Once the football players got fully integrated into the operation, the Staples boys basketball team was confident it would start to gel.

Staples turned out to be clairvoyant as it bounced back from last Wednesday's season-opening home loss to Norwalk with a convincing 52-35 victory at Stamford Friday to even its record at 1-1. Stamford dropped to 0-2.

"The good thing is we had a good day of practice before we played Stamford," Wreckers senior captain Mike Argosh said. "I don't think we had as good of a preparation that we could have before we played Norwalk."

On the eve of Staples' loss to Norwalk, senior Vasili Tziolis, junior James Frusciante and sophomore Nick Ward had only two days of practice because their football season ended Dec. 10. Evidently, last Thursday's practice paid off for the team. Moreover, winning in Stamford is huge because it's a difficult place for any road team to play there.

"It's a quality win for us," Wreckers coach Colin Devine said. "Any win in this league is a quality win, especially on the road. We played better team defense than we did on Wednesday. We made less mental mistakes, and the team is getting better. We played great team defense, and we shared the ball on offense."

Frusciante said, "Every practice, we get better, and it helped us prepare for the Stamford game."

The game was knotted at 15-15 after one quarter, and Staples led 27-24 at the break. The Wreckers opened the second half with a 9-0 run to extend their lead to 12, 36-24. Moreover, they established a comfort level with this surge and took control of the game.

"We picked up our defensive pressure, and it led to some easy baskets," Devine said.

Junior Pete Rankowitz led

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Junior Pete Rankowitz led Staples with 19 points, mostly on layups off the fast break. Rankowitz also had nine rebounds, four assists and a steal.

"If you hit one or two outside shots, it makes it easier to drive for a layup or to drive and dish," Rankowitz said. "We were able to move the ball and break the press well, and got it to the open court. We worked on it on Thursday."

Argosh (12 points, two rebounds, two assists, one blocked shot) also hit his shots, and Frusciante (four points, three assists, three rebounds, three steals) deftly fed the inside players and shooters.

"Our plays are designed well and it makes it easy to get it to the open players," Frusciante said.

Sophomore Darryle Wiggins (six points, nine rebounds, one blocked shot) has made giant strides and was a force inside. Tziolis (four points, three rebounds, three assists, two steals, one blocked shot) displayed the same athleticism that he showed on the gridiron.

Seniors Patrick Kohlmann (four points, one blocked shot) and Mike Garrity (two points), junior Ross Whelan (four rebounds, one assist, one steal) and Ward (one point, one rebound) also helped.

"It's definitely big for the team because we were down after the loss to Norwalk," Argosh said. "We now know how it feels like to win and hope to continue the success."

Devine said, "The team is going to get better and better every day. We have good senior leadership in Mike Argosh, and we'll have a great year."