eschickler@bcnnew.com

The Staples High boys basketball team is going through some growing pains. Although Staples has talent, it's a young team and only two of its players have sufficient varsity experience. This lack of experience showed on Saturday in the Wreckers' 52-43 home loss to Fairfield Warde. Warde raised its record to 2-0. Staples dropped to 0-2.

"I thought the team played hard," said Wreckers coach Colin Devine. "We just came up short."

Except for a brief part in the early going, the Mustangs led the whole way. Warde controlled the game because of its rebounding advantage, beating Staples 32-18 in the battle of the glass, and it took great care of the ball. The Mustangs had only three turnovers in the first half, 12 overall, and forced 15 Wrecker turnovers, nine in the second half.

Warde scored 10 points off the offensive glass, which represents 19 percent of its scoring and sometimes had three or four chances at the basket. Mustang senior Mersim Markovic (16 points, 15 rebounds, one steal, one blocked shot, one forced turnover) led the way on the glass and scored six points after grabbing an offensive rebound, including a nifty tip in early in the second half.

Markovic also hit layups off the transition and forced turnovers.

Complementing him on the boards was senior captain Ryan Swedberg (14 points, 10 rebounds, two assists, two steals, one forced turnover). Warde didn't trail again after Swedberg's putback gave the Mustangs a 14-13 lead early in the second quarter.

Staples started off strong with senior captain Brendan Rankowitz (two points, one rebound, two assists, two forced turnovers) setting up junior Luke Yeager's three-pointer and junior lefty Gabe Seidman's layup to give the Wreckers a 5-2 lead.

There were four lead changes in the first quarter, five overall. Warde senior captain point guard Jordan Trapp (five points, three rebounds, 11 assists, three steals) showed great poise in running the offense. Trapp hit a layup after grabbing an offensive rebound to give the Mustangs a 12-7 lead with 3:53 remaining in the first quarter and had four assists in the opening quarter.

"We emphasize boxing out in practice but we didn't do enough of it," said Yeager.

The Wreckers came back and closed the quarter with a 6-0 run to take a 13-12 lead after one stanza. Junior Frankie Bergonzi (14 points, one rebound, two assists. two steals, one forced turnover) scored the last four points of the quarter, giving Staples an advantage after converting his steal into a layup.

Giving the Wreckers an inside presence was junior Grant Fenton (seven points, nine rebounds, three steals, one blocked shot, one forced turnover). Fenton blocked a shot, grabbed a defensive rebound and after drawing a foul, hit one free throw to tie it 16-16 with 4:39 left in the half.

Warde took the lead for good 24 seconds later, 19-16, with Swedberg nailing a trey from Trapp. The Wreckers closed it two at the break, 23-21 with Seidman (nine points, four rebounds) and junior Jake Felman (two points, one rebound, two steals) both making two free throws late in the half.

Any chance of Staples pulling off a comeback began to dissipate in the second half because of the Mustangs' ironclad defense. A Trapp interception led to Markovic's layup to start an 8-3 run to open the third quarter. Markovic had six of the eight points with the Wreckers getting theirs on Bergonzi's trey off a Yeager (seven points, two rebounds, three assists, one forced turnover) feed.

"No. 41 [Markovic] did a number on us," said Devine. "We just need to keep working on rebounding and other facets of the game during practice."

The 8-3 spurt ballooned into a 19-8 run to break it open and give Warde a 13-point advantage, 42-29, its largest lead, with 4:40 to go in the game. Also contributing for the Wreckers were juniors Dan Scanlon (two points, one assist, one steal), Tyler Jacobs and Andreas Bub along with sophomore Adam Levinson.

"We know this was a game we could have and should have won but we didn't because we didn't play as a team and we didn't hustle," said Yeager.

Devine said, "I am confident that we can bounce back and win eight games this year. Warde is a very much improved team from a year ago. They are well coached."