Wethersfield's James Luiz is guarded by Rocky Hill's Matt Sevigny during the Eagles 52-30 win at WHS last Wednesday. Photo credit- Michelle Elliott
Wethersfield boys’ basketball used a 13-0 scoring run, which spanned between the second and third quarters, before clamping down defensively to defeat visiting Rocky Hill 52-30 last Wednesday night at WHS.
Guard Luke Latina led a balanced scoring attack with 12 points, while backcourt mates James Luiz and Robert Ruiz each chipped in with 11.
“We played with more intensity on defense and our play picked up a little bit,” Wethersfield coach Brian Fanelli said of the team’s second-quarter surge.
Fanelli’s team trailed 18-11 before Luiz made back-to-back layups and Latina ended the half by making three free throws after getting fouled on a deep attempt behind the arc in the closing seconds of the half, providing the Eagles an 19-18 advantage at the break.
“Luke’s got a huge basketball IQ. He loves the game and does a great job. He’s always trying to make others better,” Fanelli said of his junior floor general.
Latina started the third quarter by draining a three after receiving a perfect pass from Connor Pace, and Ruiz dumped in two more after rebounding his own miss.
“We started to make a couple of shots in the second half and we started to pound the ball into Pace, which helped too. Right out of the gate we hit Pace who found Latina at the top of the key,”
Pace, who missed all of last season with an injury, has returned to solidify the middle and supply some much-needed length for the Eagles.
“He’s quiet and doesn’t say a lot but when the ball goes up, he goes and gets it. I’m glad to have him for some many reason, not just as a basketball player but he’s an awesome kid and that makes a big difference,” added Fanelli.
Wethersfield outscored the Terriers 17-5 in the third, which ended with a long-range buzzer-beating bank from Luiz, just inside the midcourt stripe.
Tempers flared in the fourth, with the rival teams trading technical fouls. The Terriers received an additional technical later in the quarter.
“We just couldn’t put the ball in the basket. Our game plan today was to take away Pace, which we did in the first half, but we just didn’t execute down the stretch. We turned it over, we rushed our possessions,” said Mike Dudis, Rocky Hill’s first-year head coach, “We needed to keep our composure and we didn’t do that in the second half. Our guys were frustrated but I don’t care about officiating, when you lose by 22 it’s not on the officials.”
Prior to Wednesday’s loss, Rocky Hill had won two of the first three games under Dudis, “We did a good job during our last game on the road against Lewis Mills, but sometimes we rush. We have a bunch of guys that want to be playmakers and sometimes it doesn’t work out. It’s something we have to work on. That and not turning the ball over, and the unacceptable aspect of falling apart mentally down the stretch.”
Dudis pointed to the foul on Latina’s three-pointer late in the half as the turning point.
“We had some undisciplined fouls, like the one 30 feet from the hoop. Going into the half with a two-point lead compared to a one-point deficit is huge.”
Dudis previously served as an assistant for longtime head coach Josh Dinerman, who stepped back this season to spend more time with his family.
The assistant-turned-headman is looking to lead the Terriers back to the postseason after the team missed the tournament a season ago following an elimination loss to Wethersfield in the regular season finale.
“The goal is to make the state tournament. We were trending in the right direction, but this is a hiccup tonight,” added Dudis, who is also the girl’s tennis coach and an assistant football coach, “This was just a bad day and we have to focus as we move forward. This is certainly a good learning experience early on.”
Seniors Justin Fraleigh, Matt Sevigny, and Alex Boutin will play big roles this season. Fraleigh led the team with nine points, all coming in the first half. Sevigny is a confident ball handler on the perimeter and Boutin is a force down low.
Junior Dennis Machial, who scored six, will also be asked to carry a big load this season.
“He’s the best junior leaguer I’ve ever seen,” Dudis said of Machial, who came over from Newington as a freshman, “He’s a guy that will keep his composure and keep playing hard throughout. He’ll rally the other guys and I think he’ll even grow more as a leader as the season goes on.”
Rocky Hill closed the week with an 84-70 loss to a strong Hartford Public team. Next up is a road test this Friday (Jan 17) against RHAM, 6:45 pm.
The Eagles, who next travel to Manchester on Friday, Jan 17 (6:45), will be looking to build on the momentum of the latest victory, which was their second in the past three games.
The team will continue to rely on their backcourt, which has a lot of depth and athleticism with Latina, Luiz, Ruiz, Jack Freitas, and Tanner Slesinski, who added seven points off the bench. Pace is helped in the frontcourt by junior Jake Prunier.
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin