NORTH ADAMS, Mass. - By the way Drury performed, no one would have guessed that the team had not played for a week. The Blue Devils showed no sign of rust as they ran away to an 87-47 home victory over the Lee Wildcats at Bucky Bullett Gymnasium on Friday night.
“I was really worried,” Drury coach Jack Racette said, after weather postponed a game earlier this week and kept his club off the court for several days. “We hadn’t been to the gym in three days and were just not stretching and shooting, but the guys said their legs felt really good. So maybe three days off was a bit of a blessing, because I thought we executed pretty well. That was a good performance for us tonight.”
Drury was very sharp overall, as everyone contributed offensively and the defense suffocated the under-manned Wildcats all night. The Blue Devils were very successful running offensive plays and finishing with points, while also drawing lots of open looks off of second moves. The defense pressed early and came up with plenty of turnovers that led to points, and it continued to contest shots to the very end.
“We have some senior leadership, and our guys have been around for a little bit, so we hit the floor running,” Racette said. “They wanted to get back in the gym too, so I think they rode that emotion, and they had a lot of energy for sure. Guys’ legs were good.”
Drury opened with an 11-0 run to start the game and led by double digits most of the way. After taking a 21-point lead into the half, the Blue Devils (12-2) then delivered their best stretch of basketball in the third quarter by scoring 33 points to blow things wide open.
The Wildcats (8-6) presented a tough matchup, particularly with a lot of height in the paint. Ben Harding, Max Brighanti and Collin O’Brien were particularly tough on Friday night, but the Blue Devils countered by using their quickness and ball movement against those larger defenders. Often times the extra pass led to an open look, and the Drury players were typically rewarded for hustling around the ball.
“With us being a smaller team, we just have to come out and make plays. Our goal is always to come out with intensity and just push the floor,” senior Obilio Rodriguez said. “Coach always tells us not to hesitate. We can run, and our goal is to just hope that the other team cannot keep up with us, and it shows. When you have two of the best players in Berkshire County, we have to execute as a team to make all the people make plays and score the ball.”
Rodriguez often found himself in the thick of the action on Friday, finishing with 11 points. Scott McGuire had a game-high 18 points for Drury, Reece Racette and Max Dougherty chipped in 12 points each and Hunter Sarkis and Dante Woodson each scored eight points. Tim Brazeau also had seven points and five rebounds.
Lee found itself up against the ropes taking punches right away, as the Wildcats fell behind 25-6 by the end of the first quarter. Turnovers doomed the team early on, especially when Drury got off to a hot start shooting the ball. Harding had a nice night to lead the club with 14 points and eight rebounds, while O’Brien had 10 points and J.J. Jimenez and Cole Redstone added six points each.
Nursing a big lead down the stretch, the Blue Devils were able to find extended playing time for many of the younger players. Contributions from freshmen like Anthony Pettengill and Ben Moulton did not go unnoticed by Rodriguez and the other Drury veterans.
“It’s fun going into practice knowing that everybody is improving, and by playing hard in practice it is showing in how we are improving in the games,” Rodriguez said. “It is just making us better as a team and pushing us to be that playoff team.”
Drury has now won three straight and is clicking at the right time. Friday night’s victory serves as a nice indicator of what the team can accomplish when everyone is able to contribute. Rather than just ride a hot start, the Blue Devils came out and played even better in the second half to really put the foot on the throttle and challenge themselves to always keep improving.
“We jumped on them early, and we talked at halftime that we can’t be complacent and we have to work on our own stuff,” Racette said. “We are into that stretch run and we are going to be into the grind now. We’ve got six games left, and we’ve got all our north teams. We have Reese, and our bigs in Max and Obilio are definitely starting to play better. You can see their composure down low and they are making some nice moves, with some ball fakes. It’s a fun time of the year and you’ve got to play your best basketball.”
The Wildcats remain right in the thick of things as well, and also look to play their best basketball down the stretch. Lee has it final home game its next time out, when it hosts the Lenox Millionaires on Tuesday night. Lenox won, 58-44, in the first meeting between the two teams earlier this season.