Wreckers cagers trounce Central, defending champs
No one can dismiss the Staples boys basketball team in the discussion of the area's elite teams. Staples showed the results of good teamwork on both sides of the court when it won in convincing fashion at Bridgeport Central on Tuesday, 76-52. Beating Central is a big feat, especially on the road because it's the defending FCIAC and Class LL champion, not to mention the top-ranked team in the state last year.
"We just played great team basketball and we played great defense," Wreckers Coach Colin Devine said. "The kids played a lot of basketball in the offseason and it's paying off."
Staples raised its record to 2-1 and won its second straight game, both against storied programs. The Hilltoppers dropped to 1-2.
From the opening tip, the Wreckers were running and gunning on offense. They hit most of their shots and senior tri-captain Luke Yeager swished a 3-pointer only 17 seconds into the game. Yeager (18 points, one rebound, 13 assists, four steals, four forced turnovers) was on fire from the field and hit four treys, three in the opening quarter.
"I was open and my teammates found me," Yeager said.
After Central junior Yasser Abdullah (nine points) tied it 5-5 with a layup with 6:35 remaining in the first quarter, Staples took the lead for good, 9-5, on back-to-back layups by senior tri-captain lefty Gabe Seidman. Seidman (19 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, three steals, eight forced turnovers) drove at will, was an offensive sparkplug and was crafty in getting the rebound.
"Practice made the difference," Seidman said.
Despite being much smaller than the Hilltoppers, the Wreckers held their own on the glass. Senior tri-captain Jake Felman (15 points, six rebounds, two assists, two steals) may only be a 6-1 center but his tenacity enabled him to get in there and grab a few key rebounds.
"Good team defense and boxing out lead to rebounding," Felman said. "We did well [rebounding] on both ends [of the floor]."
Felman also swished two trifectas, including one in the first quarter off a feed from classmate Rob DiBartolomeo (one point, five rebounds, three assists, one blocked shot, one forced turnover). The captain's other trey was also from DiBartolomeo in which he swished it at the buzzer to end the third quarter, which made it 59-32.
"I just stepped out and if I was open, I took the shot," Felman said. "We played good team offense and everyone on the floor for us are capable of shooting."
DiBartolomeo battled hard in the paint and also set up Seidman's 3-pointer, which made it 25-13, the score after one quarter.
Yeager was the consummate playmaker in the way he set up the offense with backdoor passes that led to easy layups. Seidman may have been his favorite target but Yeager also deftly set up junior Mike Argosh (13 points, five rebounds, one assist, one steal) and sophomore Peter Rankowitz (nine points, two rebounds, two steals, two forced turnovers) for easy layups.
"My teammates got in good position and whenever I got them the ball, they were able to shoot it in," Yeager said.
Argosh swished a trey and attacked the basket well. He also played a major role in the paint in helping Staples get the rebound.
"We just looked for each other and played good team basketball and came out with the win," Argosh said.
Free throw shooting was the one problem the Wreckers had as they missed too many free throws. Argosh was an exception to the rule as he was 4-4 from the free throw line (Yeager wasn't fouled once while in the act of shooting and didn't attempt a free throw).
"It came down to practice and focus," Argosh said.
Rankowitz came into his own against Central in hitting a trifecta and running the court well.
What especially worked for Staples was the way it caused 22 turnovers, 12 in the first half, while committing only 10 turnovers. Seidman was instrumental in forcing the Hilltoppers into making mistakes and led to transition baskets.
"Being aggressive up top and getting into their passing lanes was important," Seidman said.
Seidman and Yeager's ability to work together wreaked the most havoc on Central. After Seidman forced a turnover, the ball managed to end up in Yeager's hands, who then set up a streaking Seidman for easy layups.
"The chemistry we have is amazing," Seidman said. "The Japanese term, "Ya," is our motto. We play as a team and we are together."
"This gives us a lot of confidence and we hope to build on it," Yeager said.
Although the Wreckers have turned in two straight command performances, they are confident that the best is yet to come.
"We had a great week of basketball but the kids haven't played their best basketball yet," Devine said. "I hope to keep working them hard and I hope we play our best basketball at the end of the year."