On Thursday night, the Masuk boys basketball team faced off against the New Fairfield Rebels at home. Masuk Coach Pete Sklarz assembled his 7-7 crew to face off against the equal-record 7-7 New Fairfield Rebels in what would come to be a one-sided affair.
The Panthers got on the board early as Junior Matt Domenichelli won the tip-off. This gave a chance for the team to drive down to their side of the court where Sophomore Stephen Sentementes made an easy mid-range shot for two to draw first blood.
Masuk defense was strong right from the get-go, preventing the Rebels from scoring a single point within their first five drives downcourt. Later on, Greg Nivison would hit a corner three-pointer to extend the Panthers’ lead to 7-0.
On top of the strong defense from Masuk, the Rebels struggled early on to get the ball in the hoop. They caused many turnovers on their side of the court which enabled the Panthers to drive back down the court and score. This allowed them to run up a major lead early. New Fairfield only broke through when one of their players was fouled. He made both shots on the line to get on board with two.
The Panthers leveled off a little in quarter two. Going in, they held a strong 24-10 lead. However, their offense got behind a little and the defense was not as solid as it was earlier. New Fairfield found their groove and they started racking up the points. By the time quarter two ended, Masuk was only leading by three.
The second half of the game was electric. Roars and cheers filled the gym from parents and students as the Rebels gave up three nearly sequential breakaway drives. Tyler Newsom took the wheel in the first two, throwing down massive dunks that had the student section and the rest of the bench on their feet in celebration.
“I’m just excited for my team, we played really well together,” Newsom noted. “They got the big stops that led up to those points.”
Following him would be Nivison who snagged the ball and took it down the court for an easy layup, extending the Panther’s lead 32-21.
Throughout the night, the team all played like one. Everyone helped everyone else and they all made big plays. After making the game’s first shot, Sentementes settled in for seven points. Nivison matched with seven of his own. Domenichelli was clutch underneath the hoop with eight and one block. Junior Colin Francisco was heating up a little as well. He brought in eight points including two spectacular three-pointers. Like Domenichelli, Owen Smith also helped out from under the basket with four points of his own. Newsom had yet another stellar game, notching 28 points and three blocks. Rounding out the team, Ethan Palma, Alex Simoulidis, and Oliver Irving all contributed two each. Simoulidis did his in fashion, driving up under the hoop and making a shifty reversal layup.
The Panthers would close the game in fashion, torching the Rebels 68-54. Coach Sklarz and his guys prepped hard for this game. They knew they were gonna have to give themselves as many looks as possible, and that meant working fouls to take free throws as well.
“We wanted to come in and really run some offense and get some good looks,” Sklarz affirmed. “We definitely got some good looks and got the ball inside, and we were able to get to the foul line early.”
With a similar record everyone could expect a close game, and now having scouting reports means teams can know what they have to work on each week going into the next game. Newsom experienced the full brunt of that when New Fairfield started to double and even triple-team him to prevent him from scoring.
“I mean it’s part of the game. It’s just something to adjust to,” Newsom added. “My teammates adapted well, they found me, and that’s how I got my scoring opportunities.”
One thing Masuk does especially well is control the tempo of the game. With a commanding lead most of the game, it makes it a little easier to do. Changing pace throughout is a fantastic way to throw off an opponent. Masuk came out smoother and slower with zone defense early. When they realized their position they took charge in an effort to fully close the door on the Rebels by switching to full-court man defense once the second half kicked off.
With another opponent down and everyone’s mind focused on the next game. Coach Sklarz and the team study up and get in their reps to be ready for next time.