Text and photos by Steev Riccardo
Greeting sports fans!
The high school boys basketball season has been awesome so far and now as we approach mid-season, the Clark Tournament (Feb 17-23) and the Districts, every game is crucial for the locals.
All three of the local teams are poised to make strong post-season runs as well as an impact in the Clark Tournament during February vacation. Interestingly enough, each of these teams plays a completely different brand and style of basketball.
The Bartlett Indians (7-2) feature a running and gunning style of play that produces lots of offense. The Oxford Pirates (6-4) also like to run but they rely a lot more on forcing turnovers with their tremendous defense. The Shepherd Hill Rams, on the other hand, like to slow the game down and play a very slow and deliberate style, taking advantage of their height and size down low.
What makes the Indians so dangerous is, that not only can they run and score, but they also have a very strong frontcourt consisting of senior co-captain Akeem Belnavis, hot shot junior scorer Alex Givins-Perry, and 6’5”sophomore Jacob Mailloux. All three of the Bartlett big men have had huge games this season. It also doesn't hurt that they have an excellent defender like Evan Anderson and an outstanding long-range shooter in Matt Huberdault in the backcourt.
Despite being outplayed by Quaboag last week, every indication is that the Indians had an off night and could avenge that loss when the two teams meet in a couple weeks in Webster. There is no way that the Cougars can hold Belnavis to two points again next time around.
The Pirates may not be very big, but their backcourt tandem of senior co-captains Donnie Freeland and Mike James is one of the best in Central Mass and their relentless defense can cause opposing teams to turn the ball over. Once they do force turnovers, Freeland and James find seniors Tyler Barry and Junior Liam Pickett flying down the court and getting easy layups. They also have tremendous 3-point potential with Freeland and Barry and Pickett all able to hit threes.
The Pirates have lost a couple of close games recently, but I still like their chances in the long run. If they can get to 10/11 wins, they will be a factor down the road.
Shepherd Hill may not be the most exciting team to watch, but as the season goes on they are getting better and better. They like to slow the ball down offensively and work it inside to their big men and they also have some outside threats when they need to shoot.
Freshman Michael Rapoza and sophomore Chris Lindstrom have both been playing consistently well. They also have guys like Tyler Martin Justin Terlizzi, and Derek Schulman who can hit outside shots. David Bianculli can also score and be a pest on defense and Jesse DiTommaso has come on as of late as well.
It is been the excellent zone defense that the Rams play that has at times successfully slowed down teams like Bartlett and could play a key role for them come playoff time.
All three of these teams look like they will be able to contend in the post season, and that should make for some very exciting local basketball action.
The View’s Top 5 of the week:
1. Taylor Daniels, Shepherd Hill basketball: Daniels was outstanding leading the Rams with 17 points and some great defense over Auburn.
2. Liam Pickett, Oxford basketball: Pickett had a great game in a losing effort with 26 points against Tantasqua.
3. Olivia Mandeville, Bartlett basketball: Only a freshman, Mandeville, scored 14 points in a loss vs. Quaboag last week for the Indians.
4. David Bianculli, Shepherd Hill basketball: The Rams junior forward made two great steals down the stretch to help his team hold on to beat Auburn.
5. Caroline James, Bartlett basketball: Caroline James looks like a future star for the Bartlett Indians. Last week she lit up the Southbridge jayvees with 20 points.
Gigi Guenther: The fans might not be chanting “GIGI GIGI” tonight (January 16) when the Webster star makes somewhat of a home coming when her Holy Name Naps take on the Shepherd Hill girls in Dudley, but you can be sure the that sophomore will be out to prove something.
Shepherd Hill’s Taylor Daniels is equally excited about the match with her “friend-emy” as she refers to Guenther. “Holy Name is the game we look forward to all season, it’s always a fun up-tempo game.” It should be a good one.
Rocco DiStefano: It’s always great to run into Bartlett 2012 graduate Rocco DiStefano, who was at Bartlett last week visiting some old friends.
Rocco is now playing football and running track at Springfield College and currently holding a 3.7 cum in the classroom, majoring n Sports Biology.
- Wednesday, 16 January 2013
- Posted in Categories: : View from the Sidelines