Note: This article is expanded from the piece about this topic that previously appeared at this page.
Sharon senior captain Brian Mukasa further cemented his legacy in the pantheon of Sharon basketball legends by eclipsing the 1,000-point mark for his Eagle career as Sharon’s surging second half downed Davenport Division foe Canton on Tuesday night.
With the Eagle Gymnasium crowd breathlessly awaiting his every fourth-quarter shot attempt, knowing that he was close to attaining the lofty figure, Mukasa sank two free throws to become the first Sharon boys player since 2002 to tally 1,000 career points.
“On the second one, I knew it [would be good],” Mukasa said. “As soon as the first one went in, I just thought back to all of the reps I've done. The second was the same as the first - just put it through.”
Play stopped following the second foul shot, as Mukasa received flowers and balloons, as well as embraces from his parents, Mildred and Henry Mukasa; other family members; players; and other personnel, with hearty applause raining down from his admirers in the bleachers.
“It’s great that Brian hit that 1,000-point mark. I’ve got so much respect for him,” said senior captain Jimmy Fritzson, who has played alongside Mukasa in the Eagle backcourt for the past three seasons and for years prior on youth teams.
Fritzson added, “Scoring 1,000 is a great achievement. There are not many people up there [on the banner recognizing 1,000-point scorers] having done it. I’m just really happy for him.”
Mukasa says that while watching his brother, Ivan, play at Sharon High “way back” last decade, he would notice the aforementioned banner on the Eagle Gymnasium wall and inform his mother that he would score that many when he would be in high school.
The figure was a long-term goal that he constantly strove to achieve, Mukasa says. “I went over to my mom one day and said, ‘I’m going to score more points than anyone else,’ and she’s like, ‘All right, well, work at it.’ It was that simple,” he said.
Mukasa has played on the Sharon varsity since his freshman season, when he played important minutes down the stretch. The lefthander began his dominion on the point guard position with his sophomore season, after which he was named to the All-Hockomock League team.
Last year, he was named to multiple All-State teams as the floor general of a squad that reached the Div. II South Semifinals. Entering this season, his dazzling play was one of the main reasons why the team set its sights on winning the state championship come March.
Sharon Head Coach Bruce Jackman, who has coached Mukasa throughout the player’s time as an Eagle, says that Mukasa has requisitely dedicated himself to becoming an elite all-around player.
“He just has that work ethic. He’s always had that, right from day one. He loves the game of basketball. He’s not afraid to sacrifice and do the extra thing. He puts a lot, a lot of time into the game. And it’s shown that he’s been successful,” Jackman said.
Jackman also lauded Mukasa’s intangibles, which have augmented his talent on the court. “He’s really grown into it not only as a basketball player, but as an individual. He’s taken a good leadership role. He’s turned into a fine young man,” the coach said.
Reflecting upon the previous few days, Mukasa says that he is pleased to no longer be approaching the milestone. “It was a cool experience, but it was not fun, per se. It was [fun in some ways], but it really wasn’t. I found myself forcing it. I didn’t really care [how it was reached]. I wanted it to be over and behind me.”
As for the game, Sharon erased a ten-point halftime deficit within the first 1:34 of the third quarter and never let up, racing past the Bulldogs, 77-64.
After Canton, the Hockomock’s leading offense entering the night, dropped 40 points on the Eagles in the opening 16 minutes, Sharon’s increased defensive pressure was crucial to the second-half turnaround. “That’s how we play basketball,” Mukasa said of the third-quarter spurt.
Jackman says that given the circumstances, Mukasa did not play to his usual standard in the first half. “I think Brian was really pressing. It’s obvious; that’s not fooling anybody. He was 1-for-9 in the first half. A lot of those were easy shots; if he makes half of those, if he goes 5-for-9, it’s a tie game, 40-40.”
“We got basically manhandled – outworked, really - in the first half,” said Mukasa. “They [Canton] just came out like they had something to prove – which was good on their part. In the second half, we really played our style of basketball.”
After closing the third period with eight straight points, Sharon won that quarter, 24-6, and led, 54-48. Canton stayed within six points at times during the fourth quarter, but the outcome was not in doubt in the final minutes.
During the second half, Sharon’s defense swarmed Canton, forcing numerous Bulldog turnovers and fast-break opportunities for themselves. Jackman says that the Eagles attempted to dictate the pace of play with traps and zone defense, from which the team had gone away during the first half.
“That’s what happens when you dial up your defense – you get layups out of it, short jump shots, and foul shots. It was like a snowball rolling down the hill – they couldn’t stop it,” Jackman said.
“Honestly, that’s the only way we’re going to win,” Mukasa said. “If we don’t play D, we can’t win. We can’t beat good teams 80-75. It showed, actually, last year in the tournament, when we played that Scituate team and lost, 83-79. It’s going to catch up with you. You can’t keep getting into shootouts. If you can’t get stops, you can’t win a championship.”
Offensively, Fritzson paced Sharon with 27 points, and sophomore Jordan Mello-Klein poured in 23, 19 of which came in the second half. Mukasa, who needed 13 points to reach quadruple digits coming into the game, posted 15.
Frtizson’s output was consistent throughout the game, utilizing his array of skills to carry the scoring load. “My jumper was really working off the dribble, getting my feet set and hitting 3’s, and getting to the basket – everything was flowing,” Fritzson said.
“Jimmy had a great night – a typical Jimmy night,” Jackman said. “Put him with Mukasa and Jordan, and it was a good night. If we can just get [senior center] Earl [Dessesaure] to play consistently, we’re going to be a force.”
Jackman says that Mello-Klein had been out of sync the prior couple of games, but resurged on Tuesday. “We had talked a bit about it. You can stop two guards, but you can't stop three. If you stop Fritzson and Mukasa, you're not going to be able to stop Jordan.
“They didn’t stop Fritzson, either, tonight. We said, jokingly, in the locker room afterwards, ‘Maybe Fritzson was going to get to 1,000 tonight before Mukasa did,’” Jackman added.
Next up for Sharon (6-1, 3-1 Hockomock) is a trip to Easton to face another Davenport squad, archrival Oliver Ames (2-5, 1-3), on Friday night. The Eagles swept the Tigers last season, with Mukasa and Fritzson both scoring 30+ points in Sharon’s victory on OA’s senior night on Feb. 12, 2013.
Fritzson says that this Friday, Sharon needs to continue the attacking defense from the second half of Tuesday’s game. “We have to play a lot better in the first half, come out a lot stronger, be aggressive on defense – I think that’s the key. They have a lot of shooters, just like this team [Canton], and we’re going to have to play aggressively with them.”
“OA will be fun. OA is always fun,” Mukasa said. “I’m sure
they’re going to come out and play hard, as well. Hopefully, we can execute and
make enough plays to come out victorious.”