Monthly Archives: December 2017

Western Connecticut scores 100 for the 6th time routing Newbury 118-68

Jancy Sherwood (25 points) hit six three’s against Newbury

Taylor Kelley (24) defends Genesis Torres (23)

(Danbury CT) “This is a whole new way of playing,” WestConn coach Kimberley Rybczyk told me afterwards.  No doubt about it.

Western Connecticut started fast, played everyone in every quarter, and routed Newbury, 118-68, in the opening game of the WCSU Hat City Tournament on Friday night.

During this past off-season, Coach Rybczyk decided to challenge herself and switched to an uptempo style. “I have been coaching twenty-five years and chose to come out of my comfort zone.  I spent the whole summer studying this style of play.”

Today was the sixth time the 6-4 Colonels have gone over one hundred points.

Western Connecticut was a bad matchup for the visiting Newbury Nighthawks.  They have been averaging 64 points per game and even though they passed that number against WCSU they still lost by fifty!

Newbury (5-5) was overwhelmed by the pace and the pressure from the get-go.  During a two-minute stretch in the first quarter a 3-2 game became 15-2.  It went downhill from there.

Coach Kimberley Rybczyk in front of the WestConn bench

One feature of the WestConn style of play was a complete change of players every few minutes.  “I want kids that are part of my program to get their feet out on the floor,” said Coach Rybczyk.  “I told my best players before the season they would play fewer minutes, but they would get twice as many shots and score twice as many points.  When that happened in our first two games, the new style of play was no longer even questioned.”

The steady influx of fresh bodies enabled the Colonels to wear out the Nighthawks in a hurry.

Genesis Torres (23) had seven assists and seven steals

On offense the Colonels ran every time they had the ball.  Later in the game, the speed turned up a steady flow of layups.  Throughout the game, the Colonels got great looks at 3-point shots and drained twenty-one from long range.

Junior Jancy Sherwood led all scorers with twenty-five points including six from beyond the arc.

On defense the Colonels pressured full-court.  The Newbury player inbounding the ball was ignored and the pass in made to be very difficult.  Once the ball was inbounds, a double-team arrived quickly.

In the halfcourt, the Colonels were always looking for places to apply double teams.  Those forty-six Nighthawks miscues tells you how effective WestConn was at it.

Destiny Spears and Jancy Sherwood

Destiny Spears of Newbury may well be the most tired player in Danbury tonight after logging thirty-six minutes.  Destiny finished with a very unusual triple/double: 15 points, 10 rebounds, and 14 turnovers.

The Nighthawks had a shocking forty-six turnovers in tonight’s loss.  The team from Massachusetts was victimized frequently by double teams that led to bad passes.

Jessica Davis of WestConn had a double/double as she put twelve points together with ten rebounds.

The best stat line of the night may have been by Genesis Torres: 15 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists, and 7 steals.  Nice work by the Stratford (CT) sophomore.

The Colonels have yet to make the uptempo style work in the Little East Conference where they are currently 0-2.

Good sportsmanship

Kaitlyn LaBonte (last season’s 2nd highest scorer) is injured but is expected to return soon for WestConn.

“I would rather teach the players how to play rather than plays,” said Coach Rybczyk.  “I got tired of teaching kids sets.  I want to teach them how to read, how to react.”

“We are early in on this system,” she added.  “We have plenty to work on.”

Western Connecticut moves on to the finals on Saturday.  Newbury gets the consolation game.

Box from the game

(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)

Jessica Davis (12 points, 10 rebounds)

Jancy Sherwood sets to draw a charge

Megan Hasty (22) had six assists

Emma Belcourt (13 points)

Asiah Knight (12) had eleven rebounds

Tashai Price in for two

Faith Thurmond shoots in traffic




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Pomperaug starts fast and wins Three’s for Charity Tournament 47-35 over Newtown

Tourney MVP Maggie Lee was 12-for-12 from the foul line

Ally McCormack and Karli Opalka with championship plaque

(Newtown CT) Newtown dug themselves a huge hole in the first half and never fully recovered, losing 47-35 to Pomperaug in the finals of the 3’s for Charity tournament on Thursday night.

Pomperaug (5-0) continues undefeated while Newtown (4-1) suffers its first loss.

Minus injured point guard Rylee Mulligan, the Hawks went scoreless for over nine minutes of the first half while the Panthers collected fifteen unanswered points. The 17-2 deficit early in the second period was the cushion Pomperaug needed to ride out comeback attempts by Newtown in the second half.

“It was a tale of two halves,” explained NHS coach Jeremy O’Connell afterwards.  “Pomperaug is loaded with talent.  If you get down to them early it’s a tough hill to climb.”

Ally McCormack passes from the floor as Jackie Matthews defends

The Hawks did get within eight a couple of times in the second half, the last time being 39-31 with two minutes left.  From there on in tourney MVP Maggie Lee clinched the outcome by answering every NHS possession with free throws.

Maggie was a remarkable 12-for-12 from the line and ended up with nineteen points to lead all scorers.

“Maggie shot poorly yesterday (against Cromwell) and she went to the gym early today and got 100 shots off,” said PHS coach Joe Fortier.  “We knew if we could get the ball into her hands she’d knock down the foul shots.”

Not having senior Rylee Mulligan was crucial to the outcome.  Rylee was a unanimous, all-league, first-team point guard for Newtown.

“Not having her available was probably a big reason for their start in this game,” added Coach Fortier.  “Hopefully she gets healthy and back on the floor.  She’s a great kid.”

Not only were the Hawks scoreless during nine minutes of the first half but they also had seven turnovers.

Karli Opalka and Claudine Legato (13 points)

Claudine Legato finished with thirteen points including four 3-pointers.  “They may have been overplaying Kayli (Opalka) and that gave Claudine some openings,” said Coach Fortier.

It would certainly make sense to overplay Kayli.  The six-foot senior already has over 1000 points and 1000 rebounds.

I was entertained by the matchup of sophomore guards Cyleigh Wilson and Maddie Villa.  They were tireless and handled the ball well.  “They are good friends off the court,” added Coach Fortier.

I was impressed with the defensive work of Jackie Matthews.  “She’s our best defender,” said Coach O’Connell.

Last February 11th, Newtown defeated Pomperaug, 47-45.  Nicki DaPra (16) and Rylee Mulligan (13) keyed the win for the Hawks.  Coach Fortier with a career 135 wins and 40 losses hasn’t forgotten that game. “The losses always stay with you,” he said.

The Panthers have everyone back from a team that was 18-6 last year and reached the Class L state semifinals.  They could be in line for another strong post-season run.

Rylee Mulligan could be back for Newtown’s next game which is a week from Saturday. “She has missed 2 ½ games and we’re taking it slow with her,” added Coach O’Connell.

Pomperaug box

Newtown box

(All of the pictures will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)

Sophomores Maddie Villa (35) and Cyleigh Wilson (10)

Amy Sapenter surrounded by Panthers

Ally McCormack

Jackie Matthews

Nicki DaPra and Megan Todhunter

One of Newtown’s twelve turnovers

Carolina Stubbs fronts Karli Opalka

Karli Opalka spins for two

Scramble on the floor

Karli Opalka in close

Maggie Lee with MVP plaque

Newtown coach Jeremy O’Connell raises a concern





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Newburyport turns fast start into 58-41 win over Ipswich

Anna Hickman (15 points) had thirteen points early to get Newburyport off to a great start

Krysta Padellaro (15 points) ahead of the Tigers for a layup

(Newburyport MA) Wait until they’ve been together for a while!

Newburyport (2-0) put their lack of full-team practice time behind them and defeated Ipswich, 58-41, on Tuesday night in Cape Ann League action.

“Yesterday (Monday) was the first day where we have had the whole team at a practice,” explained Clippers coach Gregg Dollas afterwards.

The lack of practice time together didn’t seem to faze the Clippers (2-0) in the early going against the Tigers (1-1).  The home team ran fifteen straight points in the first quarter and Ipswich never recovered.

NHS was a marvel at both ends of the court for the first 9+ minutes and sailed to a 26-4 advantage.

Extra passes were made, and shots were falling.  Junior Anna Hickman had three 3’s to key the fast Newburyport start.

At the other end, Newburyport jumped into passing lanes and created ten Ipswich turnovers in those same 9+ minutes.

Katherine Noftall (25 points) pressured by Maggie Pons

A rout in the making?  Not so fast.

Newburyport still had a nice lead (30-9) with five minutes to go in the second quarter but the rest of that quarter was all Ipswich as they finished on a 14-1 run.

The scoring combo of freshman Riley Daly and junior Catherine Noftall put up the points for the Tigers bringing the visitors to 31-23 at the half.

“In the second half we passed, moved, and cut more and got open shots, and they were falling,” said Coach Dollos of his team’s play.

Senior Krysta Padellaro (15 points) initiated Newburyport’s second-half separation with six unanswered points. Krysta had assists from Paige Gouldthorpe and Katie Hadden on two of her baskets.

Now up by fourteen (39-25), NHS put the game out of reach from long range.  Sophomore Sammy Cavanaugh turned two feeds from Katie Hadden into 3-pointers in two straight possessions and then assisted Paige Gouldthorpe on yet another long-range shot.  That collection of accuracy stretched the Clippers advantage to 48-29 with two minutes left in the third quarter.

“Sammy Cavanaugh’s three’s were crucial,” said Coach Dollos.  “They gave us separation for good.”

Junior Katherine Noftall (25 points) had a 16-point first half to give Ipswich a chance.

Katherine Noftall defended by Paige Gouldthorpe

“Paige Gouldthorpe did a good job on #13 (Katherine Noftall) in the second half,” added Coach Dollos.  “She also shut down a North Reading shooter in the second half of our first game.  Paige is starting to make a defensive name for herself.”

Impressed by the passing of Katie Hadden.  Unofficially, I had her for six assists.

When things were going well for Newburyport, almost every player would touch the ball during a possession and open shots turned up.

The Newburyport pressure didn’t seem to bother Ipswich.  The Tigers’ trouble was in the half-court. Many of their twenty-one turnovers were off poor passes.

Ipswich freshman point guard Riley Daly had some good moments.  She handled the pressure nicely.

The Tigers will play this season without last year’s top scorer and rebounder, Anna Davis.

Riley Daly (32) leads a break

Newburyport has now defeated Ipswich three straight times.

Krysta Padellaro had nineteen points in the Clippers opening-game win over North Reading.

Any game involving Ipswich is  special to me.  Why?  I taught there thirty-seven years and there are always folks in the crowd that I knew back in the (long ago) day.

Newburyport box

Ipswich box

(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)

Riley Daly and Krysta Padellaro

Katherine Noftall made three 3’s for Ipswich

Maggie Pons about to pass

Paige Gouldthorpe eyes the hoop

Katie Hadden (11) had six assists. Here she draws contact.

Paige Gouldthorpe, defended by Cate Phypers, looks to pass

Abi Gillingham and Deidre O’Flynn


Sadie Vandenberg

Katherine Noftall




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Hamilton-Wenham holds off energetic Amesbury 50-46

Jake Lanciani (18 points) guarded by Chris Chabot

Amesbury was scrappy all game long

(Amesbury MA) “We didn’t deserve that one,” said HW coach Michael DiMarino after the season opener for both squads.

And who would disagree.

Amesbury, without a starter back, looked to be a mismatch against the Generals with several starters back off a 17-4 team last season.

What the Indians lacked in finesse, however, they made up for in hustle and aggressive man-to-man defense.

“You can’t ask for much more than the kids gave tonight,” explained AHS coach Tom Comeau.  “They (HW) have been very good in recent years.  They’re all seniors and they expect to win and go deep in the tournament.  Yet we had a shot to tie them at the end in our first game with no returning starters.”

Chris Chabot shoots for the tie in the closing seconds

This game did come down to the closing seconds as Amesbury, trailing by three, had two chances in the closing seconds to reach overtime.  Both of Chris Chabot’s hurried three-point attempts missed the mark.

There were eight lead changes and six ties along the way.  Separation was impossible because every shot was challenged, and accuracy suffered big-time.

Amesbury had the lead (44-42) with three minutes left before foul trouble, and clutch HW shooting, did them in.  Both of the Sydlowski twins (John and Billy) fouled out in the first minute of the final three minutes.  They were Amesbury’s top scorers.

The fouls on the Sydlowski’s gave HW four free throws and seniors James Lustig and Jake Lanciani made three of them to give the visitors the lead for good, 45-44, with 2:03 remaining.

Plenty of time for Amesbury, but a steal by Cam Peach set up James Lustig for an accurate top-of-the-key three with 1:38 to go.

Block or foul late in the game. Called a foul by the officials.

Later, a free throw by Jake Lanciani, after a controversial block/foul call, stretched the HW lead to 49-46. When Chris Chabot’s 3-point attempts misfired the win belonged to the Generals.

James Lustig (11 points) breaks between Chris Chabot and Austin Hallisey

“James (Lustig) is a senior captain,” said Coach Dimarino.  “He is a three-year starter.  That 3-point shot late was huge.”

James finished with eleven points despite spending much of the game on the bench in foul trouble.  His only field goal was the decisive three in crunch time.

If you had to list just one key to the HW victory, it was their trapping defense.  “Their defense is stifling,” agreed Coach Comeau.  “Their whole scheme is built around it.”  Put five non-starters from a year ago on the floor against it in their first game and bad things can happen and they did for the Indians.

HW pressure caused thirty Amesbury turnovers

I keep track of turnovers because they often lead to easy baskets and wasted possessions.  Amesbury, and this is not a typo, had THIRTY turnovers.  HW had just thirteen.  That’s why is was a marvel that Amesbury made such a good game of it.

“We made some adjustments in our trapping defense at halftime, “said Coach DiMarino.  “We were having trouble scoring and hoped for some easy baskets.”  Those adjustments were golden as the home team has possession miscues thirteen times in the third period alone and HW collected fifteen points while holding AHS to seven.

But even with the turnover disparity AHS hung in.  How did they do it?  If Amesbury had trouble taking care of the ball, Hamilton-Wenham had trouble at the foul line.  HW missed THIRTEEN free throws including the front end of three one-and-one’s.

The Generals led 41-35 after three periods, and then missed seven of their next eight free throws.  AHS said “Thank you” and ran seven straight unanswered points to take the lead.

Cam Grinnell (13 points) caught everyone napping after he missed a first-half free throw

Surprise play of the game?  With less than two minutes left in the first half, Cam Grinnell (13 points) was at the line shooting one–and-one, BUT he was the only one who knew it was a one-and-one.  Cam missed the first free throw and no one reacted so he picked the rebound off the floor and got a layup.  Later in that same quarter the senior pulled in a rebound and nailed a fadeaway at the halftime buzzer.

The Boston Herald chose Hamilton-Wenham to finish 4th in Division 3 North.  James Lustig and Billy Whelan were listed as players to watch.

Billy Whelan is still recovering from a collarbone injury suffered in a football playoff game.

I asked Coach Dimarino when Billy would be back: “Not soon enough,” he answered.

Hamilton-Wenham box

Amesbury box

(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge if you click on them.)

Cole Dwyer (33) and Zach Labrecque battle for position

Sophomore Jaden Keliher (15) shadowed Jake Lanciani

Noah Lynch

Billy Sydlowski (10 points) takes off after a steal

John Sydlowski (5) heads for the basket

Zach Labrecque (22) on the move

Alex Renaud chases a loose ball

John Sydlowski (5) had eleven points for Amesbury






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Quarterback Evan Gwozdz guides Middleboro to 43-20 Division 6 title over Littleton

Nothing but end zone ahead for Evan Gwozdz (12). He passed for four TDs and ran for two others.

Jeremy Soule had 102 yards on twelve carries

(Foxboro MA) I guess I’ll never know.

Know what?  Who the punters were for Middleboro and Littleton.

No need of them as the two Division Six finalists vied for the 2017 football state championship in the “sunrise” game at Gillette Stadium on Saturday morning.

Tons of offense (628 yards between the two of them) but it was the point-producing offense of Middleboro that carried them to a 43-20 title.

Evan Gwozdz was the star of the show for the Sachems (10-3).  The 5-8 senior passed for four TDs and ran for two others.

Unlike his number-sake (TB12 of the Patriots), however, Evan also showed up in one of my pictures in the “good hands” section of Middleboro’s kickoff return team.  No surprise on this day, Evan recovered the onsides kick!

Luke Elliott (with ball) gets first Littleton score

Anyone sitting through the first quarter of this game might not have been certain that Middleboro would even win it.  Why?  Littleton (11-1) controlled over 90% of that quarter (20 plays) and had the only points on the board.

Harrison LaPierre snuffed out Brad Klock’s two-point conversion attempt.

When Middleboro finally did get a chance on offense they quickly showed that they would be a handful to defend.

“We like to get the ball to the perimeter and we are fast,” said MHS coach Paul Kingman afterwards.  You put a fast team on the extremely fast surface at Gillette and containment will be tough.

The key to Middleboro’s answering touchdown early in the 2nd quarter was a remarkable 4th-and-4 scramble by QB Evan Grozdz.  Evan rolled left and was being dropped by Kevin Frisoli when he spotted, and connected with, Colin O’Brien.  “He (Colin) broke off his route when he saw me scrambling,” said Evan.  “We practice that a lot.”

The strategy of Middleboro was to let the Littleton defense determine their attack.  “If they (Littleton) were going to shut down Jeremy (Soule) we would pass and if they defended the pass we would run Jeremy,” explained Evan.

Pass catchers from left to right – Davis Riendeau, Colin O’Brien, Harry LaPierre, and Matthew Crowley

That strategy worked to perfection in the final three quarters.  Jeremy Soule collected 102 yards on 12 carries while there were fifteen catches, and four touchdowns, among five Middleboro receivers.

It was one of those days in which, after the first quarter, Littleton was competitive but not able to neutralize the Sachems on either side of the ball.

I thought that Littleton, after the first quarter TD, would always be able to put long marches together and answer Middleboro TDs.  But that Middleboro quickness on offense showed up on defense too.

Evan Gwozdz (with ball) looks for an opening

There was a remarkable turnout of Middleboro support. That will happen when a town realizes that a thirty-four year football state championship drought could end.

Evan Gwozdz (15-for-17) had two incompletions.  One was a spike to stop the clock and the other was a prayer at the very end of the first half.

Those three onsides kicks by Littleton in the second half not only failed but they gave the quick-scoring Sachems half a field to work with each time.  I know, that’s second guessing of the highest order.

Mitch Beaudoin (8) versus Harry LaPierre

One of the luxuries of doing a game at Gillette is that you get to see instant replays.  A couple of decisions by officials drew some serious groans from each team.  One time, Littleton was assessed a penalty for a sideline’s hit.  The replay showed that there was hardly contact.  Another time, Middleboro had an interception denied when the replay suggested otherwise.

Turned out to be an excellent day for December football in Massachusetts.

Middleboro coach Pat Kingman: “Evan Gwozdz was the best player in the South Shore League and he’s an even better person than he is a quarterback.”

A win by Littleton would have enabled them to be the first Central Mass team to win two state championships.

Harry LaPierre

Coach Kingman: “Harry LaPierre has been our best defensive player all year.”

Evan Gwozdz: “We knew that they would score.  We didn’t let it get us down because we knew that we could score too.”

Colin O’Brien’s two touchdowns give him twelve for the season.

Evan Gwozdz finished this season with sixteen rushing touchdowns and twenty-two passing touchdowns.  Amazing numbers!

Second guessing that didn’t materialize was over Coach Kingman’s decision to rest all his starters against Carver on Thanksgiving Day and take a loss versus Carver.

Today was Littleton’s third trip to Gillette in the past five years.

Middleboro’s Pat Kingman has had the Sachems in the playoffs the last four seasons.

Middleboro’s three previous state championships were in 1983, 1978, and 1977.

In the state semifinal game, Jeremy Soule had seventy-six yards on his first touch and totaled 246 yards in 13 carries including two touchdowns.

Colin O’Brien (7) runs under a perfect pass for a first-half TD

Littleton won their last state title in 2013.  They were undefeated in 1967, 1968, and 2013.

The Tigers are in the Midland-Wachusett League.

Middleboro opted for a trick play after their sixth touchdown.  Evan Gwozdz was the holder and Brandon Buote was the kicker.  Instead of holding the ball, Evan flipped the ball over his head to Brandon who swept right to gain two points.

This was my first time in Gillette.  Just the size of the complex is remarkable.  Trying to find my way around was an adventure but I managed.  I was well treated and well fed.  Their after-game stat sheet is a Godsend.

Final stats

(Clicking on the pictures will enlarge them considerably.)

Championship banner

Matthew Crowley

Anthony Silvestro

Brandon Buote

Kicker Brandon Buote (17) gets a 2-point conversion

Littleton QB Will Scott

Evan Gwozdz (12) faces an onsides kick………and recovers it.

Davis Riendeau (3) gets to the end zone

Mitchell Crory (11) sends Jeremy Soule flying and saves a touchdown

Evan Gwozdz (12) congratulates Harry LaPierre after a touchdown

Harry LaPierre (11) eyes the last Littleton defender Evan Lyons (3)

Loose ball

Matthew Crowley (24) intercepts

Battle in the air between Colin O’Brien (7) and Kerr Boyle (6)

Jackson Ellis

Colin O’Brien (7) takes a swing pass from Evan Gwozdz (12)

Jeremy Soule (34) uses a good block from Robert Nestor (62)

Colin O’Brien (7) gets first Middleboro touchdown



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