On numerous occasions over the past few years, now-senior captains Brian Mukasa and James Fritzson have taken turns carrying the Sharon High basketball team offensively, with sophomore Jordan Mello-Klein contributing in a similarly prominent fashion this season.
The guard trio played to their collective capability on Friday night, unleashing an offensive onslaught that Oliver Ames was unable to contain all night. Weaving through and shooting over Tiger defenders to the tune of 75 points among them, the Eagles sunk their Davenport Division rivals, 90-79, in a fast-paced matchup in Easton.
Fritzson said, “We played really well on the offensive end. When we’re all going, I think we can score with the best of them. We proved it tonight.” Senior guard Ade Bright added, “We were on fire. With Jordan, Jimmy, and Brian as guards, no one can stop us in the Hockomock.”
Mukasa, fresh off of eclipsing the career 1,000-point mark in Tuesday’s victory over Canton, delivered a game-high 33 points against Oliver Ames, 24 of which coming as the Eagles pulled away in the second half. Fritzson followed a 27-point outing versus the Bulldogs with 24 more, while Mello-Klein posted 18. Each member of the triumvirate drained four three-pointers.
Sharon has experienced ups and downs this season with three-point shooting, but Friday featured an increased emphasis of the guards on taking the ball to the basket, particularly Fritzson. Head Coach Bruce Jackman says that the tape that he had watched indicated that this approach would be effective versus Oliver Ames’ defense.
Fritzson said, “I missed some bunnies, but I was trying to playmake and do stuff for my teammates. A lot of players are coming out on me [on the three-point line] because they know I can shoot the ball, so I just want to go to the basket more, show that I’m a versatile player.”
Jackman says that Friday’s point-producing output, with Mukasa, Fritzson, and Mello-Klein all riding hot hands, is close to his squad’s potential at that end of the court. “Our three guards were super. We got everything we wanted out of them offensively. If we can find a big man that can hold up [his] end of the bargain, then it’s going to even be better than this,” Jackman said.
The first half was neck-and-neck on the scoreboard, as OA’s Ryan Carney’s long-range marksmanship singlehandedly kept the Tigers in the game. Matching Sharon basket-for-basket, Oliver Ames played the Eagles to a 46-46 tie after two periods.
“OA’s all right, man. They didn’t look like a 2-5 team to me,” Mukasa said. “Carney scored a good deal. I think if they scrape together a few more wins and do a few more things, they can be a playoff team.”
The first half marked the second time in the week that an Eagle opponent had their way with Sharon’s defense in the opening 16 minutes, with Canton enjoying a 40-point half on Tuesday. Mukasa was not pleased with the Eagles’ performance on defense versus the Tigers.
“We just came out flat. We can’t continue to do that, because it will come back to bite us. What really kills me is that I feel it’s an effort thing. We turn our effort on and off, and that’s not a trait of a championship team,” Mukasa said.
Jackman credited Bright with slowing down Carney after intermission. “I thought Ade played very well. He did a pretty good job on Carney, particularly in the second half. Carney only got six [actually eight] points in the second half after he got 20 in the first half. We talked about that at halftime, and that made a big difference for us,” Jackman said.
Of his mentality on defense, Bright said, “We’re very fast, but we need to pick it up on aggression since we lack height. We need to pick it up down low – too many easy baskets. Thank god our offense is doing pretty well.”
Fritzson says that the team’s pattern of improved defense in the latter part of games indicates that the early defensive woes are correctable. “When we’re running around and we’re aggressive, that’s when we’re at our best. We always do it in the second half.
“We just seem cold in the first half, and we don’t come out as hard. I think that needs to change for us to be a championship team, and I think we can do it,” Fritzson added.
The score remained fairly close during most of the third quarter, with an Eagle run near the end of the quarter providing the visiting team a double-digit advantage and sending the large Sharon traveling contingency, loud throughout game, to a roar. Mukasa noted following the game the students’ outpouring and his appreciation for their ardent backing of the squad.
Of the Eagles’ necessary mindset on defense, which they displayed during that spurt with defense translating into offensive opportunities, Mukasa said, “We’ve just got to dig in. It’s crazy because we do it at times; last game, vs. Canton, we came out in the second half and went on a run. Today’s second half, we did the same thing, not as drastically.”
Sharon maintained the lead, and Mello-Klein’s three-pointer with about two minutes remaining put the exclamation point on the Eagles’ third consecutive victory, spanning two seasons, over their longtime nemesis. “It feels great,” said Fritzson. “They’re our rivals. We don’t like them; they don’t like us. It’s a good feeling.”
Mukasa added, “I don’t really like them. It’s nothing personal; it’s just the culture over here. So to beat them - not as convincingly as last time, but decently so - feels good for us and the people who came out to support us.”
With the victory, Sharon improves to 7-1 on the campaign. The Eagles reside in the penthouse of the Davenport Division and possess the second-best record in the Hockomock League (4-1), behind undefeated Mansfield, who downed Sharon on New Year’s Eve. Fritzson said, “Our only loss is versus one of the best teams in the state, and we’re right where we want to be.”
Sharon travels face to Kelly-Rex opponent North Attleboro on Sunday. Oliver Ames, which dropped to 2-6, 1-5 with Friday’s loss and sits at the basement of the Davenport, also faces the Red Rocketeers next, on Tuesday.
Assessing his ballclub through the first eight games of the season, including almost a full cycle through the Davenport, Mukasa said, “We had that blemish [vs. the Hornets] that I would like to have back, but we’ve been good. Our defense needs more attention. Tactically, we’re good, but it needs more attention and effort to it.
“Once we turn that up consistently, at a championship level,
we’ll be very good,” the point guard added. “Going forward, I’m not really
satisfied. We have so far to go to be where we want to be where it’s all said