit of extra motivation coming into this game.”
Leading by 14 points to begin the second half, Newton North found other outlets besides Wright to extend the lead. A 3-pointer by Pemstein made it 45-30 before buckets from Cooley and Hargens made it 49-32. A buzzer-beating tip-in from junior Christian Negrotti would give the Tigers a 53-36 lead after three.
“We have a lot of guys on this team that can play and we all trust each other,” Pemstein noted. “We all know what we can do when we play together – this team is about picking each other up.”
Newton North (6-2) and Wright’s fourth three-pointer of the evening made it a 20-point lead early in the fourth, and despite a late-game spurt from the…