Wrecker boys cagers end McMahon's undefeated run
Published 10:22 pm, Friday, January 7, 2011
All dialogue pertaining to top FCIAC boys basketball teams must include Staples in the conversation. Staples showed it brings a lot to the table with its explosive fast break offensive, consistent outside shooting and converging team defense on Tuesday in a 67-54 home victory over previously unbeaten Brien McMahon.
"We played good team basketball tonight and we beat a good team," Wreckers Coach Colin Devine said. "We pressured them on defense and limited our turnovers on offense. We played good team defense and we were able to handle their stuff."
Staples raised its record to 4-2, 3-1 in the FCIAC with its two losses were to undefeated Ridgefield and by a combined five points. McMahon dropped to 5-1, 3-1.
The Senators shot well in the first half, sticking all five of their 3-pointers before the break, and they took advantage of their size, outrebounding the Wreckers, 36-28.
Staples looked like it was going to be up and running after opening the game with a 4-0 lead. Senior tri-captain Luke Yeager got it started when he hit a layup after receiving the opening tip from senior tri-captain Gabe Seidman.
Once McMahon started to connect from outside, it began to take control of the game. Senior Tyler Shuler (eight points, seven rebounds, one steal, one blocked shot, one forced turnover) got the Senators on the board by swishing a 3-pointer. Shuler's second trey extended the lead to five, 12-7, and senior tri-captain Andre McCrae (15 points, four rebounds, six assists, two steals, one forced turnover) swished two 3-pointers off of feeds from senior tri-captain James Langley (three points, three rebounds, four assists, two steals, one forced turnover) to give McMahon a 21-13 lead after one quarter.
Senior Chris Daniel (two points, 13 rebounds, one blocked shot) helped the Senators establish an inside game in the first quarter. Daniel, along with senior tri-captain Maurice Tomlin Jr. (the coach's son), controlled the paint and were intimidating inside, helping the Senators build their lead.
While McMahon is defined by athleticism and height, Staples is also athletic. Moreover, the Wreckers epitomize teamwork and heart, which enabled them to fight back in the second quarter.
Staples played solid team defense in forcing 13 turnovers in the first half, 25 overall while committing 16 turnovers overall, 11 in the first half. Wreckers senior tri-captain Jake Felman (11 points, 10 rebounds, one assist, six forced turnovers, one tieup, one charge drawn) and classmate D. Scanlan (one assist, one steal, five forced turnovers) harassed the Senators into making poor passes that landed out of bounds or in the hands of Yeager (23 points, five rebounds, two assists, four steals, two forced turnovers) and Seidman (11 points, four rebounds, six assists, four steals, two forced turnovers).
"We played good defense and it turned into good offense," Yeager said. "We had a lot of transition baskets and we worked well together. We played a zone defense and they weren't accustomed to playing against a zone defense. They made bad passes and we were able to anticipate."
Seidman said, "We practice defense a lot and I tried to get in the passing lanes. Defense comes natural to me."
On the offensive end, Staples cut well to the basket and were able to feed each other inside for easy layups. This enabled the Wreckers to open the second quarter with a 16-1 surge and take a 29-22 lead with 3:55 remaining in the half. Yeager began the rally with his second of three 3-pointers and fed Seidman and Felman in side for easy layups.
Scanlan's pressure led to a Yeager steal and coast-to-coast layup that gave Staples a 24-22 lead.
"Offensively, we were in a groove and it worked well tonight," Yeager said. "We work hard in practice and know our positions on offense and defense. We trust each other on and off the court and we played a lot with each other in the offseason, which helps us move the ball, work well together and gives us confidence."
Seidman, who is a small forward by trade, deftly distributed the ball and set up many layups and jump shots.
"Our offense finds the open man a lot and we get a lot of assists and it's a matter of who has the ball," Seidman said. "We cut a lot and it's easy to find the open man when people are open."
Sophomore Pete Rankowitz (12 points, three rebounds, one assist, one steal, three forced turnovers) looked like a future star in the making and had nine first-half points for the Wreckers. Rankowitz hit a layup off a nice cut inside from senior Rob DiBartolomeo (one point, four rebounds, four steals, two forced turnovers) and swished a 3-pointer off Seidman's kickout pass to cap the surge and give Staples its seven-point lead.
"We moved the ball around well and I was the open man," Rankowitz said.
Defensively, Rankowitz pressed well, which led to many Senator turnovers.
"It helps a lot when you know the defense around you has your back," Rankowitz said. "You can put as much pressure as need be and if you get beat, they will be around to help you out."
McMahon picked it up after Rankowitz' trey, starting with McCrae setting up Tomlin's (four points, two rebounds, one steal, one blocked shot) layup and it continued to rally through its defense. Senior Tikari Smalls (12 points, three rebounds, three steals, two forced turnovers) hit a layup off a steal. Langley's pressure then led a Shuler steal but Scanlan came back and forced McCrae to step out of bounds.
Junior Mike Argosh (three points, two rebounds, one assist, one blocked shot) swished a trifecta from Seidman to push the lead back to six, 32-26, but the Senators closed out the half with a 7-0 run and led 33-32 at the break. McCrae set up classmate Antonio Harris' layup, classmate Jermaine Riley swished a 3-pointer and senior Magny Botex (three points, two rebounds, one forced turnover) forced a turnover and swished jump shot before the half.
The tide turned in Staples' favor in the second half. Despite being only 6-1, Felman was tough on the glass and came up with some big rebounds after the break.
"Just boxing out and we were aggressive on defense," Felman said. "When you box out, it's easy to get the rebound. I focused on being physical and once I got the rebound, I was able to transition well."
After Seidman's defensive rebound, the Wreckers took the lead for good when Scanlan set up a cutting Felman for an easy layup.
McMahon remained close but it was abysmal from the free throw line, shooting 9-21 (43 percent), which prevented it from reclaiming the lead.
Conversely, Staples had one of its best nights from the foul line, shooting 20-24 (83 percent) from the charity stripe. Seidman (7-7) and Felman (3-3) were perfect from the line while Yeager (6-8) and Rankowitz (3-4) shot 75 percent.
"The free throw shooting was much improved and I credit them for working hard in practice," Devine said.
Felman said, "We've been focusing on our free throw shooting in practice because we know we have to make them," Felman said. "We're confident on our own court and it's easier to shoot free throws in our own gym."
The Senators were ice cold from the field as well and didn't hit a trey in the second half.
They scored only 21 points after the break, seven in the last three minutes when the outcome was no longer in doubt.
"We had a good defensive game plan, especially in the second half," Felman said. "We wanted to force them to take tough shots and we knew it frustrated them."
Yeager established a buffer for the Wreckers when he swished a 3-pointer from Seidman. Scanlan also broke the fullcourt press well, which led to Rankowitz setting up Felman's layup and eventual 3-point play which made it 46-40, the score after three quarters. Staples broke it open in the fourth quarter and extended its lead to 13, 60-47 with 3:17 to go in the game.
"It feels great, it's a good team win, everyone played well together and we wanted it," Seidman said. "It definitely builds up our confidence and we hope to keep rolling."
Felman said, "Even though we don't have height, everyone wants to win. We have no selfish players and no one on the team is concerned about stats."