Glastonbury guard Owen Peterson is defended by Northwest Catholic's Gianni Mirabello at GHS on Jan. 4
It hasn’t been an ideal season so far for the boys’ basketball team at Glastonbury High School.
From a season-ending injury in the offseason to sophomore sensation Connor O’Leary to the countless of COVID-related absences in the first month of the season, head coach Jim Vaughan has been faced with one obstacle after another.
Add to that a brutal schedule, which Vaughan called “the hardest I’ve had in 22 years”.
Last Tuesday they faced their toughest test so far, welcoming state title contender Northwest Catholic to GHS on Jan. 4.
The end result was a 65-36 defeat, yet the Guardians showed the grit of a team fighting for every basket.
“We play hard, we pull for each other. They don’t get down, they come to practice ready to go,” Vaughan said of the depleted team. “We certainly haven’t caught any break between a very tough schedule and we’ve played with eight guys our last three games, which is really hard to do.”
Northwest Catholic’s Badara Diakite put on a show from the opening tip, scoring the game’s first four points on a bank shot and an emphatic slam dunk. The 6’10” freshman finished the night with a game-high 22 points, 10 coming off dunks.
The Guardians, playing without five players, exchanged buckets with the visiting Lions over the first four minutes.
After falling behind 7-0, Glastonbury’s Owen Peterson and Trey Tennyson each knocked down three-point shots on consecutive possessions, cutting the deficit to a single point.
It was the closest Glastonbury would get all night.
Two minutes into the second quarter, Glastonbury’s George Juliano hit a three pointer after Dan Cantafi chased down a loose ball and flipped it to a wide-open Juliano, narrowing the margin to four.
Diakite countered by scoring the next nine points as Northwest closed the half on an 11-2 run.
Vaughan’s team was without the services of a handful of key players including starters Adam Molusis, Tyler Huff, and David Smith. Mickey Shae and Jordyn Sams, who are part of the normal rotation, also missed the game.
In the recent tournament at Xavier, Molusis was named to the all-tournament team as the Guardians earned their first victory of the season, a 38-31 triumph over Valley Regional on Dec. 28.
Molusis handles the point guard duties, forcing Peterson to fill the difficult vacancy in his absence. Peterson did his best, scoring seven points and dishing out three assists to go along with three steals.
Vaughan commended Peterson’s effort, but said not having a true point guard hurt the offense, “A lot of the stuff that we do is predicated on having a very good point guard, but I love the effort. The guys are getting better by the day and that’s only going to help us this year and next year.”
Vaughan’s makeshift rotation showed some encouraging signs in the second half against Northwest Catholic. Cantafi scored four points in the third quarter, converting a layup to start the half and hitting a long range jumper after receiving a pass from Gage Haines, who had rebounded his own miss and kicked it out to Cantafi.
Senior Khaliq Young added five in the fourth, knocking down a three and hitting a midrange jumper, and Jack Hennessey gave the Guardians a reliable presence down low, finishing with five points and grabbing a team-high six rebounds in the loss.
In the end, Diakite and the guard tandem of Matthew Curtis (18 points) and Gianni Mirabello (14 points) was just too much for the gutted Guardians to handle.
The good news is that the young players getting extensive minutes are gaining valuable experience for when the team has a full complement of players later in the season.
“They’ll learn what to do and what not to do and get more comfortable on the court,” Vaughan said of his bench. “Even the guys sitting out could learn something. I think it will help us in the long run, but it’s tough playing and trying to practice with eight guys.”
Heading into the week, the Guardians stand at 1-5.
Once the team is back at full strength, with the exception of O’Leary who was slated to be the team’s leading scorer, Vaughan believes that team will lean on their defense and could play spoiler down face down the stretch, saying, “If we’re at our best I think we’re a team that no one would want to play.”
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Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin