'Gaining experience, literally, on the fly': Every game counts for Brockton boys hoops

Jason Snow
The Enterprise

BROCKTON – Talk about uncharacteristic.

Upon release of the MIAA's first power rankings, the Brockton High boys basketball team would miss out on the state tournament if it started today.

The Boxers (1-6) dropped six of their first seven games entering play Friday night against a shorthanded Bridgewater-Raynham squad without three starters.

So, regardless of circumstance, every win counts.

Brockton protected a 14-point first quarter lead to earn a 58-45 victory over the Trojans to end a five-game losing skid and claim its second win of the season.

“It’s a turnaround for us. It’s a new start," said senior point guard Nathan Rateau, who delivered 13 of his game-high 21 points in the fourth quarter. "The big thing we had was confidence and energy. That’s our big thing. When we give energy on defense, it transfers to offense. And, we trust each other.”

Senior forward John Francois scored 11 of his 15 points in the first quarter as the Boxers took a 16-2 cushion into the second. The Brockton defense held B-R without a point until the final 30 seconds of the frame.

“That’s why they're the captains," head coach Manny DeBarros said of high-scoring quarters from Rateau and Francois. "They lead with their actions. I couldn’t have asked for two better leaders. I kept telling them, ‘It’s going to pay off.’ Thankfully, it did. It was good to see (Rateau) finish strong.”

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In response to B-R trimming the lead to single-digits in the fourth quarter, Rateau attacked the basket to finish plus the foul, then delivered another layup as the Brockton zone press forced a turnover on the ensuing Trojans' possession just seconds later. The sequence boosted Brockton's lead to 52-40 with 5:19 to play.

Another steal-and-layup swing from Rateau came with 1:45 left, as Brockton led 54-45.

“At the end of the day, it can be anybody’s night," Rateau said. "It could be John (Francois)’s night. It could be Cody (Lambert)’s night. It could be Marcus (Fortes)’s night. It happened to be my night today. I took control of it, and took advantage of it.”

Brockton's Nathan Rateau has his shot blocked by Bridgewater-Raynham defender Cameron Santos during a game on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2024.

Brockton, which is without its 6-foot-8 center Chidi Nwosu indefinitely, turned to a small-ball lineup consisting of Rateau, Francois, sophomore guard Marcus Fortes, sophomore guard Cody Lambert and junior forward Nathan Okere in key spots. Francois was the only one to earn substantial varsity time on last year's team.

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That five-man lineup combined for 53 of the team's 58 points.

“It’s a bunch of guys who don’t have experience, playing tough teams," DeBarros said. "They’re learning day by day, every game. There’s nothing that you can substitute for winning without experience. They’re gaining experience, literally, on the fly. … I’m so proud of them. They were resilient to pull off the win. It’s a great group of guys. I love this team.”

For B-R (4-5), the absences of junior guard Deshawn Faulk, junior guard Noah Perry Lewis and sophomore guard Bobby Louis opened up more opportunity for sophomores Cameron Santos (15 points), Lee Williams (10 points) and Cason Faulk (8 points), along with junior Jack Hannigan (4 points) and senior Mike Rein (4 points).

“It shows you how good they are," DeBarros said of B-R. "They continued to fight no matter what.”