Pictured: Old Saybrook freshman Auggie Albert (21) fights for a rebound in the Rams’ game against Westbrook as teammates Riley Lawson (13) and Ryan Stratton (14) look on.
By Marc Silvestrini
OLD SAYBROOK – For the past few seasons the Old Saybrook boys basketball team has had a hard time playing a good, consistent game for anything longer than brief and occasional interludes.
“We’ve been very good for a quarter or so, here and there, but we’ve never been able to put together four straight quarters of good basketball,” coach Chris Perras said.
Then came Saturday’s Shoreline Conference game against visiting Westbrook, in which the Rams strung together four quarters of very solid basketball. They were outstanding on the backboards and played tough, effective man-to-man defense all the way to the final whistle in pounding out a 54-48 win over a solid Knights team.
The victory improves Old Saybrook to 1-1 on the season while Westbrook falls to 1-2.
“I couldn’t be any more pleased with this group. They played a complete game for all four quarters,” Perras said. “I really think this was the kind of effort that can set the tone for the rest of our year.
“These guys now know they can hang tough for four solid quarters. This should make us a more confident basketball team going forward.”
The Rams fell behind by five over the first three minutes of play, rallied back to take a three-point lead at halftime, allowed Westbrook to tie the game early in the fourth quarter, then hit the Knights with a 9-2 run over the next four minutes to effectively seal the verdict.
“We just weren’t very good tonight,” Westbrook coach Jeff Beeman said. “We didn’t rebound at all, not a lick, and we played with very little energy and intensity.
“We’re not a very big team; our tallest kid is 6-2, so we need all five guys to play with high energy for us to have even a chance underneath. Tonight, their big guys just ate us up alive off the boards.”
Old Saybrook was even a bit taller than usual on Saturday as Perras decided to dress freshman big man Auggie Albert for the game, pairing him with Old Saybrook’s resident big man Ben Yost to give the Rams a formidable presence underneath.
“I thought Auggie did a great job out there today,” Perras said. “I think he’ll be seeing more varsity time from here on.”
The Rams also got a strong effort from sophomore point guard Ryan Stratton, who not only finished with a team-high 16 points but also handled the ball flawlessly, penetrated around and through the Knights’ defense to score several key buckets, and seemingly scooped up every free
ball and loose rebound that hit the floor.
Junior Riley Lawson also made a large contribution, particularly with his strong defensive effort in keeping Westbrook’s Jack Naccarato from lighting the gym on fire. Naccarato, a lethal penetrator who also has a feathery touch from long range, is certainly among the Shoreline’s best and most versatile offensive players.
Aside from Stratton’s 16-point outburst, Lawson finished with 11 points for the Rams while Yost and Aaron Tolve each chipped in with eight.
Naccarato finished with 24 for the Knights while his younger brother, Brandon, tossed in 14.
Westbrook jumped out to a 7-2 lead over the game’s first three minutes behind a bucket by Joey Caslin and five points from Jack Naccarato, but four points by Lawson and a Yost jumper from the side enabled Saybrook to score six in a row to grab an 8-7 lead midway through the opening quarter.
The teams then traded buckets over the final four minutes of the quarter, which ended with Saybrook nursing a 16-15 lead.
A layup by Nick Palumbo gave Westbrook a 17-16 early in the second quarter, but Saybrook responded by scoring seven of the next 10 points to take a 23-19 lead. Jack Naccarato’s three-point play off a strong drive through the lane got the Knights back to within a point at 23-22, but Lawson ended the half with a pretty drive of his own to boost the Rams lead to 25-22 at halftime.
The third quarter featured three ties and five lead changes through the first seven minutes before Yost broke a 34-34 tie with a turnaround bank from the lane. Brandon Naccarato scored on a baseline drive to tie the game again, but Yost responded with a short jumper at the 23-second mark to give the Rams a 38-36 lead through three quarters.
Stratton scored five points to fuel Saybrook’s game-deciding 9-2 spurt in the fourth, while Lawson and Albert added two points apiece. The surge turned a tie game into a 47-40 Saybrook lead with 3:29 to play.
Jack Naccarato buried a long 3-pointer with 2:52 left to close the gap to 47-43, but the Rams hit seven free throws over the final two minutes to prevent the visitors from getting any closer.
Old Saybrook has a busy week ahead with games against Old Lyme on Monday at home, a road game against Coginchaug on Tuesday and a Thursday home game against Morgan.
Westbrook has three home games coming up: Coginchaug on Monday, Portland on Wednesday and Valley Regional on Friday (all 6 p.m. starts).
Brandon Naccarato 5 4 14, Joe Caslin 2 0 4, Brenden Engels 0 0 0, Jack Naccarato 9 2 24, Nick Palumbo 1 0 2, Sam Freeman 2 0 4, Evan McIntyre 0 0 0. Totals: 19 6 48.
OLD SAYBROOK (1-1)
Peter Waida 2 1 6, Ryan Stratton 6 1 16, Ben Yost 4 0 8, Aaron Tolve 2 3 8, Auggie Albert 2 1 5, Riley Lawson 2 7 11. Totals: 18 13 52.
Score By Quarters
W 15 7 14 12–48
OS 16 9 13 16–54
3-Pointers: W—Jack Naccarato 4; OS—Stratton 3, Waida 1, Tolve 1.