(Wethersfield's Derek Tenney drives on Rocky Hill's Sean Walsh)
Wethersfield boys’ basketball started 2018 with a loss at Ledyard on Jan 2.
Since that defeat the team has been flawless in a dozen tries.
The Eagles made it twelve straight wins last Thursday night, defeating Rocky Hill 52-35 in front of a packed house at RHHS.
“They’ve been a motivated, unselfish group of kids,” said Wethersfield head coach Brian Fanelli, “There have been times when we’ve made some mistakes, but they set goals and they’ve really work hard to accomplish those goals.”
Mike Mozzicato has been a consistent force the entire season and led all scorers with 21 points, including 10 over the final eight minutes.
“I think it just came together this year. We had a lot of seniors that were returning and we’ve been working hard every day,” Mozzicato said of the winning streak, “We’re sticking together and I think it starts in practice with the leadership.”
Mozzicato and his mates took a while to get warmed up this season and again on Thursday night, falling behind early before a 10-point scoring run and a stifling defense helped provide a 10-4 advantage after the first quarter.
The size and length of Wethersfield’s frontline slowly wore down the scrappy Terriers and the road team led by as many as 20 early in the fourth quarter.
Mozzicato, Jimmy Sullivan, Connor Pace, and Matthew Amoddio give the team plenty of size up front, all standing over 6’2” and all possessing the ability to play inside and out.
“It’s a good problem to have. I’m trying to get them all minutes so they stay fresh and they stay motivated,” Fanelli said of his imposing frontline, “We usually don’t have too much height or size so it’s a luxury for once.”
“I think it scares some teams,” added Mozzicato, “We also have two guards that can score and they’re very good offensive players. They provide a lot of the leadership.”
Mozzicato and Sullivan are two of a half dozen seniors and the duo has developed a special connection, showcasing chemistry on the court from their years of playing together.
“I’ve seen them grow since 7th grade when I had them as middle school students and I watched them develop not only as good basketball players but as really good teammates and good guys to be around. It’s been fun to watch them develop,” Fanelli said of the pair, “Mike has developed through basketball because he’s going to do that next year and Jimmy is going to Virginia on a baseball scholarship so his athleticism compliments Mike’s basketball skills very well.”
Sullivan finished with nine points, while point guard Nicholas Arcata poured in eight and Pace added six.
Amoddio came off the bench to score four, including an athletic tip-in from the right baseline following a Mozzicato miss midway through the third quarter.
“Jimmy is very easy to play with and he can score it just as good as anyone. We have a lot of guys that can score the ball and anyone can score on any given night,” stated Mozzicato, who leads the team in scoring and tied a school-record with 42 points against Windsor in the season-opener.
Mozzicato has assumed a bulk of the scoring load but moving the ball on each and every possession is a given in Wethersfield.
Thursday night seven Eagles broke into the scoring column and, regardless of who has the hot hand, ball movement is a non-negotiable for Fanelli.
“It doesn’t matter because at some point one of those guys is going to be off and it’s up to them to know they aren’t shooting well and they’ve got to do other things like take care of the ball, play defense, and get rebounds. If all the guys share it you never know who is going to score that night and they’re all going to be excited to get it.”
It was the second time that Fanelli and his Eagles beat Rocky Hill this season, also winning 58-41 at WHS for their second win during the current streak.
Thursday’s loss was Rocky Hill’s fifth straight, dropping the home team to 7-10.
Andrew DiMatteo led the Terriers with a dozen points, including five in the final quarter to help narrow the gap to 11 with three minutes to play in regulation, but a layup and a pair of free throws from Mozzicato sealed the deal.
Riley Donovan added eight points, while Will White and Jordan DelMastro scored four points apiece in defeat.
With the tournament around the corner the Terriers have a pair of pivotal games to close the regular season. First they welcome Maloney to town on Fri, Feb 16 for a 6:45 tip and then finish up the regular season at Newington on Tue, Feb 20 at 6:45.
For Wethersfield, the win over the Terriers marked the sixth time in eight games that their defense allowed fewer than 36 points, but there are defensive areas that Fanelli still wants to see improvement.
“On our screen and rolls we have to do a better job at guarding the roller. In the beginning of the game they slipped it a few time and got an easy bucket and we ended up with a foul. We got to make sure that we’re shoring that up and we’re working hard trying to do it. It’s just about getting the kids to do the tough stuff.”
“We’re just rolling right now and everything is going good but defensive wise we can always do better on that side,” added Mozzicato, “Also we could do better handling pressure, we were up 20 and then it started to slip away in the fourth quarter so we have to get better with that. It happened against Southington too but we’ll get it fixed by tournament time.”
It was almost a baker’s dozen for the Eagles but they had their winning streak snapped on Saturday, falling on the road to Glastonbury 67-56. Despite the loss they are still in great shape at 14-3 and are currently tied for the second best record in Division II.
The tourney-bound team will close the regular season with a back-to-back home dates, starting with Bristol Central on Thurs, Feb 15 at 6:45 and ending with New Britain on Tue, Feb 20 at 6:45.
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin