GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

January 2, 2013

Running the Floor: How Rockport has turned into a contender in the CAL

Running the Floor
Nick Curcuru

---- — The Rockport boys basketball walked off the floor at Rockport High last Friday a happy team.

The Vikings had just blown a close game wide open in the second half against Ipswich, finishing with a 15 point win and leading by as much as 20 points late in the fourth quarter. It was a vintage Rockport performance, non stop hustle, non stop hassle of the opposing offense and great execution.

If the Cape Ann League Small hadn’t taken notice of the Vikings yet, it sure did after last Friday’s beatdown. With the win over Ipswich, Rockport sports a perfect 4-0 record on the young season. More importantly, however, is its 3-0 mark against CAL Small competition.

It may be early in the season, but it’s already evident that things have turned around in Rockport. A team that won a single game last season (none in Cape Ann League play) with no seniors on the roster has turned into a veteran team that stands atop the CAL Small and will be fighting for sole possession of first place in the league on Friday when Lynnfield comes to visit Rockport High (6:30 p.m.).

It looks like the Vikings are here to stay, but how did they turn it around so quickly? The answer has many layers.

“I think that the biggest thing with this team is that it’s one year older,” head coach Tim St. Laurent said. “We went through growing pains last year and learned a lot from the mistakes we made. We learned from the different schemes that opposing teams used against us in the past and we haven’t allowed teams to beat us with those schemes again.”

Rockport isn’t just a year older and wiser, it’s also more confident. Watching the Vikings on the floor it’s evident that each player not only has confidence in what he’s doing, but what his teammates are doing as well.

That confidence comes from the players knowing their roles. Whether it be Shaun Aspesi, Adam Balzarini or Tucker Meredith shouldering the scoring load; Nick Scatterday being the floor general and running the point; Conor Kuykendall doing the dirty work in the greasy areas of the floor; or Caleb Tanson, Billy Chalmers and Mike McCarthy coming off the bench to provide a spark, the Vikings know and are confident playing their roles.

“Everybody knows their role and everybody is focused on the team not the individual,” said Meredith, a senior captain averaging 14 points per game on the season. “We have great chemistry and we know each role is equally important. We took our lumps last year but we are a different team this year.”

Because of the team’s role recognition, the Vikings have been productive on both ends of the floor.

On the offensive end the team can shoot from beyond the arc and slash to the basket. Defensively Rockport has given teams fit with its in your face, aggressive full court press.

That well executed full court press is where the experience factor ties back in. St. Laurent could not run the intricate defensive system last season given the team’s youth. But this season Rockport has embraced that style, and it has the athleticism and conditioning to not let up on opponents when it has them on the ropes.

The Vikings depth has allowed them to press with regularity and has also allowed them to grow stronger as the game wears on.

“Good teams play for 32 minutes and we have done a good job playing our style for 32 minutes,” St. Laurent said. “We challenge teams to keep up with us for four quarters. We have started slowly a few times but because of our depth and athleticism we can keep it up for four quarters and wear teams down.

Against Georgetown we had a slow start and could have folded but we went out and played great in the fourth. Against North Shore we played a poor first half but stuck with the plan and allowed just three points in the third quarter. Manchester Essex and Ipswich games were the same, we calmed ourselves down and executed. We were able to close and that’s what good teams do. We weren’t able to do that last year but the kids have developed confidence and really believe in the team environment.”

St. Laurent was quick to praise the play of his bench this season citing that opponents have not been able to handle their pressure when the bench comes into the game. He also cited the play of Scatterday and Kuykendall, who have done the little things that don’t necessarily gain the most recognition.

He also praised his team’s work in the offseason.

“This didn’t start on the first day of practice,” St. Laurent said. “These kids worked really hard in the offseason. Some play other sports in other seasons and some play year round basketball, but all of them kept themselves in shape and came into the season ready to go and ready to work.”

It’s amazing to see that Rockport will be playing for CAL Small supremacy Friday a year after being shutout in Cape Ann League play. But while watching them play it’s easy to see why this team is 4-0.

With the work ethic to match its talent and a relentless style of play that can give even the best teams fits, Rockport is here to stay, and opponents better be ready for the onslaught or they will be left behind in a hurry.

Boys Name School PPG 1. Shaun Aspesi Rockport 18.5 2. Adam Balzarini Rockport 14.8 3. Taylor Ketchum Man. Esx. 14.0 4. Tucker Meredith Rockport 14.0 5. Liam Aldrich Man. Esx. 13.6 Girls Name School PPG 1. Sophie Black Gloucester 15.5 2. Heather MacArthur Rockport 9.6 3. Julianna Costanzo Gloucester8.5 4. Sydney Christopher Man. Esx. 7.8 5. Kayla Parisi Rockport 6.8