By Nick Curcuru
---- — MANCHESTER — The Manchester Essex boys basketball team came into Monday’s Cape Ann League crossover tilt with Triton knowing two things.
The Hornets knew the Vikings would come out and play aggressive man-to-man defense, and they also knew they had a size advantage over their CAL Large counterparts.
As it turns out Manchester Essex used its size differential and Triton’s aggressive defense to its advantage working the ball inside for easy buckets en route to a 55-35 win. With the win the Hornets improve to 6-4 on the season and have won six of their last seven games.
The Hornets two tallest players, Taylor Ketchum and Sean Gutierrez, has big games inside Monday with 18 and 12 points respectively, all but four of those points (a Ketchum three pointer and free throw) came in the paint.
“We know they like to get out, pressure and play aggressive defense and we drew up some back court cuts and took the ball to the basket,” Hornets head coach Bryan Shields said. “Sean was unbelievable in the post all night, he battled hard and we found him inside.”
The Hornets opened up a lead right from the opening tip thanks to their ability to take the ball to the basket. Whether it was in transition or in the half court Manchester Essex was getting to the rim at will.
The Hornets shot 60% from the field in the first quarter (9-15) thanks to their ability to get to the hoop for easy baskets opening up an 18-11 lead after one quarter.
Triton, however, battled its way back into the game slowing the Hornets down a bit cutting the lead to five (26-21) at the break.
But the Hornets put them away in the third quarter. With both teams struggling from the field Manchester Essex was able to extend its lead to 15 points (38-23) at the end of the frame. While Manchester Essex scored just 12 points in the frame, Triton shot a brutal 1-15 from the field in the third missing its final 12 shots and let the game slip away from them.
“We got a little tired in the middle of the game but we got some guys in off the bench and they did a great job defending,” Shields said. “We were able to refocus and take control after that. It’s nice to have plenty of senior leaders on the floor to settle us down and get us some good looks.”
The Hornets turned their 12-2 run to open the second half into a 19-4 run that culminated in a Liam Aldrich three pointer and a Petey Morton three to extend the lead to 47-27 and essentially sealing Triton’s fate.
The Vikings, who fall to 5-5 with the loss, did a solid job keeping Manchester Essex off the perimeter, which is usually its strength. The Hornets two leading scorers Max Nesbit and Aldrich scored six points each but both got into the lane and were able to kick it out to teammates or pounded the rock inside to Gutierrez and Ketchum, who had 11 rebounds to go with his 18 points.
At 6-4, Manchester Essex is hitting its stride at the right time as the team enters the toughest stretch of its schedule playing the CAL Large and Cathedral, the Division 4 South champs and state runner up last winter, tonight on the road (7:00 p.m.)
“We are entering the meat of our schedule right now and its nice to be playing good basketball heading into it,” Shields said. “Cathedral is a tough team, we know we are going to have our hands full.”
Manchester Essex 55, Triton 35
at Manchester Essex High School, Manchester
T: Connor Barry 4-2-10, Zak Aloui 4-0-9, Paul Dacy 3-0-7, Sam McKenzie 2-2-6, Nick Cornoni 1-1-3.
ME: Taylor Ketchum 8-1-18, Sean Gutierrez 6-0-12, Petey Morton 4-0-9, Max Nesbit 2-2-6, Liam Aldrich 2-0-6, Josh Christopher 0-2-2, Dylan Estes 1-0-2.
3-Pointers: T, Aloui, Dacy; ME, Ketchum, Morton, Aldrich 2.
Halftime: ME, 26-21.
Records: T, 5-5; ME, 6-4.