All photos taken by Ryan Coggswell
Winter sports are beginning, and the boys’ basketball team is ready to retake the court. After a disappointing 2021 season with just one win compared to 19 losses, the young men know that there is plenty of room for improvement.
The first official game of the season would feature the Medford Mustangs traveling to the Finn Gym to take on the Malden Golden Tornados. Malden played a few scrimmages at the beginning of the month, including victories against the O’Bryant Tigers and Quincy Presidents, but this would mark both their first regular season game and Greater Boston League (GBL) contest.
These two teams opened last season with the same matchup, which can be seen here. The Mustangs won that game 66-46. Malden dropped their other matchup with Medford 77-45 in January. The boys looked to bounce back with a few new players tonight.
The Golden Tornados won the tip-off and started with the ball. They would set the tone quickly as senior guard Justin Bell knocked down a three-pointer to put the team on the board. Medford responded with a quick bucket but junior forward Ezechiel Noelsaint drew a foul and hit both of his free throws.
After Medford turned the ball over, Ethan Phejarasai, the team’s only freshman, made his first varsity bucket from beyond the arc which brought the lead to 8-2. Soon after, Noelsaint would score from downtown to extend Malden’s advantage to 13-3. These Golden Tornados were red-hot to open the game.
Bell ensured that the momentum continued. The next three Malden scores were all made by the senior, including a layup, three-pointer, and mid-range. On the other end, Medford started to pick up the pace. A few scores allowed them to close the gap including one that directly stemmed from a wide-open missed layup by Phejarasai. With a 21-14 lead and the first quarter coming to a close, senior guard Peyton Carron dished a pass to Phejarasai who made up for his rookie mistake by draining a three with four seconds left. As the buzzer went off, fans were delighted by the early performance of this sharpshooting Golden Tornado team.
The second quarter began with a Malden layup by senior forward Ransley Saint-Jean. Medford failed to respond and Bell capitalized by knocking down another three-pointer. The Mustangs went back down the court and matched it but Bell would take the ball again and make another three.
Once again, Medford responded with a three of their own. The Golden Tornados then pulled off a great passing play to find senior guard Aiden Tham in the corner for another three-pointer. When Medford turned it over, Bell hit his third three of the quarter to bring Malden’s total to 38. After a few Medford free throws, Tham threw up a shot at the buzzer that fell no good giving Malden a 38-25 halftime advantage. Through one half of play, Malden had scored 27 of their 38 points on three-pointers including 12 out of 14 in the second quarter.
Malden started off the second half the same way that they started the first when Bell hit a three from the corner. After a few back-and-forth possessions that resulted in points, Noelsaint made a big three-pointer. He tried another on the next possession that failed, but senior forward Jonald Joseph came down with the rebound and made the putback attempt. Malden now held a 20-point lead of 54-34 halfway through the third quarter.
Again, Bell made sure that lead kept growing. He hit a layup while being fouled and made the foul shot for a three-point play. Next, he made another layup. Then, he hesitated around a defender to make a solid mid-range jumper bringing the lead to 61-38. At the end of the penultimate quarter, Bell was fouled on a three-point shot and then made all of his free throws. Tonight was the Justin Bell Show and absolutely nobody was going to stop him.
The Golden Tornados had a solid 24-point lead to open the fourth quarter, which meant some new faces were bound to enter the game. The first bucket of the quarter was a layup by sophomore center Earl Fevrier. Then, Phejarasai made another three-pointer, solidifying a great performance for the young player.
After, Bell converted from inside the paint for his 38th point of the night. Sophomore guard Jose Ferreira wanted in on the action and did just so with a nice layup. Malden’s final points of the night came on a floater from Tham, who would dribble out the clock after Medford’s last bucket to secure an opening night victory for the Golden Tornados by a final score of 76-54.
The story of the night was obviously Justin Bell, whose 38 points made up for half of the team’s overall total. He earned his right to win the basketball season’s first Blue and Gold Player of the Game Award.
Still, he was humble about his performance. “It’s a team game,” he mentioned. “Me having 38 points wasn’t winning us the game. We had 76, that’s not just me.” When asked about his personal goal for the year, he said “I have to be a GBL All-Star, for sure.” If Bell consistently performs the way he did tonight, there is no doubt that he will accomplish that goal.
Carron was extremely fond of Bell’s work. “I think Justin was the key to our win. I was giving him passes and he just hit every single shot.” He knew how special the night was for Bell, stating, “I know this means lots to him because we have this conversation every day about how much this means to us and we’re glad that it’s finally paying off.”
Carron also spoke about the team’s overall performance. “We were great. We’ve been working very hard and it’s been a long offseason but it has definitely worked out. You can see it on the floor.” He is proud of the victory and looks forward to the season ahead. “Last season was not the best and I think that this year is going to change that.”
It seems as if he will be correct because Malden has already matched their win total from last season on opening night. Things are looking up for the Golden Tornados who have shown much improvement. Malden continued their success in their next matchup by defeating Lynn English 76-54.