A noun that simply means “the state of being close to another person or other people,” and also the embodiment of the Cambridge Rindge & Latin boys’ basketball team.
The defending Division 1 state champions entered the season as the heavy favorites to make a return trip to Springfield for the state final. The Falcons brought back a core group of seniors who have been playing together for a number of years, and they have yet to disappoint — capping off an undefeated regular season with a 90-61 win over Central Catholic on Monday night.
“Consistently, the guys have come into the gym and embraced the idea of getting better,” said Cambridge coach Lance Dottin.
“Our mind-set is to be better as young men, as students, and as basketball players.”
Putting together an undefeated season is never easy — especially as the defending state champion. Night in and night out, Cambridge has been challenged by foes, but on most nights, has made it look easy.
The Falcons have taken flight on the wings of seniors Jakigh Dottin and Dimon Carrigan.
The 6-foot-8 Carrigan has dominated the paint all season. His outrageous number of blocks and rebounds have showcased his ability on the defensive end, but his improvement at the offensive end — in the post and with his jumper — has molded him into an absolute force.
The 6-foot Dottin, on the other hand, relies on his sheer quickness with the ball and ability to find the open man at the point guard position. He has the ability to turn his game up to another level when needed and is a leader for the team on and off the court.
The cast, though, doesn’t stop there.
Seniors Kareem Octavien and Malik Correria are deadeye shooters from the outside, and 6-5 senior Daniel Rymer, who is committed to play football at UMaine, adds another level of physicality down low.
Jonatham Cenescar, a 6-4 junior, is a physical presence coming off from the bench and classmate Adam Keefer is an underappreciated member of the starting five whose stitches above both eyes tells you all you need to know about the type of player he is for the Falcons.
“We know that it might not be possible for us to be perfect, but why not try? Even if we sometimes have a hiccup or two, why not try to be perfect?” said Jakigh Dottin.
It has been almost two years since Cambridge lost a game against an in-state opponent. A hiccup last year against Portsmouth, N.H. prevented the Falcons from putting together an undefeated season.
But this season there has seemingly been not a hiccup in sight, and their eyes have now fully turned to the state tournament where one hiccup could end it all.
“We are going to give this everything we got,” said Lance Dottin, who reiterated Monday night that a new season starts now.
One game. One focus. One goal. Cambridge has a chance to continue its historic run with a group of players who have become more than just teammates: they have become brothers.
“We have an all-star cast in everything and I feel we have the best in everything. When you got the best in everything there is no way you can’t be good. We are a family. For it actually to be happening makes it all special,” said Jakigh Dottin.
■ Almost as quickly as it began, the regular season is coming to end. The cutoff day for MIAA teams is Thursday and the state tournament pairings and seedings for Divisions 1-4 will be released on Friday.
■ The Boston City League semifinals will be held Wednesday afternoon at Madison Park: TechBoston vs. New Mission (3:30 p.m.) and O’Bryant vs. Brighton (5:15 p.m.). The championship game is Thursday at 5.
■ Rivers senior guard Azar Swain, who is already the school’s all-time leading scorer, collected his 2,000th point in a 68-59 Independent School League win against Roxbury Latin last week. The Brockton teen, a two-sport standout in Weston who will play basketball at Yale, finished the night with 31 points and 10 rebounds . . . Meanwhile, Bourne junior Jacob Ashworth scored his 1,000th career point with his 30-point effort in an 80-67 win over Nauset Regional last week. Two nights later, he netted 32 in a 103-83 win over Greater New Bedford. His father, Scott, in his 15th year as the head coach at Bourne, was a 1,000-point career scorer at Fairhaven. And Jacob’s older brother, Billy Dias, was a 1,000-point scorer at Greater New Bedford.
■ On Monday, former St. John’s Prep standout — and second-year Portland Trail Blazer Pat Connaughton stopped by the Jordan Athletic Center on the Belmont Hill camp to run the “With Us” camp. The camp consisted of boys and girls in grades 3-9 going through drills under the direction of of Connaughton and players from his former AAU program, the Middlesex Magic.
The Arlington native was a two-sport standout at both Prep and Notre Dame. Selected in the fourth round of the 2014 MLB draft by the Baltimore Orioles, he made his pro debut that summer with the Aberdeen IronBirds in the NY-Penn League. But after returning to ND for his senior year, he was taken in the second round of the 2015 NBA Draft by New Jersey before his rights were traded to Portland.
The 6-foot-5 Connaughton is a big believer in being a multi-sport athlete.
“It helps you become more athletic, in my opinion,” he said.
“I think the things I did in baseball helped me for the things I needed in basketball. For me, I think it’s important to play multiple sports. I think it’s a big thing kids lack on these days.”
The 24-year-old Connaughton is averaging seven minutes per game in his second season in Portland. Meanwhile, the Orioles own his baseball rights until 202o.
“We’ll see what happens in the next year or two years as far as how basketball goes and kinda play it by there,” said Connaughton. “I know I try to get thrown into whatever I can. I try to make sure I do things on my own that keep me prepared for whatever comes. Whether it’s basketball, whether it’s baseball or a mixture of both.”
Players of the Week
Cam Andrews, Stoughton — The junior netted 18 points in a Hockomock League game against Canton — but none was bigger than his game-winning 3 at the buzzer that gave the Black Knights the 68-65 win. He also hauled in 10 rebounds.
Ty Blake, TechBoston — The junior (18 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists) delivered a triple-double in a dominating104-71 win over Snowden Friday night.
Dimon Carrigan, Cambridge — The 6-foot-8 senior had quite the week for the Falcons. On senior night against Brockton, he dominated the paint — scoring 12 points, collecting 17 rebounds, and swatting away 12 shots en route to a triple-double. Then against defending D2 champion New Mission, he went off for a double-double with 20 points and 20 rebounds.
Travon Ford, Pope John — The senior guard powered the Tigers against Austin Prep, scoring 37 points.
Jean Louis Jr., North Quincy —
Games to watch
The Boston City League Championship, Wednesday and Thursday — Seriously, if you are in the neighborhood and want some good basketball to watch, you need to be at Madison Park on these days. The City League never disappoints, and a rematch of an O’Bryant vs Brighton game that ended in regulation 98-95 earlier in the year, you would be crazy not to catch it.
Karl Capen can be reached at email@example.com. Correspondent Clevis Murray also contributed to this story from Belmont Hill..