For three quarters, the Wethersfield Eagles controlled the tempo against the visiting Manchester Indians at the Sports and Medicine Science Academy in Hartford. Senior captains Ryan Peterson and Andrew Kelly paced the Eagles offensively and the team’s man-to-man defense hounded Manchester’s offense, which wanted to push the game’s tempo.
However, the fourth quarter was a different story.
Manchester changed to a full-court press on defensive, which resulted in a breakneck pace, allowing the Indians to outscore the Eagles 25-11 over the final ten minutes. The result was a 54-49 Manchester victory, which improved the Indians to 4-4 and dropped Wethersfield to the same mark this season.
Peterson, whose smooth offensive style allowed him to attack the Manchester zone defense, and Kelly, who flourished on both ends of the court, each scored 13 points for Wethersfield. The duo, along with Pierce Weatherspoon, Jordan Manchester, and Will Delmastro scored all of the Wethersfield’s points and helped give the home team a 38-29 lead after three quarters.
Manchester coach, Jon Hussey, decided to deploy a full-court trapping defense to begin the fourth quarter. The plan initially didn’t work, as Wethersfield scored five quick and easy points, forcing the Indians to use a timeout. After the timeout, Manchester came out with a new sense of urgency and scored the game’s next 11 points. Reserve forward Louis Neals ignited the 11-0 spurt, with back-to-back three-point plays, followed by a steal and uncontested layup. Neals’ heroics gave the Indians a 44-43 lead, which was the team’s first lead since it was 7-6 midway through the first quarter.
Wethersfield was able to tie the game at 49 when they pressed defensibly, allowing Peterson to step in front on an errant pass before dishing it to Weatherspoon, who finished with a short jumper off the backboard. The hustle play reenergized the home crowd and forced the Indians to use a timeout with less than a minute to play.
Coming out the timeout, Hussey designed the perfect play. The play allowed senior guard Donta Alston, who had a game-high 15 points, to leak out to the baseline and drain a contested three with 14.4 second remaining. Wethersfield was unable to tie the game and Manchester’s Rashad Leggett polished off the scoring with a layup to end the game.
“I told our players after the game that we did some good things and some bad things.” Wethersfield coach, Brian Fanelli, said, “We let the game get away from us because we didn't take care of the ball.”
In three of the Eagles’ four losses they have held a lead in the fourth quarter. Despite the late game mishaps, the team is still on pace to achieve the goals they started the season with.
“The team had set goals to win 15 games, make it to the conference tournament and the state tournament, and make a run in the state tournament.” Fanelli added, “All goals are still attainable and possible if we can play a complete game without too many mental and physical mistakes.”
The Eagles look to correct their fourth quarter woes when they welcome the red-hot Glastonbury Tomahawks to the Sports and Medicine Science Academy. Tip-off for the Central Connecticut North showdown will be Saturday, Jan 25th at 6p.m. Wethersfield will also have a chance at redemption against Manchester when they travel to enemy territory of Monday, Feb 10th for a 7 p.m. tip.
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin