MAHOPAC, N.Y. — Coming into the season, Somers featured seven sophomores on the roster and added one to make it eight shortly after the season started.
The Tuskers displayed confidence and ability, but lacked varsity experience and struggled out of the gate.
But now they’re coming of age.
Somers stunned host Mahopac 58-52 on the road on Jan. 8 and earned their first road victory over the Indians in recent memory before a packed crowd. It was also the Tuskers’ second straight win after beating Brewster the previous night.
“We’re finally getting some offense going,” gritty junior Matt Pires said. “Our defense is key, but our offense has been better and we’re doing good. Coach has been telling us how we’re young and stuff, and how we’re strong and have to be physical. We just did that tonight.”
Pires, who finished with a game-high 20 points, nailed a 3-pointer with less than two minutes remaining, but Aidan Hynes answered for Mahopac on the other end and Somers was clinging to a 54-52 lead.
“Mattie Pie brought it today and the whole team played well,” sophomore center Nick Gargiulo said. “We won yesterday and we wanted to make it two in a row. That’s pretty much what we came out with.”
Somers was in the double bonus early in the fourth quarter and made Mahopac pay for its foul woes. Pires made 1 of 2 with a minute left and lone senior Reid Killeen (11 points) knocked down another free throw with 30 seconds remaining to stretch the lead to 56-52.
“We cut down on turnovers and just played smart overall,” Killeen said of closing out the win. “We boxed out more in the second half, which was key. We didn’t let them get any more second-chance points.”
Junior Marc Maestri added the cherry on top of the win after his fastbreak layup extended the lead to six points.
After a Ryan Vitkus buzzer beater, Somers trailed 31-25 at halftime, but the third quarter was a different story. Somers stormed out of halftime on an 8-0 run to go up 33-31.
“Coach just said, ‘Look, you’re better than these guys and they’re just outplaying you right now; they’re outworking you,’” Killeen said of the halftime speech by Somers coach Chris DiCintio. “You have to go out there and play harder than them.”
And they did just that.
“Coach told us we played soft (in the first half),” Gargiulo said. “He said we had to pick up the intensity, so that’s what we did. We came out, got a couple quick baskets and it helped us a lot.”
The Tuskers exhibited their trademark tenacious defense throughout the game and also dominated the glass on both ends of the court.
“We’ve just got to find the open areas and outwork the other guys,” Killeen said of the key to controlling the boards.
“All of my teammates are on the boards too,” Gargiulo added. “They open it up for me and I just executed what I could.”
Late in the third quarter, Pires piled onto the lead with a three and Maestri hit two free throws to extend the lead to 41-35. Somers held a 43-39 lead after three quarters.
“We were hitting our free throws and playing great D,” Pires said of the second-half surge. “We’re known for our D. In the first half we weren’t really doing it, but in the second half we really got it done.”
Gargiulo added 10 points and gobbled up plenty of rebounds, while fellow sophomore Lorenzo Bicknese added nine points.
Somers (3-7) bested visiting Brewster 49-37 on Jan. 7 to get on track. Pires and Bicknese each had 10 points, while Killeen added seven.
The Tuskers fell to Fox Lane 55-24 on Jan. 5. Pires paced the team with eight points.
Somers has a busy week as the Tuskers will host Horace Greeley at 6:45 p.m. on Jan. 15, travel to Yorktown where they will take on the Huskers at 7 p.m. in the opening round of their tournament the next night and participate in either the championship game at 7 p.m. or consolation at 3 p.m. on Jan. 18.