(Mike Mozzicato scored a game-high 23 points)
Sharing the ball is one of the staples of the boys’ basketball program at Wethersfield High School.
Regardless of the players or talent on the court, head coach Brian Fanelli preaches ball movement and this year is no exception.
“It’s important because with the offenses that we design you never know who is going to score. That’s a good thing because you know [the players] are all going to show up and want to play that night. We’re trying to instill that in them,” said Fanelli, “If it’s the same guy scoring all the time, maybe they could get a little selfish.”
The pass-first mentality has been a key to the program’s success since Fanelli’s arrival and again was on display last Tuesday night when the team downed visiting New Britain 66-45 for their fifth win of the season.
Mike Mozzicato was one of nine Eagle players to break into the scoring column, leading the team with 23 points.
“We play as a team and we like to pass the ball around. It gets us easy buckets and gives everyone a chance to score, ” the unselfish junior said following the game, “This year I feel like I’m getting more opportunities to do more things out there to help the team. I try to do anything that helps the team win.”
“Michael is improving every day. Everyone sees the 23 points, but he’s getting a lot better on defense and he’s stronger and taller,” Fanelli said of the 6’3” Mozzicato, “He’s worked hard in the offseason to improve his basketball skills. He loves the game and works at it.”
Mozzicato scored the game’s first two buckets on a layup and a short jumper, which opened up the floor and allowed his teammates to get good looks on the perimeter.
Fellow junior James Sullivan chipped in with 15 points and three blocks.
“After hitting a few shots, I just let the game come to me,” added Mozzicato, “I knew that they were going to play me tight, so I looked to Jimmy [Sullivan] and Connor [Peterson] to score.”
The Eagles ended the first quarter on a 9-0 spurt, following back-to-back-to-back threes from Nicholas Arcata, Aidan Nelson and Mozzicato. The trio of triples provided the home team a 17-5 cushion after the first eight minutes.
Arcata is the team’s energizer and the main setup man for Mozzicato and Sullivan. The junior point guard is the team’s only starter under 6-feet tall, but he makes up for his lack of height with his ball handling and precision passes, which helped spark a 16-3 run between the end of first quarter and first few minutes of the second quarter. He also helped with the scoring load, finishing with nine points.
In the second quarter, Wethersfield equaled their 17-point output. Freshman Connor Pace came off the bench to score six in the frame, which including an old-fashioned three-point play when he spun into the key and finished with a lefty touch shot while being fouled. Pace ended the night with eight points.
“He’s pretty relaxed and he does what we ask him to do. His post moves are pretty good and he’s another great kid,” Fanelli said of Pace, who splits his time between JV and varsity, “We try and surround our team with great kids. When you have great kids, everything else will take care of itself.”
The Eagles weathered a second-half rally from the Golden Hurricanes. New Britain marksman Melvin Deleon scored a team-high 20 points, which included six three-pointers.
Deleon scored eight in the fourth quarter, but Mozzicato countered with ten points during the same time span.
It was the Eagles fourth win in their last five contests. The record is improving and so is the player’s comfort level on the court.
“We have a lot of new faces that are playing now, compared to last year. We lost about seven or eight seniors, so right now the biggest thing is they are starting to play together and sharing the ball,” stated Fanelli, “They’re starting to do a really good job at taking care of the little things, like playing defense and boxing out. Things like that are important.”
“We’re working harder in practice. We’ve been going at it and competing in practice, which has only helped us in the games,” added Mozzicato, who would still like to see the team get better on the defensive end of the court, “I think our defense could improve a little bit and we could have a little more ball pressure. If our defense can improve, we’ll be a tough out in the playoffs.”
Fanelli would also like to see his defense perform at a more consistent level and believes that the offensive end is still a work in progress.
“We really have to start running some good half-court sets. We really haven’t been able to run the sets that I want them to run. We’re more of less getting baskets in transition or a quick three here and there,” said the veteran coach, “I want to run some good half-court sets, set some good ball screens and set some good off-the-ball screens. We don’t want to get stalled down on the offensive end of the floor.”
The Eagles polished off last week with victories over Bristol Eastern (52-45) Thursday and Northwest Catholic (53-47) Saturday, improving their record to 7-3. The team is in the middle of a five-game road trip, which features a game at Newington this Friday at 6:45 p.m.
The Indians had a slow start to the season, but entered this week on a four-game winning streak, thanks to the steady play of Jared Simmons and Matt McKinnon. Simmons is averaging 17 points and McKinnon is averaging 14 points and 12 rebounds per game over the four wins.
The conference rivals will also face one another in the regular season finale on Tues, Feb 21 at Wethersfield High School, which also tips at 6:45 p.m.
Sports Action Around Town
WMRP Hockey Melting the Ice
The Wethersfield/Middletown/Rocky Hill/Plainville ice hockey team is off to a tremendous start, winning six of their first seven games. The latest win was a 5-1 triumph over the co-op team from Newington last Saturday. Paul Wheatley is the team’s leading scorer and added three more goals in the victory over the Indians. Zac Forrest and Tyler Piecewicz each had a goal and two assists, and goalie Stephen Vaughan stopped 17 of 18 shots.
Rocky Hill Basketball Rocks On
Entering the week, the boys and girls basketball teams at Rocky Hill are a combined 16-4. The boys have won seven of their last eight, including a 58-52 victory over Berlin last Thursday, behind 23 points from Alex Sikorski and 16 more from Will White. The girls are riding a seven-game win streak and ended the week defeating Farmington 54-48, thanks to 19 points from Nikki Lukens and 15 more from Melanie Holmes. A big challenge awaits both teams this Friday when they play and home and away against Middletown. The boys play at RHHS (6:45) and the girls travel to Middletown (5:15).
Panthers Basketball on the Prowl
The girls’ basketball team at Cromwell enters the week having won six consecutive games, including home victories over Cogincaugh (64-38) and Old Lyme (62-21) this past Friday and Saturday. The team is doing it with a balanced scoring offense. Nikki Bitinaitis, Theresa Quinn and Jenna Serrantino are all averaging double digits in the scoring column. The girls again have back-to-back home games this Friday and Saturday against Creed and Westbrook. Friday’s game tips at 7 and Saturday’s contest tips at 2 p.m.
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Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin