MIAA boys basketball: Mahar locks down, pulls away from Old Colony to reach Div. 5 quarters (PHOTOS)

Mahar’s Jayden Delgado (22) is defended by Old Colony’s Nick Fringuelli during the first half of the Senators’ 56-42 victory in the MIAA Division 5 Round of 16 on Tuesday night in Orange.

Mahar’s Jayden Delgado (22) is defended by Old Colony’s Nick Fringuelli during the first half of the Senators’ 56-42 victory in the MIAA Division 5 Round of 16 on Tuesday night in Orange. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Mahar’s Lucas Isrow (4) looks to make a pass against Old Colony during the first half of the Senators’ 56-42 victory in the MIAA Division 5 Round of 16 on Tuesday night in Orange.

Mahar’s Lucas Isrow (4) looks to make a pass against Old Colony during the first half of the Senators’ 56-42 victory in the MIAA Division 5 Round of 16 on Tuesday night in Orange. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Mahar’s Morgan Softic (2) puts up a shot over Old Colony’s Nick Fringuelli during the Senators’ 56-42 victory in the MIAA Division 5 Round of 16 on Tuesday night in Orange.

Mahar’s Morgan Softic (2) puts up a shot over Old Colony’s Nick Fringuelli during the Senators’ 56-42 victory in the MIAA Division 5 Round of 16 on Tuesday night in Orange. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Mahar’s Jayden Delgado and Old Colony’s Nick Fringuelli vie for a rebound during the Senators’ 56-42 victory in the MIAA Division 5 Round of 16 on Tuesday night in Orange.

Mahar’s Jayden Delgado and Old Colony’s Nick Fringuelli vie for a rebound during the Senators’ 56-42 victory in the MIAA Division 5 Round of 16 on Tuesday night in Orange. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Mahar’s Morgan Softic throws up a shot falling out of bounds against Old Colony during the Senators’ 56-42 victory in the MIAA Division 5 Round of 16 on Tuesday night in Orange.

Mahar’s Morgan Softic throws up a shot falling out of bounds against Old Colony during the Senators’ 56-42 victory in the MIAA Division 5 Round of 16 on Tuesday night in Orange. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Mahar’s Derek Collins drives against Old Colony defenders during the Senators’ 56-42 victory in the MIAA Division 5 Round of 16 on Tuesday night in Orange.

Mahar’s Derek Collins drives against Old Colony defenders during the Senators’ 56-42 victory in the MIAA Division 5 Round of 16 on Tuesday night in Orange. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Mahar’s Lian Lopez Baez (3) drives on Old Colony’s Wyatt Smiley during the Senators’ 56-42 victory in the MIAA Division 5 Round of 16 on Tuesday night in Orange.

Mahar’s Lian Lopez Baez (3) drives on Old Colony’s Wyatt Smiley during the Senators’ 56-42 victory in the MIAA Division 5 Round of 16 on Tuesday night in Orange. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

By THOMAS JOHNSTON

Staff Writer

Published: 03-05-2024 9:05 PM

ORANGE — The Mahar boys basketball team seems to get stronger and stronger as the games progress. 

Hosting 21st-ranked Old Colony on Tuesday in the MIAA Div. 5 Round of 16, the No. 5 Senators found themselves trailing 21-17 midway through the second quarter. 

Mahar closed out the half on a 9-0 run to take a 26-21 lead at intermission and with the Cougars forced to extend their zone while trailing in the second half, Senator guards Morgan Softic and Lucas Isrow consistently penetrated the gaps and found their bigs open under the rim. 

Mahar, which has been playing its best basketball down the stretch of the season and particularly turning it on in the second half of games, led 42-33 after three quarters and pulled away early in the fourth quarter to advance to the quarterfinals with a 56-42 victory.

“It’s tough to tell on tape but that was a really good team we played tonight,” Senators coach Chad Softic said. “They played hard. It was a very competitive game. It was a great win. We don’t win that game a month ago. We won it tonight going away by making really good decisions with the ball. They sped us up at times but we were controlled, we were composed and our guards were awesome.” 

Next up for Mahar (18-5) is No. 13 English High, which beat Minuteman, 47-40, in the Round of 16. The date and time for that quarterfinal matchup was still to be determined at press time.

Old Colony (20-3) may have entered as the No. 21 seed, but the Senators (18-5) weren’t going to take them lightly. 

In a single-game elimination tournament, Isrow said Mahar is taking things one game at a time and not looking too far ahead. 

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“We saw they were a low seed but we’ve been seeing a ton of upsets in the tournament,” Isrow said. “We came in a little flat and only had 12 [points] in the first quarter. That wasn’t going to cut it. We went on that run to take a 26-21 lead at the half and we didn’t let up.”

It was Isrow who kicked off the Senators’ run with a free throw late in the second quarter. Softic got to the rim for two, Isrow scored in transition, Will Barnes hit a runner in the lane and Softic got inside for another basket, giving Mahar a 26-21 lead at the half. 

“That was huge,” Chad Softic said. “We get into the half feeling better about ourselves. That’s a team showing some mental toughness. They put a run on us, their fans and coaching staff are going wild but we were able to calm things down, get the lead and set the tone for the start of the second half.” 

Luke Meelia and Wyatt Smiley both knocked down 3s early in the third quarter to give the Cougars a 30-28 lead, but Softic and Isrow controlled the quarter from there. 

Barnes hit a jumper in the lane, Softic got to the rim for a tough two, Barnes hit another short jumper off a dish from Isrow, Marshall Ames made a hook shot and following a technical foul call on Old Colony, Softic made a free throw to give Mahar a 37-30 lead following a 9-0 run.

Delgado and Barnes were set up for easy shots on the weak side off passes from Isrow and Softic to close out the quarter, giving the Sens their 42-33 edge after three quarters. 

It was a similar story in the fourth, with Delgado scoring off a dish from Isrow before Ames was set up for four shots on the weak side that he converted, giving Mahar a 52-36 lead late in the quarter. The Cougars were never able to cut it to single digits from there. 

“Once we got the lead they had to extend out on us,” Chad Softic said. “It’s nice being able to put the ball in Lucas and Morgan’s hands when they have to get out and defend them. We take a lead, make them defend. That’s where Morgan and Lucas are at their best, when they have space to get downhill. Credit to Jayden, Marshall and Will for finishing on the back side. That was the difference in the second half.”

Softic finished with 11 points and five assists, Isrow recorded nine points, 10 assists and eight rebounds, Ames tallied 16 points and nine rebounds, Barnes scored 10 points and snatched 10 boards while Delgado tossed in nine points and added 10 rebounds in the victory. 

While Ames led the way with 16 points, it was his defense on Old Colony’s Max Finney that had Softic most impressed. 

Finney, who entered the game closing in on 1,000 points, was held to just seven points. Only two of those points came in the first half, with Ames locking down the Cougars’ top scoring threat. 

“Marshall Ames has been a godsend for us,” Chad Softic said. “It’s changed the dynamic of our team. It takes so much pressure off Lucas. We can replace him in the back but we can’t replace him as a perimeter defender for us. He’s been huge for us.” 

Mahar will now prepare for another unfamiliar opponent in Boston’s English High and will be focusing on its own performance going in. 

“We’re feeling good,” Isrow said. “We can’t go into any game over our head. That’s how teams get beat.”