(Andrew DiMatteo manned the middle of the zone and scored 13 points in the win over E.O. Smith)
Ryan Robinson sank a contested shot from beyond midcourt as the first quarter buzzer sounded. He then casually walked off the court as if he had just tossed a pillow onto his bed.
Robinson’s reaction was all business and his three-pointer provided the Terriers a lead they would not relinquish during a 45-30 victory over visiting E.O. Smith last Tuesday night.
“When it left his hand I’m like ‘that’s money’,” Rocky Hill head coach Josh Dinerman said of Robinson’s buzzer-beater, which woke up a stagnant Terriers offense.
The long-range triple started a 20-2 run, which extended into the early part of the third quarter.
“About halfway through last year our point guard went down and Ryan took over the role and ever since then he’s done a great job,” Dinerman said of his senior court general, who finished with 11 points and three steals, “He’s really stepped up into the leadership role and he’s struggled with an ankle injury lately so for him to get going and hit that shot was big. Those are the types of things that will help him turn the corner for the second half of the year. I’m really proud of him.”
Robinson canned another three from the baseline to start the second quarter but it was the Terriers tenacious defense that began to overwhelm the Panthers, holding the visitors to a single bucket in the frame.
“I kind of surprised the team today by switching up the lineup and I told them we were going 2-3 zone. We hadn’t really practiced it too much this year but it worked,” added Dinerman, who made the defensive adjustment to combat E.O. Smith’s efficient offense, “They’re so well coached. They call their offense the machine, because it’s a machine. They run it so pure that we figured we’d dispute them a little bit.”
Dinerman’s defensive plan worked to perfection and the rangy frontcourt rotation of Andrew DiMatteo, Riley Donovan, Joseph Schiavone, and Jordan DelMastro stymied the Panthers workmanlike offense.
“We can play that zone, but it’s got a lot of man principles. Those guys are athletic and they’re long, so when they play the wings they can go out and guard the guards but they can still go inside and guard the bigs. When they get the rebound it’s perfect because they can go out in transition and bring it up too. Those combo guys are really good to have.”
DiMatteo added 13 points on the offensive end, including six of the Terriers’ eight in the third quarter.
The Storrs-based visitors narrowed the gap to six heading into the fourth quarter but, as he has done all season, Will White took over offensively.
White scored six points, including a soft lefty layup, and assisted on another bucket during a 9-0 spurt midway through the fourth.
“We’re just working hard of defense, that’s been our main focus the whole year. Through our defense comes our offense and we had a few bad stretches and I was just trying to take control and do what I can to get the team back in the game and help us win. Tonight it just worked out,” said White, who finished with 13 points.
White is coming off an all-conference selection a year ago and earned the reputation of a marksman on the perimeter as a junior.
This season he’s diversified his offensive game.
“I’ve been trying to take it to the bucket more,” said White, “Teams started to think that I can only shoot, so I’m trying to prove everyone wrong.”
“As soon as he walks in the gym they know he’s a shooter, so they’re flying out at him and now he’s added that to his arsenal where he can drive and finish at the rim,” added Dinerman, “That’s huge, when you have that range and can also take it to the rack. He’s a tough kid to stop.”
All of the pieces are falling into place for the Terriers, who celebrated their fourth win in their last five games. Their only blemish during the stretch was a two-point loss to Bloomfield the night before the win over E.O. Smith.
“Some of our guys hadn’t had a ton of varsity experience so it took some time. We’re senior-laden this year, but not all of our seniors had big minutes last season and we’ve switched up our lineup a couple of times. We’re still trying to find our rotation and trying to find our groove,”
Dinerman said of the team’s turnaround following an up-and-down 3-4 start to the season, “They’re just meshing and it comes down to fixing the rotation here, diving for a loose ball there, and you start winning these close games.”
Since taking over the boy’s program in 2012, a staple of Dinerman’s teams has been a deep rotation and this season is no different. Sophomores Alessandro Boutin and Ja’quan Graham made their presence felt on both ends of the court Tuesday night.
Late in the first half, Boutin channeled his inner-Hakeem Olajuwon with a dream shake, which froze a defender and allowed him to finish at the rim.
“If you want to make a deep run in the tournament, you need a deep team. You need guys stepping up throughout the season, so I try to keep the rotation pretty deep,” added Dinerman, “It makes competition better in practice and keeps guys on their toes. They’re hungry for minutes so when they get in there they’re going to fly around a little bit more because a lot of guys are getting minutes. I think it really helps the team and the chemistry.”
Dinerman’s team closed the week with a 66-56 loss at Windham. White scored a team-high 19 points but it wasn’t enough to overcome the outrageous 39 free throws the home team was awarded.
Next up is a home game this Friday against Windsor, who entered the week at 10-3. The game against the Warriors will be another good measuring stick for Dinerman and his team.
“We still have to work on our fundamentals and just make smart basketball decisions. The defense will be there, but offensive efficiency is definitely what we’ll be working on, like valuing the basketball and getting a good shot every possession.”
They’ll close the regular season with a series of rematches, including a home date against Wethersfield on Thursday, Feb 8 at 6:45. The Eagles got the best of the Terriers (58-41) in the first game at WHS.
Both the Terriers and Eagles have grown since the game in early January and the rematch should feature plenty of fireworks.
“We needed a few games to try and get in the swing of things and get our rhythm going,” White said about the team’s confidence going forward, “When we’re good, we’re good. So we’ll see what happens.”
8/3/2022 04:22:21 pm
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Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin