Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Strong 2nd Half Pushes Spaulding Past Winnacunnet

By: Jeremy Leveille
Led by senior captains Nick MacGregor (game-high 19 points) and Dominic Paradis (13 points and 11 rebounds), the Spaulding High boys basketball team improved to 6-1 on the season with a 71-61 win at home over Winnacunnet (now 4-3).

The Red Raiders scored an impressive 43 points in the 2nd half (and a whopping 25 points in the 3rd quarter). They went on a 10-0 run in the 3rd quarter, led by Paradis, MacGregor, Seth Fogg and Anthony Ciccotelli. Then in the 4th quarter Darian Berry drilled a dagger 3-pointer to put Spaulding up 69-54 with 3:31 left.

"They made more plays in the 3rd quarter" lamented Winnacunnet head coach Jay McKenna. "We were forcing turnovers with our press in the 1st half, but then they started beating it."

During the preseason people were doubting Spaulding's back court and theit ability to break the press. Well in the 2nd hald of Tuesday night's game those doubters were silenced.

"We sleep-walked through the 1st half" said Spaulding head coach Tim Cronin. "But then we made some adjustments against the press. We stopped trying to dribble through the press and started recognizing the traps, looking up and passing."

Offensive Flurry in 3rd Quarter
After a back-and forth 1st half, both teams came out with much more energy in the 3rd quarter. The two teams raced up and down the floor, hitting 3-pointers and layups with ease. They scored a combined 27 points in less than 4 minutes of play to begin the 2nd half.

Ryan Gigliotti (team-high 13 points) drilled a 3 to put Winnacunnet on top 31-30. Then the action really picked up, and the scoring happened fast and furiously. Paradis answered with a 3 of his own to put Spaulding back on top, then Gigliotti hit another 3, followed by a trey by Ben Gareau and a floater by Matt Guerin. The game was finally being played at the Warriors' pace.

But then Spaulding showed they could also play at that pace, as MacGregor counted with a clutch 3-pointer. Spaulding still trailed though, 39-38.

That's when it happened - the Red Raiders' 10-0 run, it was the difference in the game. In just 3 minutes, they went from being down by 1 to being up by 9. Fogg was the catalyst for the run, as he scored on a pair of quick layups which shufted the momentum. The first one was on a drive, and then right after that he made a steal near half court and finished the layup on the other end.

Paradis then grabbed an offensive rebound and laid it in. Immediately after that MacGregor came up with a steal and scored on a layup of his own. Spaulding kept the momentum rolling, as Ciccotelli (8 points and 6 rebounds) hit a tough turnaround shot with a hand right in his face. Just like that, the run was complete, and Spaulding now led 48-39 with 2:00 left in the 3rd quarter.

Winnacunnet battled back though, as Gigliotti drilled another 3. At this point Spaulding had already been whistled for 8 fouls in the 3rd quarter, compared to just 2 for Winnacunnet. Spaulding led 53-46 after 3.

"At halftime all anyone was saying was what we were doing wrong and what we had to do better" said MacGregor. "It was defense and rebounding. In the 2nd half we did better at both."

Red Raiders Keep Momentum in 4th
Alec Boucher made a great move to the rim and reverse layup finish to begin things in the 4th quarter. That cut the Spaulding lead to 53-48. The Warriors were right back in it, as Matt Guerin was one player in particular who played solid basketball on both ends of the floor throughout the game for Coach McKenna's team.

But then the Red Raiders went on a 16-6 run. MacGregor was hitting 3's, Paradis and Ciccotelli were scoring and rebounding inside, and Quinn Connelly also scored a couple of key buckets. Then with Winnacunnet still clinging to life, Berry hit a dagger 3-pointer. The rout was on, with Spaulding now on top 69-54 with just 3:31 left. From there they held on for the 71-61 win.

Spaulding Not Satisfied
"I'm happy with the win, but I'm not happy with the way we played" said Coach Cronin. "We did not play well in the 1st half, and our defensive rebounding was poor."

Winnacunnet Played Shorthanded
The Warriors were playing without two of their best players players in junior guards Rich Ruffin and Chris Doyle. Ruffin has been one of the team's top players so far this season (it was his first game out of the lineup), while Doyle still hasn't suited up this season and missed all of last year with a torn ACL.

"Rich has a foot injury" said Coach McKenna. "And Chris had a second knee surgery in the preseason. We don't know when either will be back."

The Bottom Line
These are two of the top teams in boys D-I. People were talking about Spaulding as a possible Final Four team in the preseason and they certainly looked like it this evening. We all know that Cronin is a very good coach and that Paradis and MacGregor are two of the best players in the state. Now that they have silenced the 'their guards can't handle a press' doubters watch out. Berry, Connelly, Fogg and Mike Bellio in particular did a solid job against it. Plus you have a big man in Paradis who can handle the basketball, see over the top of a defense and make pinpoint passes it makes you even more dangerous. What makes the win even more impressive was that junior forward Charlie Nevejans (one of the team's 3 returning starters) sat out much of this game with foul trouble. With the emergence of Ciccotelli, that gives this team 3 bigs (along with Paradis and Nevejans) who can bang around inside, score and rebound the basketball. Not many teams have that.

As for Winnacunnet, they are still a very dangerous team but they need to get healthy. With Ruffin in there it gives this team four guys capable of putting up 15-20 points on any given night (with Gareau, Knollmeyer and Gigliotti being the others). Not to mention the speed Ruffin brings on the defensive end. If Ruffin and Doyle are both able to come back healthy, well then this team could really beat up on some people.

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