The Staples boys basketball team found out the hard way Wednesday that Norwalk is vastly-improved team.

For all the struggles that Norwalk endured last season, the Tom Keyes era couldn't have gotten off to a much better start on Wednesday.

The Bears, in many ways, have Roy Kane Jr. to thank for that.

Kane Jr., a freshman forward, scored a game-high 17 points and controlled the paint on defense, lifting the Bears to a season-opening 59-49 win at Staples under their new head coach.

"If he can get that on a consistent level, the sky's the limit for his ability," Keyes said of Kane Jr. "Right now we're trying to get him to do that every single day. When he does do that, I think he's going to be a very successful basketball player."

Kane Jr. came off the bench to score 12 points in the first half and helped Norwalk build an eight-point lead at the break with heavy pressure on defense.

"I was a little nervous coming out of the gate. But when I got into a rhythm, I played ordinary," Kane Jr. said.

After a back-and-forth opening few minutes, guard Rasheen Thompson's bucket late in the first quarter put Norwalk up 11-10, and ahead for good. That jump-started an 11-2 Norwalk run and left the cold-shooting Wreckers fighting from behind.

The Wreckers had just two players score in double-figures, led by forward Michael Argosh (14 points) and guard James Frusciante (11).

"We all hustled on defense and we all helped each other out," Kane Jr. said. "That's what helped us win -- good defense."

"They did a nice job with their press too because they took us out of our offensive sets and rhythm," Staples head coach Colin Devine added. "You've got to give them credit there too. We didn't make a whole lot of shots either."

Staples trailed by 14 points heading into the fourth quarter, but sliced into the Norwalk lead after forcing multiple turnovers in a full-court press. The Wreckers opened the quarter with a 10-2 run and trailed by four points with just over three minutes left following a basket by Frusciante.

"We went into a little bit of a delay," said Keyes, who was coaching his first game on the Norwalk bench after serving as an assistant at Westhill a year ago. "Our guys didn't win many games last year and so we were a little nervous on not turning the ball over down the stretch. What that made us do was turn the ball over too many times. We let Staples back in the game."

Nonetheless, the Bears answered -- and did so quickly.

Forward Bobby Stringfellow (four points) followed with a basket to make it 52-46 and Thompson nailed a 3-pointer from the top of the arch two possessions later for nine-point lead.

"When it came down to it in the last three minutes, we buckled down on defense and we made good shots. We got ourselves easy baskets down the stretch," Keyes said.

Thompson, the team's leading scorer a year ago, recorded 13 points and guard Ra'Von Shular added nine points.

"Any time they needed a basket they got one," Devine said.

Darryle Wiggins and Pete Rankowitz had seven and six points, respectively, for the Wreckers. Patrick Kohlmann, Ross Whelan and Nick Ward each had three points for Staples, and Vasili Tziolis had two.