By Conor Walsh
---- — GLOUCESTER — The rebuilding process for any program won’t be completed overnight.
For the Gloucester boys basketball team, this week proved that.
While the Fishermen have greatly improved from their one-win campaign a year ago and entered this week at 3-5, there’s still plenty of work to be done. Last night’s 52-41 loss to Lynn Classical, the Fishermen’s fourth-straight loss, proved just that.
But for a young team like Gloucester, there’s plenty to take from a lopsided loss.
“It’s not demoralizing at all,” Gloucester coach Bill Cahill said. “It’s good experience for the young kids. We want to get better, day by day. We’re playing the iron of the league and hopefully the kids learn from it. It’s tough playing against the better teams. They’re physically better than us, they’re older than us, they’re stronger than us. We played hard, just can’t execute at the right time. We missed a lot of easy shots and we’ve just got to learn from it.”
Last night’s game capped off a trying week for the Fishermen, who also fell to the defending Division 3 State Champions, Danvers, on Monday and Revere on Wednesday.
Add in the Rams (7-5), who despite their record carry some of the most talent in the NEC, and it was the kind of week that makes the coach of a young team cringe when schedules are revealed.
It was clear from the beginning of last night’s game that Gloucester was facing an uphill climb. Nowhere was that more evident than on the offensive end, where the Fishermen managed just 10 first half points — six fewer points than they had turnovers before halftime.
With athletic big men Phillip Rogers (17 points) and Eraldo Custudio (13 points, 10 rebounds), the Rams were able to overpower Gloucester.
Despite that, though, the effort was there. Gloucester challenged the Rams with a 2-3 zone for much of the night, and when they were able to limit Lynn Classical’s transition game, the Fishermen were able to force turnovers and ugly shots.
That defense kept Gloucester in it through much of the third quarter, as the Fishermen were able to keep the game within 10 points until Rams guard Jorge Perez hit 3-pointers on consecutive possessions, one resulting in a four-point play, to break Gloucester’s back.
As each coach emptied his bench as the fourth quarter wound down, Gloucester chipped away at the Lynn Classical lead to help make the final score deceptively close. The game had long since been decided.
“They played good defense,” Cahill said. “We just hit a cold streak there early and we got behind and were playing catch-up. Defense is there and the kids work hard, they try. We’re just young.”
These kinds of games are invaluable for young squads such as Gloucester. With players like junior Connor Adkins (team-high 10 points) and sophomores Devon Murray (eight points), Andrew Muniz and Jeff Oliveria playing quality minutes against a quality opponent, they’ve gained the kind of experience that will likely help Gloucester continue its turnaround over the rest of this season and beyond.
For now, though, the Fishermen are still looking for more than just experience. At 3-8, their tournament hopes may be fading. But after tough games with Beverly and Lynn English next week, the schedule lightens up for them.
At that point, Cahill hopes, they can start to reap the benefits of a trying schedule.
“We just have to stay positive,” Cahill said. “We lose to Danvers, they’re one of the best teams. (Lynn Classical) is good. Even Revere is good. If we keep playing hard, we’re going to improve. You saw it tonight: We missed a lot of easy shots and that’s just confidence. They came out and were a little intimidated, but once we got our juices flowing we played a much better second half.”