PAXTON, Mass – Tuesday night, Mount Ida came in to the Fuller Center looking to dash the playoff hopes of the AMCATS. An AMC win would clinch a playoff berth but, a loss would mean they would have to win Saturday and hope for a Mustang loss. What came next was an instant classic.
Anna Maria was led by sophomore forward Mike Rapoza (Charlton, Mass) who dropped a game and career-high 42 points. Rapoza shot 18-of-18 from the floor and was six-for-nine from the free throw line. Mike added 19 rebounds for his 21st double-double of the season while also dishing out four assists and blocking two shots. Joining Rapoza with double-digit nights were senior forward Kenneth Graham (West Haven, Conn), senior guard Liam Pickett (Oxford, Mass), and freshman guard Ralph Grasso, Jr. (Marlborough, Mass). Graham and Pickett each scored 13 while Grasso added 12, Grasso assisted his teammates six times in the game. Having another stellar night as the 'Cats facilitator, senior guard Chris Contento (Marshfield, Mass) dished out eight assists while also scoring six points. Former Mount Ida Mustang and current AMCAT junior guard Sidney Limage (Randolph, Mass) came off the bench to score eight points of his own while also pulling down eight rebounds. Sophomore guard Bobby Perette (Marshfield, Mass) also added eight points to the home team's tally and handed out four assists.
The Mustangs saw four of their players reach double-digits with sophomore forward Kevin Vanderhorst (Lawrence, Mass) coming off the bench to lead his team with 17 points. Senior guard John Oliver (North Babylon, N.Y.) scored 13 for the visitors and senior guard Jayson Clark (Austin, Texas) and freshman guard Kevin Nunez (Dorchester, Mass) each scored 10 for the 'Stangs.
Though this was a high scoring affair, the scoring started slow. Rapoza scored the first bucket 75 seconds in. It took until the 16:19 mark of the first half for either team to reach double digits when Pickett hit a three-pointer to give his team a six-point, 10-4 lead. The AMCAT lead would gradually grow from there with buckets from Contento and Rapoza before a monster dunk from Limage that game the 'Cats a 19-6 lead with 13:38 to play in the period. Anna Maria would maintain that 13-point advantage and never look back. Though Mount Ida would close the gap to as little as five points, Anna Maria would head in to the halftime break with a 49-40 lead. Rapoza had already sealed his 21st double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds.
In the second half, Anna Maria knowing what this game meant to their playoff hopes, pushed harder on the pedal scoring basket after basket with the Mustangs slowly trailing behind. With eight minutes remaining in the game, Rapoza and friends saw themselves out to a 20-points, 83-63 advantage, a lead that Ida would never be able to come back from as the AMC defense, much like the offense was too much for the visitors to overcome. At the 3:12 mark of the half, Grasso hit the 100-point mark for his team, extending the lead out to 24. From there, the AMCATS would only score an additional four points in the game, but with the benches on the court for both teams the Mustangs were only able to close the gap to 18 points and the AMCATS went on to win their fifth straight game, clinching a Great Northeast Athletic Conference playoff berth, 102-84.
Up next for the AMCATS is a home game, and senior day, on Saturday against Emmanuel at 12pm.