Thomas Tierney and Chouaib Saidi also contributed to this article.
On January 11th, Malden and Everett fans packed the bleachers of Malden High’s Finn Gym in anticipation of the second annual Boys’ Basketball matchup of the season. Their first game this season ended in Everett defeating Malden 59-52. Malden tried to get a game on the Tide before the end of the campaign, but after a slow start they could not overcome and fell short in a 54-40 defeat.
Before the first Malden and Everett game of the 2022-2023 season, Malden had not beaten Everett since 2014. It had been 13 consecutive games over eight years of Everett beating Malden until the infamous streak was snapped in December 2022.
Despite the losses, the rivalry has always been a spectacle to look forward to on the schedule. “Since I've been here, we haven't beaten them for several years. We played them twice a year, and struggled, until last year we beat them at home, which was pretty awesome,” said Assistant Coach Dan Jurkowski.
“We're rivals in lots of sports, and the best part about any rivalry is how excited the fans get on both sides. The gym is always packed both ways, so even though we lost a lot of games, being a part of our rivalry was fun and exciting. Obviously, we wish we had a few more wins to go along and help, but they're always exciting games and the crowd is always into it, which makes it more fun,” Jurkowski added.
In December 2022, Malden won on their home turf, beating Everett 59-46, although since that game, Malden has taken three straight losses to the Crimson Tide.
The hype going into these games is often unmeasurable, but senior captain Ezechiel Noelsaint chooses to keep a cool head. “Honestly for me, it’s just another game against another team because at the end of the day, they go to school just like I do, they play for their school team just like I do and they play to win just like any player should. When you look at it like that, they’re just students just like me.”
From the end of last season to the beginning of the current season, Malden’s roster has experienced a real shake-up. Malden lost many notable seniors and impactful players to the team; this prompted Noelsaint to take a far bigger role on the court. “Going into the last game, I approached it with the mindset of, this a whole new team from last year. We don’t have Justin [Bell] to knock down shots, Jonald [Joseph] to lock down the paint, or Peyton [Carron] and his court vision. All that responsibility is on me since I have the most experience on this varsity team and I’ve been here the longest,” said Noelsaint.
Before the most recent game, Malden’s lineup suffered two major blows. Sophomore guard Ethan Phejarasai and junior guard Jose Ferreira were both inactive for Malden, giving Malden a major disadvantage before the start of the game. “We were a little shorthanded this game. We didn't have Jose, I don't think Ethan played either, so we didn't have Ethan, we didn't have Jose, a couple of our starters, so we were a little undermanned, but our [mantra is] always the next guy up. The kids that we did have on the floor who were available to play, gave everything they had; they played all 32 minutes, and it was a close game. It was back and forth, and we were proud of the kids for how they played,” explained Jurkowski.
“A lot of it for us honestly is just who's available, who's healthy, who goes to practice, who's not sick, who's feeling well. Unfortunately, we've had a bunch of games where there's been lineup changes. It's difficult to have consistent play and consistent starts in games because we don't know who's gonna be available to play. We have Zeke, Zeke's available every game. He's our senior captain, he wouldn't miss anything. We know we're going to have Zeke; he's kind of the rock of the team, and then we kind of try to fit the pieces around him on who's available,” said Jurkowski.
To start the game, Everett challenged Malden early utilizing a press, and some zone throughout the first quarter, and Malden didn’t have much of an answer for it. “We had an extremely slow start and we were down by a lot early in the game. We eventually got into our rhythm and started scoring but with the hole we dug ourselves into early on, as much as we tried, we couldn’t get out,” said Noelsaint.
“I think we started a little bit slow offensively. We came out and just didn't hit shots. I don't know if we were nervous because of the big crowd or if it was because we had some different guys playing. It took a bit of an adjustment to get used to who was on the floor,” added Jurkowski.
The second quarter brought about a resurgence in Malden, they were able to battle back and make the difference single digits by half, 24-16, however, the third quarter went just about as well as the first. Everett came out of the half blazing, going on a good run. Malden tried hitting them with a 2-3 zone, but it did little to stop Everett’s offense. The end of the quarter would see Malden again down double digits, 42-25.
In the fourth quarter, Malden was able to rally and have a good period but the scoreboard was not showing much of a difference. Both teams went shot for shot most of the quarter. Malden outscored Everett in the fourth, 15-12 but it wasn’t enough to make much of a dent in the situation they entered the fourth in. The final was 54-40, giving Everett the victory.
“I think if we had a game before Everett to prepare without having Ethan and Jose, it would've helped a little bit, but you know, the schedule is what it is. The kids who had to show up and play, did. We got into a rhythm in the second half. We just ran out of time at the end,” explained Jurkowski.
Following the loss to Everett, Malden has a 5-7 record after wins against Somerville and Chelsea and losses to Melrose, Lynn Classical, and Revere.
“Our backs are up against the wall right now. We don't have a lot of room for error. The goal is to qualify for States, so we have to win ten games. We have to win five out of our last five games. The boys know that it starts at Somerville, we have to go to Somerville and win. Every game we approach, we have to have the mindset that if we lose the season's possibly over. Just got to take every game like it's our last game,” said Jurkowski.