Player of the Week: Xavier Machuga, Canton Basketball

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Xavier Machuga
 
By HockomockSports.com Staff

Canton senior Xavier Machuga has been selected as the HockomockSports.com Player of the Week, presented by Morse Insurance, for Jan. 13 through Jan. 19. Machuga is the 16th player chosen as Player of the Week for the 2018-19 school year and the sixth player in the winter season.

Sometimes moments transcend the game and that was the case on Tuesday night when Machuga took the court at the start of the Bulldogs’ game with Mansfield. Less than two years after suffering a life-altering brain aneurysm in May 2017, Machuga put on his Canton No. 10 uniform and returned to the court. He scored the first basket of the night for Canton, drawing a standing ovation from both sets of players and fans.

“Xavier’s moment, it’s bigger than basketball,” said Canton head coach Ryan Gordy. “To see all the hard work he’s put in to get back to that moment, it’s pretty emotional for me, him and his family, and all the guys on the team. It’s been a long road to recovery and it’s just a really awesome, special moment for him and everybody in our community to see that happen.

“Tonight was pretty special, it was one of the coolest moment I’ve been involved in in my life.”

Mansfield head coach Mike Vaughan, who coached Machuga in AAU prior to the incident, said, ““It’s so much bigger than basketball. Just to be able to recognize a kid who, given different circumstances, would have been here and been a key contributor to the Canton High team, but because of some unfortunate events had to take another path. I knew X before he got sick and now I’ve been able to see what he’s been able to do after he got sick. What’s amazing is he still wants to impact people. You just can’t say enough good things about when people live their life that way and want to do good things.”

Machuga moved from Connecticut to Canton as a freshman, was a swing player as a sophomore, and looked set to be an important varsity player for his final two seasons until he suffered an aneurysm in May. He spent a week in a medically-induced coma and had to learn how to walk and talk again. Over the past 18 months, as Machuga worked hard to recover, he became an inspiration to the Canton program (being on the bench for every game for the team’s first league title since 1992) and the entire school community. That culminated on Tuesday night when he took the floor for the varsity team for the first time and gave everyone who was there a moment to remember.

The Player of the Week, presented by Morse Insurance, is selected by the HockomockSports.com staff. Nominations can be submitted throughout the week up until Saturday night at midnight. There may be a poll posted on every Sunday with the nominations. The results of the poll influence the selection but do not strictly dictate the decision.

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Canton’s Machuga Makes Return To Basketball Court

Xavier Machuga
Canton senior Xavier Machuga puts up a shot in the opening minute against Mansfield. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
CANTON, Mass. – Less than two years after suffering a life altering brain injury, Canton senior Xavier Machuga hit one of the biggest milestones on his road for recovery.

He made it back onto the basketball court.

A swing player during his sophomore season, Machuga was slated two be a starter for his final two years of high school before suffering a brain aneurysm in early May 2017. He spent over a week in a medically induced coma and could barely move when he regained consciousness after the stroke caused bleeding in his cerebellum. He had to learn to talk and walk all over again.

Over the past 18 months, Machuga has achieved plenty of milestones all while attending Bulldog practices and games during their historic season a year ago. During that run, Machuga and head coach Ryan Gordy, who formed a special bond in 2015 when Machuga moved from Connecticut for his freshman year, had a conversation about what could have been. During that conversation, the idea that Machuga would never play for the Bulldogs again came up.

“Why not?” Gordy asked. “Let’s create that opportunity for you as a senior.”

After months of strenuous rehab, and more recently, hours of layup practice, the moment came in the opening minute of the Bulldogs’ clash with defending D1 State Champions Mansfield. Machuga earned his first career start and scored the first points of the game for Canton, hitting a layup to standing ovation from both teams and fans.

“To be honest, it felt nothing less than awesome,” Machuga said. He was the first Bulldog to be named a captain for this season. “To be out there again with all my teammates, it’s a great feeling. It’s another milestone for me to take the floor with my fellow teammates and score a bucket, that was awesome.”

Machuga has made terrific strides in his recovery, and currently walks with the aid of a cane. And there is no denying his love for basketball. Before his injury, the story goes that Machuga made friends with the custodians at Canton High in order to get in extra shots up inside the gym.

“Xavier’s moment, it’s bigger than basketball,” Gordy said. “To see all the hard work he’s put in to get back to that moment, it’s pretty emotional for me, him and his family, and all the guys on the team. It’s been a long road to recovery and it’s just a really awesome, special moment for him and everybody in our community to see that happen.

