GLOUCESTER-- There were certainly a few changes to get used to for the Gloucester boys basketball team in Friday night's season opener against Winthrop.
There were players wearing masks, an opening coin toss instead of an opening tip-off, the socially distanced benched, a far less crowded free throw area and a few other minor wrinkles in the game. But despite the COVID-19 protocols, the game on the floor was the same game of basketball the coaches and players are used to, as was the product.
In fact, the uncertainty of the future of the season may have actually made the product on the floor even more intense.
"We're going to bet everyone's best shot this year," said Gloucester's Adam Philpott, coaching in his first game as Fishermen head coach after five seasons as an assistant. "With it being a short season, everyone is going to leave it all out there and that's what you saw on both sides tonight."
In the end, Gloucester's intensity and offensive balance were just a little too much for the Vikings. The home team scored the first eight points of the night and never looked back en route to a 64-45 win at the Smith Field House.
Gloucester had an inside-out game going that was difficult to contain, knocking down eight three pointers as a team with four players (Gavyn Hillier, Zach Oliver, Byron Thomas and Adam Borowick) knocking down two each. In the paint, Gloucester got a heavy dose of production from Hillier, who had a game-high 21 points and 17 rebounds and Jayden Del Torchio (10 points, seven rebounds). Oliver also got to the basket and had 11 rebounds to go with his 14 points.
"It's nice when you have the balance of bigs and capable shooters to complement them," Philpott said. "I thought we moved the ball around well, especially early, to get the looks we wanted."
The Fishermen never trailed on Friday night and set the tone early on as Hillier opened up the game by knocking down a pair of three-pointers to spark an 8-0 run. That lead grew to as much as 20 points in the second quarter (26-6 and 30-10).
Gloucester's biggest lead was 39-17 early in the second half and Winthrop improved its defensive play the rest of the way, cutting the lead to 13 at one point. But that was as close as it would get as Gloucester never let the edge get into single digits at all during the second half.
"Winthrop started to execute better on defense in the second half and made us speed up a little more than we wanted to," Philpott said. "But we made some stops when we needed to to keep the comfortable lead."
Overall, Philpott was pleased with his team's opening day performance, especially offensively.
"We had a lot of balance on offense and a few things we need to work on defensively," he said. "But in the first game you're going to see some things you need to work on and everything is very correctable. It was a good win against a scrappy Winthrop team."
The team returns to action on Tuesday at home against Peabody (6:30 p.m.).
Gloucester 64, Winthrop 45
at Benjamin A. Smith Field House, Gloucester
Winthrop 6 11 19 9| 45
Gloucester 15 21 14 14| 64
W: Conway 4-5-16, Boqusz 4-0-11, Zanelli 3-1-7, Cappuccio 2-1-5, Preble 2-0-4, Rockefeller 1-0-2.
G: Hillier 8-3-21, Oliver 5-2-14, Del Torchio 3-4-10, Borowick 2-2-8, Thomas 2-0-6, Zappa 1-0-3, Patten 1-0-2.
3-Pointers; W, Conway 3, Boqusz; G, Hillier 2, Oliver 2, Borowick 2, Thomas 2, Zappa.
Halftime: 36-17 Gloucester
Records: G, 1-0; W, 0-1.