SOMERS, N.Y.— It’s been 27 years since Somers won its last league title in boys basketball and coach Chris DiCintio is well aware of it.
DiCintio has made it a clear goal for the Tuskers to claim a league crown and they started off on the right note, rallying for a 57-48 win over visiting Lakeland on Jan. 6, to improve to 2-0 in the league.
“It feels great starting 2-0 [in our league] but we aren’t done yet,” said senior Matt Pires, who led Somers with a game-high 16 points.
Somers trailed 27-23 at halftime, but outscored the Hornets 23-5 in the third quarter to take a commanding 46-32 lead into the fourth.
“We had to change our game plan offensively and defensively,” Somers coach Chris DiCintio said. “We decided to come out in the triangle-and-two to slow up their shooters and then we went to straight man. I thought that really hurt them. On the offensive side, we decided to not play both bigs at the same time and change our game plan more to attack the rim off of spread offense. We got to the rim a little better and it gave us some energy.”
Lorenzo Bicknese started the run by burying a 3-pointer. Pires knocked down two free throws and Jack Gilroy followed with a putback to quickly give Somers a 30-27 lead.
Chris DiCintio Jr. drained a three and Bicknese stole the ball and scored. DiCintio and Marc Maestri nailed back-to-back 3-pointers to stretch Somers’ lead to 43-30 with two minutes left in the third.
“The key to that big third quarter was our defense,” Pires said. “Coach made the adjustment of coming out of zone D into man which gave them a lot of pressure. Playing man gave us more opportunities to push the ball and get easy buckets.”
The Hornets trimmed Somers’ lead to 54-48 with a minute left, but the Tuskers made their free throws down the stretch to hold on.
Trailing by four points at halftime, DiCintio felt his squad was very much in the game after the Hornets were hot from the perimeter in the first half.
“They came out and were hitting shots against our zone,” coach DiCintio said. “Our zone’s been really good the last few games against Sleepy [Hollow] and [Walter] Panas, but tonight Lakeland had the hot hand. [Tim] Fallo caught fire and really lit us up. That being said, we still only gave up the 27 [points] so we felt like we were in it.”
DiCintio and Gilroy each had eight points for the Tuskers. Olifiers added seven points.
The Tuskers featured a balanced attack with eight different players scoring in the second half.
“These kids are all equally talented in the sense of that they’re all capable of scoring, rebounding and playing D,” Coach DiCintio said. “Some days certain guys have it and on other days different guys do. When you have a bunch of kids that are equal in their ability to play, it makes it a little easier for me to try to find the hot hand or two and rotate as necessary.”
Somers defeated host Walter Panas 46-34 in a league game on Jan. 4, behind 19 points from Bicknese.
Nick Gargiulo (eight points), Gilroy (seven) and Maestri (five) also contributed in a win where the Tuskers held the Panthers to just 14 second-half points.
Somers faces Clarkstown North at 5 p.m. in the opening round of Yorktown’s tournament on Friday, Jan. 13. On Jan. 16, the championship game is slated for 5 p.m. with the consolation game at 1 p.m.
“Right now the kids are 2-0 in the league and have won three in a row,” Coach DiCintio said. “Coming off the long fall seasons between football and soccer, we’re 6-3 and we’ll take it. It’s not always pretty but as somebody once told me and I believe it: ‘An ugly win is better than a pretty loss.’ We’ll take it any way that we can get it, but certainly I’m proud of the grind that the kids are showing and their will to compete to the end.”