“Tonight was pretty special, it was one of the coolest moment I’ve been involved in in my life.”

Gordy was hopeful the moment would happen this year but he left it up it Machuga to pick when. The senior forward hand picked Tuesday’s matchup with Kelley-Rex leading Mansfield, but not because of the showdown between division leaders, but because of his relationship with Hornet head coach Mike Vaughan. It was important for Machuga to have personal connections with both coaches and Vaughan coached Machuga in AAU basketball prior to the incident.

“It’s so much bigger than basketball,” Vaughan said. “Just to be able to recognize a kid who, given different circumstances, would have been here and been a key contributor to the Canton High team, but because of some unfortunate events had to take another path. I knew X before he got sick and now I’ve been able to see what he’s been able to do after he got sick. What’s amazing is he still wants to impact people. You just can’t say enough good things about when people live their life that way and want to do good things. There’s a lot of people who take adversity and fail and he’s doing nothing but being successful out of this. This was an opportunity for him to get highlighted, all the people chanting his name, my kids engaged and excited for him. It was very special, it was very touching. It was something I’ll remember for a long time.”

Canton dedicated last year to Machuga and used the slogan “Soldier X.” The Bulldogs went on to earn a share of the Davenport division title, the program’s first league crown since 1992.

“I was super determined to play again,” Machuga said. “The team winning the league championship last year drove me to make the comeback that I did. I mean I was working hard already but seeing what they did really pushed me inside.”

Machuga’s teammates fed off the moment, trailing by just one (15-14) and leading 26-25 over the once-beaten Hornets heading into the locker room. But Mansfield proved to be too much in the second half, using an early 9-0 run in the third to flip the game. The Hornets outscored Canton 24-9 in the third and finished with a 70-43 victory.

“I can’t thank Mike and the whole Mansfield program enough for their sportsmanship and participation,” Gordy said. “They had the ‘Soldier X’ warmup shirts which were awesome, those were a surprise to us. Xavier got emotional when he saw that, it was a really cool thing. The way the Mansfield kids reacted, it was really cool to see.”

Wednesday’s Schedule & Scoreboard – 02/17/16

Today’s games are listed below.
Boys Basketball
Attleboro, 74 @ Bishop Feehan, 79 – Final – Jake Dunkley led all scorers with 32 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter, and pulled in seven rebounds for the Bombardiers. Kyle Murphy scored 16 points and grabbed 11 boards and Andrew Milliken added 11 points. Attleboro led 74-71, but Feehan scored the game’s final eight points to pull out the win.

Canton, 63 vs. Archbishop Williams, 70 – Final – Canton sophomore Tony Harris scored a career-high 27 points. Freshman Xavier Machuga made his varsity debut and scored 10 points. 

North Attleboro, 49 @ Falmouth, 52 – Final – Brent Doherty scored a team-high 22 points while junior Jonny Friberg added 11 points and Tom Reynolds chipped in nine points.

Oliver Ames, 93 @ Abington, 60 – Final – Dylan Mahoney scored a team-high 20 points and was named to the all-tournament team. Carter Evin added 14 points, Jack Spillane had a career-high 12 points, Mike Graziano chipped in with 11 points and Nick Welch had 10 points. 
Girls Basketball
Taunton, 30 @ Durfee, 58 – Final – Sophomore Mackenzie Handrahan scored a career-high 16 points and senior Alyssa Gibson added six points. 
Hockey
Foxboro, 2 @ St. John Paul II, 5 – Final

Franklin, 3 vs. Needham, 2 – Final (OT) Franklin’s Jake Downie scored in overtime to give the Panthers the win. Luke Downie scored the two goals in regulation.The game counts as a tie for MIAA purposes. 
King Philip, 3 @ Walpole, 2 – Final
Mansfield, 2 vs. Medway, 1 – Final
Stoughton, 1 @ North Attleboro, 5 – Final – Juniors Erik Clements and Zach McGowan scored two goals apiece for the Rocketeers. Sean Doherty had the Stoughton goal, assisted by Mark Sheehan.
Taunton, 4 vs. Apponequet/Connolly, 0 – Final
Girls Hockey
Canton, 3 vs. Medway/Ashland, 2 – Final
Franklin, 10 vs. Central Catholic, 3 – Final
Mansfield/Oliver Ames, 6 @ Matignon, 2 – Final