RHAM's Matt Faleigh during the Raptors 79-57 victory over Avon on Jan. 11
Boys’ basketball at RHAM High School plays with the ferociousness of a velociraptor, fitting for a team nicknamed the Raptors.
Head coach Todd Dean preaches an up-tempo, attacking style on offense and an intense, pressure defense for all 32 minutes.
So far, the hectic approach has worked out perfectly for the team that has won every game this season.
Last Tuesday, Jan. 11, the Raptors picked up win #8 by defeating Avon 79-57.
“Our effort is there every single game,” said Dean. “We want to play that way because it puts us at an advantage when we can play eight, nine, ten guys deep. Hopefully we can wear teams down and tire them out.”
Against Avon, RHAM was without the services of key seniors Ryan McLaughlin and Patrick Kelly. Despite playing short-handed they burst out of the gates, scoring 24 first-quarter points to take a double digit lead over the visiting Falcons.
Senior Spencer Pilkington scored a team-high 17 points, including five straight in the first quarter to erase an early deficit. Pilkington drained a wing three-pointer to tie the game at nine and then sank a go-ahead jumper on the following possession after Troy Miller stole the ball in the open court and dished it to Pilkington at the top of the key.
“We just take advantage of our opportunities and take high percentage shots,” Pilkington said of the team’s offensive attack.
Leading 41-26 at the break, the Raptors again surged to start the second half, outscoring Avon 20-8 in the third as the lead ballooned to 26 entering the final stanza.
Jimmy Hulland led the charge, scoring 11 of his 16 points in the second half.
In the opening minute of the third, Hulland slammed home a breakaway dunk after receiving a pass in translation from Ryan Heneghan. Less than a minute later, Hulland canned a three after Pilkington fired a perfectly placed crosscourt inbound pass.
Hulland said the team likes playing with an accelerated approach, “In practice we do a lot of drills that involve running around and energetic stuff. Once we’re in the game we’re not thinking about it, we’re just out there playing.”
Aiden Allen chipped in with a dozen points, including six straight as RHAM started the second half on an 11-3 run. Allen had consecutive layups, followed by a short jump hook, upping the advantage to 54-27 with three minutes to play in the third.
Heneghan added 11 points, while Michael Poncini provided a major presence down low with nine points.
Poncini, a star baseball player at the school, is playing basketball for the first time and Dean said the he is getting better with each game. Poncini wowed the home crowd within the first minute of the third quarter when he blocked a shot on the defensive end and took the ball coast-to-coast before spinning around a defender and making a bank shot.
“He brings a lot to us. He has energy, he scores around the basket, and brings another big body. We’ve had a couple of guys out over the last couple of weeks and he’s stepped in and we haven’t missed a beat,” added Dean.
Miller scored eight points and Matt Fraleigh came off the bench to add six, all in the fourth quarter.
The balanced lineup was something Dean anticipated.
“[The players] knew they were going to play this way coming in. We do some conditioning but that’s how we’ve played since day one, so we’re accustomed to it and I’m confident that whoever is on the court can fill that role,” said Dean. “All of our guys are pretty confident. We have confidence in them and they have confidence in themselves.”
The Raptors moved to 10-0 with victories over South Windsor (1/14) and Putnam (1/18). The team has scored at least 62 points in every game, including a season-high 83 points in the win over Putnam.
“When you play like this and force teams to turn the ball over you can get transition buckets and more possession,” added Dean. “These teams we’ve played are good teams but we just have a lot of depth that can outlast other teams.”
Hulland said the team is happy with the undefeated start, but he would like to see the team start even faster in games going forward.
Pilkington added that the team’s seven seniors have been playing together for years and “expected to do good things.”
The team hosts Rocky Hill this Friday, Jan. 21 before heading on the road to play Wethersfield (1/24) and Bulkeley (1/27). They return to RHAM on Jan. 31 for their toughest test yet, a showdown with East Catholic. All four games are scheduled to tip-off at 6:45 p.m.
RHAM's Spencer Pilkington
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin