SOMERS, N.Y.— Somers needed a positive push at home on Friday night after dropping its last three contests, each by only three points.
It took every player available Jan. 20, to spin the wheels again for a dramatic 65-64 win over Walter Panas and rights to the top spot in the league standings.
In a back-and-forth affair since the second quarter, junior guard Chris DiCintio launched a jump-pass to junior Lorenzo Bicknese, who canned the game-tying three from the corner with 55 seconds to go in the fourth quarter.
Senior forward Marc Maestri snagged the rebound off a Panas three-point attempt from the corner right before sophomore Lucas Fecci whipped a half-court pass to a wide-open Bicknese for the go-ahead layup with only 23 seconds left to play.
“We realized that we need to pick up the pace to win the league,” Bicknese said. “That’s our goal and we were not doing it without this game.”
Following an exchange of one made free throw per team, Fecci drew a foul but missed the first of his one-and-one opportunity.
Panas point guard Brandon Hodge was fouled as the clock read five seconds. He drained the first free-throw attempt, although the second rolled off the rim into the hands of Maestri, who was fouled just a second later.
The senior missed his initial free-throw attempt and was whistled for a lane violation.
Four seconds remained for the Panthers as Somers called timeout. Hodge raced the ball past half-court before dishing to Stephan Reyes, who netted a corner-three that was released a second too late as the Tuskers prevailed.
“We are a tough team,” associate head coach Moshe Toledano said. “We are mentally tough and preach physicality. They stepped up and played on another level tonight. This win should bring them confidence for the rest of the season.”
From yet another slow start, it appeared that Somers was outmatched since it trailed by as many as 10 points in the first quarter.
It played its signature brand in the second quarter, distributing the ball quickly to outscore Panas 19-9 and scoot within two points at halftime.
“Gio (Tradito) was a big catalyst in the second quarter,” Toledano said. “He was able to get to the basket and was making the correct plays. He really allowed us to stay in the game.”
Somers (8-6) knifed through the Panthers’ zone defense in the second half with a faster-paced offense. It went up five points late in the third quarter when Justin Lancaster made a nifty move in the paint for a layup.
Since then, the revitalized Tuskers had to persevere their way past the speedy Panthers in a game of greater intensity and countless lead changes.
“Last year we were in games like this a lot,” DiCintio said. “But we were inexperienced and unable to close it out. It helped us mature to know what we need to do to win the game.”
They fought hard on the glass without starting forward Jack Gilroy or 6-6 power forward Nick Gargiulo because of injury.
“We’re taking this as a challenge now,” DiCintio said. “We want to win without them and win for them.”
Sharing the rock efficiently, five Somers players scored at least 10 points while Maestri guided it with 15 points, including 10 in the first quarter alone.
The sparkplug Bicknese scored 12 points which included six points on two three-point hits in the fourth quarter.
DiCintio tallied 11 points as both Fecci and junior point guard Gio Tradito racked up 10 points. Kevin Olifiers also stepped up with five points in the group effort.
“The best part about the team is that we are very deep,” Toledano said. “Lucas Fecci came in and was an animal defensively. We never rely on one person. Our philosophy is, ‘Who’s going to step up tonight.’”
Falling to the Brewster Bears, 55-52 last Wednesday, Somers got another big performance from Maestri, who registered 14 points. The red-hot forward has now compiled 45 points through the last three games.
Matt Pires netted nine points while both DiCintio and Bicknese scored seven. Tradito recorded five points as Lancaster and Fecci each had four.
The Tuskers, who are 4-1 in their league, will visit rival John Jay-Cross River for another league contest on Thursday, Jan. 26 at 6 p.m.