BOLTON — The young Groton-Dunstable boys basketball team is learning on the go this season and the Crusaders are still searching for their first win. The lessons they are learning will pay off later, but none of the lessons will be as painful as Friday night’s 42-38 loss to Nashoba.
The Crusaders learned two things in the game, the hard way.
First, it takes 32 minutes to seal the deal, and that one good half of basketball isn’t enough.
Second, you simply must put a team away when they are down, and even a team that is 1-9 can be dangerous if allowed to hang around.
The Crusaders absolutely owned the first 14 minutes of the game, racing out to a 25-6 lead. They showed what they are capable of doing and were on the verge of running Nashoba out of its own gym.
But the final 18 minutes of the game produced just 13 Groton-Dunstable points. Nashoba, after falling behind by 15 points early in the second half, started to hit some shots, which they had failed miserably to do over the first 18 minutes. The increased offense invigorated the Chieftains’ defense, and fueled a 17-0 Nashoba run, which amazingly put the home team on top 32-30 with 10:55 left in the game.
The Crusaders played hard over the remainder of the game, holding Nashoba to ten points, but could only muster eight points at the offensive end and fell to 0-8 for the season.
Groton-Dunstable broke out of the gate like Secretariat, playing intense defense which forced Nashoba into errant perimeter shots, and scoring in a variety of manners. The Crusaders scored the first ten points of the game and built a 16-3 lead after nine minutes, keyed by contributions from all hands, including four points each from Mike Silinonte, Josh Adams and Cam Wilcox.
Nashoba did solid work off the offensive glass during that span, but horrid (1-17) shooting sabotaged them.
Just over four minutes later, when Derek McCaffrey buried a 15-footer, and Ryan Romich finished off a pretty alley-oop from Ricky Akins, the Crusaders were in cruise control with a 25-6 lead.
But the dormant Nashoba offense came to life over the final two minutes of the half and the Chieftains put together a 9-1 run to close to within 26-15 at intermission. Jason Breitenwischer got the spurt started with a three-pointer, before Cam Jones took over with a steal for a lay-up plus four free throws.
Nashoba dug the hole with 4-29 shooting over the first 16 minutes, including 1-7 from behind the arc. The two teams battled to a 19-19 stalemate off the boards, but the Chieftains held an 8-2 edge at the offensive end.
Groton-Dunstable appeared to have regained the momentum when McCaffrey started the second half by converting a steal into a lay-up, and adding a drive to make it 30-15, but the Crusaders went cold and Nashoba heated up. Mike Pessanelli drained a three-pointer to start the 17-0 run that put the Chieftains on top for the first time in the game. Nashoba hit five of their first six shots in the second half, including both three-pointers they attempted.
During the run, the Crusaders were ratlled, rushing their offense and going away from what put them on top. Part of that was the renewed energy of Nashoba’s defensive effort.
The Crusaders bounced back with six unanswered points to regain the lead. Silinonte buried a three-pointer, before Romich scored on a drive and added a free throw for a conventional three-point play to make it 36-32 with 5:30 to play.
Nashoba put together a 6-0 run of their own, capped by a three-pointer by Breitenwischer, but Ricky Akins answered with a 15-footer to draw the Crusaders even at 38-38 with four minutes left.
Neither offense would score a field goal the rest of the way, and Nashoba picked up four free throws to put away the win.
Breitenwischer led the Chieftains with 14 points and five rebounds. Pessanelli added 11 points, Jones seven points, eight rebounds and three steals, and Peter Steere five points and 12 rebounds.
Silinonte led the Crusaders with nine points and seven rebounds, while Romich (nine rebounds) and McCaffrey (six rebounds, two steals) each added eight points. Akins finished with five points and six rebounds, while Wilcox and Adams each scored four points.