GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

January 26, 2013

Vikings struggle early in seventh straight defeat

By Nick Curcuru
Sports Editor

---- — ROCKPORT-- For three quarters Friday night the Rockport and Pentucket boys basketball teams turned in an evenly played, back and forth battle.

Unfortunately for the Vikings, however, they struggled to get into a groove offensively out of the gate. As a result Pentucket broke out to a 10 point first quarter lead and held onto it the entire way en route to a 67-55 win at Rockport High School.

The loss is Rockport’s seventh straight after starting the season 4-0, Pentucket improves to 4-8.

“We just couldn’t find an offensive rhythm,” Rockport head coach Tim St. Laurent said. “I thought we hustled, we played at the tempo we wanted to and we defended, we just couldn’t break out of that early hole.”

The Vikings started things off stone cold from the field missing their first seven shots. At the conclusion of the opening the frame Rockport converted just four of 18 shots from the field. Shot selection was not the problem as Rockport moved the ball well enough to find decent looks, the shots just didn’t fall.

Pentucket took advantage of the Vikings cold streak breaking out to a 19-9 lead by the time the quarter was over.

Rockport also struggled from beyond the arc Friday, which is usually its bread and butter. The Vikings sunk just three shots from behind the three-point line, the first coming in the middle of the third quarter.

“We did a good job early on,” Pentucket head coach Ed Hickey said. “We did a good job breaking their press and we hit our looks. Rockport is tough, they battled back like we expected but we were fortunate enough to get some big baskets to keep them at bay.”

Rockport was forced to play catch-up after the slow start and at times found holes in the Sachems defense to cut into the lead. On four separate occasions the Vikings got to within six points only to see Pentucket answer with a big bucket to break the momentum.

When the Sachems did miss, they were usually right there to grab the rebound for a second chance opportunity. Pentucket owned the glass with a 45-27 rebounding advantage. That advantage, however, was offset by

A Tucker Meredith basket cut the lead to six in the second quarter, but a 6-0 run powered by three pointers from Jake Chory and Ryan Beaton brought the Sachems lead right back to 12.

Shaun Aspesi cut the lead to six on two different occasions in the fourth quarter only to see Pentucket’s Calvin Wiles answer back both times to once again turn the momentum against the Vikings.

“This was a team effort, we have no superstars so everybody needed to contribute to keep the lead tonight,” Hickey said. “They were really putting the pressure on us, the effort was great from both teams, and we stepped up and made shots. It was good execution down the stretch, I liked the way we finished.”

“I kept seeing the momentum swinging our way and then Pentucket made a big shot,” St. Laurent said. “You have to credit them tonight.”

Aspesi led all scorers with 18 points on the night, 14 in the second half. Meredith chipped in 15 points while Adam Balzarini had 14. Wiles led the way for Pentucket with 17, Chory scored 14.

At 4-7, the Vikings face a steep uphill climb the rest of the way to get into the tournament. In order to qualify for the Division 4 state tournament, the Vikings must finish 5-2 over their final seven games.

“I think there were large parts of the game tonight where we set our game plan and we executed,” St. Laurent said. “Defensively we played hard all not and that’s been there all year. Offensively we need to keep doing what we need to do and hopefully the shots will fall for us.”