Host Mansfield next up for the Marblehead boys Friday night
Check out this video from the closing seconds of a Round of 16 game against Pope Francis on its Springfield campus that featured Miles O’Neill’s clutch rebound and layup at the buzzer to send his teammates to the Elite 8 in Division 2. The Magicians won the game, 59-57.
“I trusted my teammate Nick Lemmond to hit the shot, because he had an amazing game,” said O’Neill after the Sweet 16 classic. “But I stayed ready just in case I needed to make a play. The ball went up and I crashed to the lane, and luckily my good positioning led to the buzzer beater.”
In 1983, there was this Cinderella team that came out of nowhere to win the NCAA Division 1 basketball tournament. Years later, ESPN documented that run by North Carolina State and its head coach Jimmy Valvano. They aptly called it “Survive and Advance,” which could sum up the 2023 version of the Marblehead Basketball Magicians (15-4, 10th seed), led by veteran coach Mike Giardi. They began the postseason with a 60-55 win over visiting Pembroke (12-9, 23rd seed) in a Round of 32 game, before boarding the bus for the long trip down the Mass Pike to Springfield to take on Pope Francis (17-4, seventh seed), where they hung on to beat the Cardinals, 59-57 in a Sweet 16 game on the biggest basket of O’Neill’s career. They will be facing host Mansfield, the second seed Friday night, starting at 7 p.m.
Prior to O’Neill’s winning basket, Nick Lemmond fired away from beyond the arc, but his three-point try fell short. However, O’Neill was in the right position at the right time to grab the rebound, before banking it home as time ran out to break the 57-57 stalemate to avoid overtime. Lemmond ended up pacing the attack with 19 points. O’Neill accounted for 10, but none so important than his final layup. Ryan Commoss was credited with 14 points. Tryone Countrymon netted nine. Isaiah Makor had five, before fouling out in the fourth quarter. Scott Campbell contributed two points to the winning cause.
A total of only four Pope Francis players figured into the offense. Ryan Vedovelli led the Cardinals in scoring with 20 points. T.J. Reid was close behind with 18.
The score was tied at 16 in the second quarter, then the Magicians went on a 14-3 run to take a commanding halftime lead, 30-19. They were still ahead after three, 43-35. But the Cardinals refused to give up in front of their home fans, outscoring the Marblehead boys, 22-16. But they left too much time on the clock, and the Magicians took advantage of all 13.1 seconds to seal the deal on once again O’Neill heroics.
“Our guys played tough, but give Pope Francis credit, they kept on chipping away,” said Giardi.