Malden Moves on to Finals of Holiday Tourney, 66-57 over Swampscott

December 27, 2012

Malden: For three quarters, it appeared Malden would not be able to shake the Swampscott Big Blue and could find themselves in the consolation round of their own Holiday Tournament.  Anthony Gilardi, the team's leading scorer and rebounder, spent much of the first three quarters battling foul trouble, point guard Wily Metellus was in the midst of playing his first turnover-filled game of the season and sharp shooting forward Rodney Morton had yet to really get on track.  Led by senior captain Dan Trentsch's 22 points, it appeared that Swampscott was poised for an upset, holding a 54-50 lead with five minutes to play.  Luckily for the Tornadoes, Gilardi had one last big play in him, Morton's shooting would come alive to the tune of 24 points and senior reserve L.J. Long would step in at point guard and deliver a memorable performance off the bench to lead Malden into the championship game Thursday night vs. Wakefield.

Trailing by 4, Long got Morton going by feeding the lanky swingman a perfect drive and kick pass which resulted in a 3pt field goal to cut the lead to just 1.  Gilardi would immediately follow Morton's clutch shot with a steal down the other end of the floor and a pull-up 3pt field goal to give Malden a lead it would not relinquish at 56-54.  Another turnover off of a Lavenge Francois steal led to a Francois to senior forward Jason Surpris layup and suddenly the Tornadoes were up four points and the Big Blue were reeling.  Gilardi would soon foul out but his teammates would not let him down.  Led by Long's strong floor leadership and Morton's shooting, the Tornadoes would build the lead to as large as 12 before closing out a 66-57 win to earn their finals berth against state ranked Wakefield, a game that will pit two 3-0 teams.
"L.J. was absolutely huge for us out there tonight!." an elated Malden coach Don Nally said after the win.  "He handled their press with ease and found the right people in the right spots, especially Rodney.  It's funny, we are a pressing team and L.J. gives our own press fits in practice while playing for the 2nd team so I guess this should come as no surprise to anyone that has watched our practices."
Another key performer for the Tornadoes was junior forward Bryan Mitchell.  Mitchell contributed 13 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocks while also drawing the assignment of containing Trentsch in the 4th quarter.  Mitchell sealed his great night of play with a long 3pt field goal in the final minutes to ice the win for Malden.  There will not be any rest for Malden after this win as they get right back at it Friday night in the Tournament's final game to take on Wakfield.
Earlier Results from the 8th Annual Holiday Tournament:
Girls Bracket:  Swampscott 57  Wakefield 52
                      Danvers 37  Malden 29
Boys Bracket: Wakefield 77 Snowden 66
                      Malden 66  Swampscott 57
Game times for Thursday will be: 1:30 and 3:30 for the girls then the boys' consolation games and 5:30 and 7:30 for the girls and boys' championship games.