At Babson, Franklin's Palazini is a Big Shot
By Marvin Pave / Boston Globe
With 1:04 to play and Babson College trailing by a point, Matt Palazini wanted the ball.
"I like to take the big shot at the end. I just seem even more focused in those situations,'' said Palazini, a senior guard from Franklin who drained a 3-pointer from NBA range, on a no-hesitation catch-and-shoot play, that sealed the Beavers' 62-60 win at Becker last week.
It was the third win of a 4-0 start for Babson, which was dealt its first defeat with a 66-54 loss at Bowdoin on Sunday afternoon. Lincoln-Sudbury Regional graduate John Swords , a 7-foot junior center, had 13 points and seven rebounds in the Polar Bear win.
The 6-foot-3 Palazini, a former Hockomock League MVP and 1,000-point career scorer at Franklin High, is playing a more all-around game this season.
His rebounding and assist averages have improved, and Babson coach Stephen Brennan took note of two hustle plays for loose balls in the season-opening game against Thomas College that "really energized us.''
Palazini credits his high school coach, Dean O'Connor , for "never letting you take a play off,'' and Brennan with "pushing us to be the best we can be and caring for all his players, which makes you want to play for him.''
Babson has posted back-to-back 14-13 seasons while advancing to the semifinals of the New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference tournament.
Last season, with the roster reduced to nine players because of injuries, Palazini felt more pressure to score. Now he's more selective about when he shoots the ball for a squad with added depth and offensive options.
"There's an optimism around the team this year," he said. "If we come to play every day and play our style, there isn't a team we can't compete with,'' he said. "Being a senior there's a bittersweet feeling after each game. You just want to win and see how far your team can take it.''
Palazini, who is averaging 11.2 points per game while shooting 40 percent (14 of 35) from beyond the arc, is one of six area players on the Babson roster this season.
Freshman Joey Flannery, who prepped last season at the Taft School after playing at Acton-Boxborough Regional High, has given the Beavers a tremendous boost.
The 6-4 forward, averaging 14.2 points and 4.4 rebounds per game, delivered 22- and 21-point outings against Skidmore and Lasell.
Junior guard Ryan Stowe (Shrewsbury High), freshman swingman Mark Murphy of Weston (Rivers School), and two other Franklin High alums, senior forward Zach Price and freshman guard Sam Bohmiller, round out the local contingent.
"I've played with Zach on youth and travel teams since fourth grade and know him really well,'' said Palazini, who grew up in the same neighborhood as Bohmiller.
Brennan, who starred at Belmont High and is in his 25th season at Babson, 19 as head coach, said Flannery has a multifaceted game.
"He's athletic and strong, can shoot the three and finish around the rim. And he takes on the tough defensive assignments," said Brennan. "Joey's quiet and humble but has a great inner pride and he has really picked us up.''
Stowe, according to Brennan, has adapted from playing the point in high school to expanding his game on the wing; Bohmiller, as a backup point and off-guard has made a "nice jump'' to the college game; Murphy has worked hard to come back after missing practice time because of illness, and Price is a "throwback player whose stats don't show his true value to our team.''
A Natick resident, Brennan has stayed close to his boyhood friend, Adam Pritchard, varsity boys' coach at Belmont High. "I just went back to Belmont High as a volunteer clinician for Adam,'' he said. "It's a great gathering of parents, coaches, and alumni like myself.''