Wrecker cagers win consolation game
The Staples boys basketball team took third place at the Ridgefield Holiday Tournament.
Staples earned a split with a 65-56 victory over Newtown (2-3) Thursday in the consolation round of the tournament, raising its record to 2-4.
"We got a win when we needed to," Wreckers coach Colin Devine said. "It's a learning process and we're learning how to win close games."
Winning this type of game boosts Staples' morale because it lost 57-56 to Weston in the first round of the tournament. Although the Wreckers won by nine, the game was closer than the final score would indicate.
Staples was up 34-27 at the half and led most of the way, but its advantage was anything but secure. Senior captain Mike Argosh (18 points, four rebounds) had seven points in the second quarter, including a 3-pointer, to stake the Wreckers to their lead.
"We played much better than we did on Tuesday [Dec. 27, in reference to the loss to Weston]," Argosh said. "The offense worked together and shared the ball. It was a team game."
Junior point guard James Frusciante (18 points, five assists, five steals) boosted Staples on both ends. Frusciante deftly set up his teammates for easy baskets on offense, hit a few slashing layups and was 8-13 shooting free throws.
More InformationFact box
"We just continued to push the ball down the court, and continued to work as a team," Frusciante said.
With Newtown having a chance to tie or take the lead, Frusciante made it a two-possession game with a layup off a steal from midcourt. His transition basket off of his steal made it 40-36 with 3:25 remaining in the third quarter.
"Defensively, we put pressure on them, which led to turnovers, and helped the fast break," Frusciante said.
However, the Nighthawks eventually took a 45-44 lead on senior captain Kyle Wilcox's layup with 7:37 left in the game. The Wreckers regained the lead when junior Pete Rankowitz hit two free throws, but Newtown bounced back and took a three-point lead, 49-46 with 6:15 to go.
Despite facing adversity, Staples remained resilient. Senior Vasili Tziolis (four points, three rebounds, two assists, one steal) scored on a putback off the offensive glass to make it 49-48 and Frusciante then ended the Nighthawks' possession with a steal. The Wreckers took the lead for good, 50-49 with 5:44 left on Rankowitz' layup off a feed from Frusciante.
Tziolis then stole the ball, which led to Argosh draining a trey to make it 53-49. Argosh then hit two free throws to make it 55-49, and give Staples breathing room.
Rankowitz (17 points, seven rebounds, two assists, one steal) helped the Wreckers add to their lead by going 6-6 from the foul line in the fourth quarter.
"Once we were able to break the press, my teammates found me, and I was able to draw the foul," Rankowitz said.
Drawing the fouls is one thing. Remaining calm at the line is another, and Rankowitz was able to do so.
"As a team, we work a lot on free throws before, during and after practice," Rankowitz said. "I was pretty confident when I was at the line."
Sophomore Darryle Wiggins (four points, one blocked shot) made his presence felt inside for Staples. Junior Ross Whelan (four points, six rebounds, one steal) and senior Pat Kohlmann (one rebound) also helped inside.
"We played good defense tonight," Devine said. "We made our free throws, pressed and got turnovers. They fought hard."
Argosh was selected to the All-Tournament team.
"It was nice [making the All-Tournament team]," Argosh said. "I was hoping for a better outcome, but I'm happy to come out [of the tournament] with one win."