By Cary Shuman
Making his first of two appearances on the North Shore this month and playing in front of a group of family and supporters, Lynn’s Marcos Echevarria put on a show.
Echevarria, a 5-foot-10-inch sophomore guard, capped off a scintillating 25-point performance by hitting a 10-foot floater at the buzzer to lift Nichols College to an 85-84 victory over Gordon College Tuesday night at the Bennett Center in Wenham.
With his team trailing by one point and nine seconds remaining, Echevarria took the inbounds pass and dribbled downcourt before driving the lane and hitting a floater over a Gordon defender as the buzzer sounded.
Echevarria fought through a bruised tailbone injury that he had sustained late in the first half. Showing his toughness and determination, Echevarria scored 18 points in the second half, including a key steal and two clutch free throws with 18 seconds left that put Nichols up by one point.
Gordon’s Garrison Duvivier of Brockton hit two free throws with nine seconds left to give the Fighting Scots an 84-83 lead. Following a timeout, Echevarria made his game-winning play, igniting a celebration for the visitors.
“Coach [Glynn] asked me who’s taking the shot, and I told him, ‘I got it coach,’’’ said Echevarria. “I was waiting to the last second possible to get it off so they didn’t have time to hit a prayer three. I crossed over and I floated it. Luckily it went in and that was the game.”
Echevarria was asked if he had ever sunk such a dramatic, game-winning shot at St. Mark’s or St. John’s Prep, the two previous stops in his career.
“No, I don’t think I’ve hit a buzzer beater – this is definitely one for the books,” he replied.
Nichols head coach Tom Glynn said he wanted the ball in Echevarria’s hands with the game on the line.
“It’s no secret since the day he got here as a freshman, the ball is in hands in the final two minutes of the game and on the final possession,” said Glynn. “We work on it in practice. We just go to him late in the game. He’s a big-time player and a great scorer. He’s leading our league in scoring and steals. He’s so good on offense that he’s doesn’t get enough credit for his defense.”
Echevarria’s parents, Marcos Sr. and Shirell (Brown), were at courtside, along with his younger brother, Jalen, who is having a breakout season for the St. Mary’s of Lynn boys basketball team that is coached by his uncle, David Brown.
“It was definitely special to have them here at the game tonight,” said Echevarria. “Having their support and hearing them on the sidelines helped me.”
Marcos Echevarria Sr., who helped Lynn Classical win back-to-back state titles when he was a standout for Tom Grassa’s Rams, said he was proud of his son.
“I’m very proud of what he’s accomplishing,” said Marcos Sr. “I had a feeling he would take the game-deciding shot. For Marcos to play like he did after hurting his tailbone in the first half shows a lot of heart and grit.”
Glynn, a former assistant coach at UMass/Lowell, said he first noticed Echevarria when he was playing at St. John’s Prep in Danvers.
“I also saw Marcos play AAU and we were so fortunate to have him choose Nichols – he’s having a great career here. His teammates elected him captain as a sophomore.”
Echevarria is sixth in the country in Division 3 in scoring with a 26 points per game average. He is also a 90 per cent free throw shooter and has a career-high 37-point game to-date. Teams, like Gordon College, have been using box-and-one defenses to try and slow down the hot-shooting guard, who hit a 25-footer for one of his five three-pointers Tuesday.
“I’m just getting baskets in transition,” said Echevarria. “We pride ourselves on defense and getting easy baskets. Locking down on defense is helping everyone score.”
Nichols is hoping to qualify for the NCAA Tournament. Nichols is 4-0 in the Commonwealth Coast Conference and 9-2 overall. The winner of the CCC Tournament gets an automatic bid to the NCAAs.
“I think we can make it – that’s a goal,” said Echevarria. “We just have to keep getting after it in practice and we’re going to make a run for it.”
Echevarria will be back in the area on Jan. 14 when Nichols plays at Endicott College in Beverly.