Under the direction of head coach Tim Cronin, the Spaulding boys basketball team has been known as a blue collar program that preaches discipline, fundamentals and team basketball. That's how they made back-to-back D-I Final Four appearances in 2012 and 2013, and that's what they showed on Tuesday night at home vs. Nashua South. Spaulding dominated the boards, especially on the offensive glass where they converted numerous 2nd chance points. They held South guard DJ Frechette to just 11 points after he dropped 31 on opening night vs. Pinkerton. Behind a game-high 26 points from Darian Berry, Spaulding opening up a 20 point lead (50-30) in the 3rd quarter and cruised to a 66-46 win. Spaulding is now 2-0, while South falls to 0-2.
"They're a very well coached, disciplined team" said Nashua South head coach Nate Mazzerole. "They look like they've been running the same offense for 4 years, and we've been running ours for 4 weeks. They're unselfish, they all know their roles. We have very little chemistry. Right away I noticed they started all seniors and we started 3 sophomores."
The 5 senior starters for Spaulding were Berry, Mitchell Cyr, Chris States (13 points), Anthony Ciccotelli (12 points and 13 rebounds) and Brock Paquette.
"We've all been playing together since 5th grade and we've had the same starting lineup the whole time" said Berry, a 6-foot-2 shooting guard. "We all know each other's strengths."
South was playing without one of their starters, senior Malik Langa who was out with an ankle injury according to Coach Mazzerole. Still, the Purple Panthers were only down 18-16 after 1 quarter and only trailed 35-27 at the half. The 3rd quarter however is when Spaulding broke it open, as they started the quarter on a 15-3 run.
Berry got the run started with a 3-pointer from the right wing off the catch. Berry has a fluid shooting motion, using a high, quick release. Mike Osgood answered back with a 3 of his own, from the corner. Osgood led South with 15 points and 11 rebounds. He was active on the boards on both ends of the floor and for a 6-foot-5 kid he runs the floor well and has a versatile inside/outside game. Spaulding scored the game's next 12 points, as Berry hit another 3 and then the 2nd chance points for the Red Raiders continued as Berry grabbed an offensive rebound and went up strong for an and-1 put-back.
Spaulding was playing tough defense. South was running a dribble-drive/hand-off offense out on the perimeter but Spaulding was doing a nice job of denying their dribble penetration and forcing them to take outside shots.
"Ciccotelli and Spates really stepped up" said Coach Cronin. "Spates had a great all-around game, especially with how he defended #12 (Frechette)."
Cal Connelly scored inside for 2 to make it 48-30 Spaulding and soon it was 50-30 Red Raiders. Osgood ended the 12-0 Spaulding run with an and-1 put-back. It was 52-35 Red Raiders after 3.
"We realized that they only made one or two 3's so we tried to stop their dribble-drive and make them shoot" said Berry. "Chris (States) shut down #12 all night, and once we got stops we got our transition game going."
Spaulding extended their lead to 56-37 in the 4th. Osgood made a great hustle play, diving into his own bench for save the ball from going out of bounds. Spaulding went on to win 66-46.
The Red Raiders took control of the game right from the get-go, jumping out to a quick 9-0 lead. Berry made a strong drive to the rim for 2, and then came off a screen and hit an 18-footer. States then hit an 18-footer of his own off the catch and it was 6-0 Spaulding, forcing a timeout by South. Out of the timeout the Red raiders run continued, as Paquette hit a 3-pointer from the corner and it was 9-0.
Finally the Purple Panthers got on the board, as Osgood converted an and-1. Then South sophomore point guard Kevin Genao put the ball through his legs before drilling a step-back 3. Genao then blew by his man off the dribble for a strong finish inside. Frechette hit a 3 from way downtown to ti it up 11-11. Ciccotelli made a strong yet nimble move along the baseline for 2, but then Frechette hit another 3 and South went ahead 14-13 (their one and only lead of the game). Berry answered with a 3-pointer to put Spaulding up 14-14. The Red Raiders led 18-16 after 1, led by 9 points by Berry.
"He can score in a lot of different ways" said Coach Cronin. "He can get to the basket, he can hit the 3, or floaters."
South started the 2nd quarter with all 5 starters on the bench, whereas Spaulding went with 4 starters and their 6th man (Connelly). As a result, South struggled to find offense. Then Ben Seegal converted a pair of tough and-1 finishes (he brought some nice energy off the bench). But Spaulding countered with back-to-back baskets inside by States and Ciccotlli as the Red Raiders took their largest lead so far, 30-21. Then Ciccotelli tipped in a miss and it was 32-21 Red Raiders. Spaulding was crashing the offensive boards and South was having trouble boxing them out. That trend continued, as Matt Roy came off the bench for Spaulding and crashed the offensive glass, getting to the line for 2.
"We're not a strong rebounding team and that hurt us" lamented Coach Mazzerole. "We'll get better."
Osgood hit a smooth pull-up jumper from 18-feet to try and keep South in it. But then Ciccotelli got inside position on the low block, got the ball, turned and scored (that bucket was too easy). Spaulding took a 35-27 lead into halftime.