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Doug Delivers: Staples' offense sent into flux by Darien zone

Updated 8:47 pm, Thursday, January 3, 2013
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After racking up 21 points in the first quarter of Monday's LaVista Tournament final, the Staples High boys basketball team surely didn't expect to walk away from the court in an offensive malaise.

The rest of the afternoon, however, didn't go as planned for the Wreckers.

The Wreckers, who attacked the basket at will over the first eight minutes and built an 11-point lead, soon had their production on offense zapped. They scored just 26 points over the final 24 minutes and left a winnable tournament empty-handed.

Exactly what caused the rut on offense that led to a maddening 50-47 loss to Darien?

The Blue Wave, which had resorted to a man-to-man look on defense in the first quarter to little success, switched over to a zone look and frustrated Staples. With the Blue Wave's 6-foot-10 center Chima Azuonwu clogging the paint, the Wreckers' chances inside were limited.

"It helps when you've got a 6-foot-10 guy in the middle clogging it up," Staples head coach Colin Devine said.

Keying on Staples' two offensive stars, guards Peter Rankowitz and James Frusciante, Darien managed to overcome an early 13-point deficit. The Blue Wave kept Staples at bay in the second quarter, whittling the deficit down to eight points, and trailed by only four after three quarters.

Rankowitz and Frusciante combined for 15 points in the first quarter, but had only 18 the rest of the way.

"(Darien) did a nice job," Devine said. "They knew where Peter and James were going to be every time down the floor."

The Wreckers still managed to get to the free-throw line--they attempted 24 free throws, including 22 after the first quarter--but failed to finish several other chances inside. The Wreckers didn't have much success from the perimeter either, hitting only a single 3-pointer over the final three quarters.

"I think they changed the pace of play. Having a big guy in there clogging it up makes you second-guess or alter quite a bit of offense," Devine said.

As the season goes along, it will be interesting to see the adjustments opposing teams make to slow down Staples' guard-oriented offense. The Wreckers have other players who can score, but the offense is predicated on its two guards putting up points.

Rankowitz, who is averaging a team-high 21.2 points five games in, expects to face the zone defense more often moving forward.

"I think definitely we're going to see a lot less man. ... That's good because we need to learn how to play against both man and zone," Rankowitz said on Wednesday.

The Wreckers will have to show they can adjust.

dbonjour@scni.com; 203-255-4561 ext. 114; twitter.com/DougBonjour

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