Mass. College Hoops: Catching Up With Chris Bartley (WPI Basketball)

By Matt Noonan 

It’s been an exciting season for the WPI men’s basketball team, which is currently ranked fourth in the country, according to the latest D3Hoops.com poll.

Chris Bartley, who is in his 13th season with the Engineers, has guided the Crimson and Gray to a 17-1 overall mark, including a 7-0 record in NEWMAC play. Bartley’s crew, which hasn’t lost a regular season contest since falling to Castleton State in November, will look to continue its momentum on Saturday when they host Springfield College for a 3 p.m. tip.

We caught up with Coach Bartley earlier this afternoon to chat about his team’s next contest, but also the Engineers’ resiliency and defense, too.

On the team’s foundation: “I think we’ve always had tough kids. One of the things that’s been really important for us is trying to recruit tough kids and help them with their mental toughness, so we just approach everything by doing the best we can with what we have (each) year. The names change sometimes and the faces changed, but hopefully the foundation and the pillars of the program as far as the work ethic and guys that care about each other and hold each other accountable and play hard every night out.”

On identifying the team’s identity: “If you look at us statistically, we’re pretty good on defense. We kind of hold our own on the boards and when we’re playing well we’re playing a pretty good team defense and the guys play hard. Offensively, I think the biggest thing is that we’re a team that has to share the ball and we have to help each other score. When we struggled earlier against Wheaton and last night against Coast Guard and in the second half against Clark (because of ball movement), but for us to be successful we need to pass it to each other and we need to cut and screen. We’re not the type of team that has guys that’ll create their own shots because we really have to create shots for each other, but when we play the right way we’re pretty good.”

On the importance of team defense: “It always starts with our defense. Every single day starts with our defense and so does every meeting and film session, so it always starts there. (Against Wheaton), Agyei Gregory made some ridiculous shots. He made NBA type shots, but I thought Wheaton came out with a lot more enthusiasm than we did and typically when guys from the other team (knows they’re playing us), I find that (our opponent’s) kids shoot the ball better because they’re more focused. So, if you don’t bring equal intensity level and energy level and enthusiasm, which I didn’t think we did (from the start) that can happen. I think it is important to play through adversity, so I don’t take a lot of quick timeouts, but I think our guys are mature enough to play through stuff like that and I thought we did a good job in the second half of the first half of that game of getting back to our identity and making it a little more difficult for them. I thought we started sharing the ball (toward the end of the first half) and we started to play WPI basketball, which is what it’s all about for us.”

On the play of Ryan Kolb: “He plays exceptionally hard, he really plays hard. I was texting him this morning and was like, ‘Dude, you played really hard last night.’ And when your seniors and best players play really hard, it’s kind of filters down to everybody else. He’s got a lot of versatility in his game, but the biggest thing is he’s a really tough kid. He’s tough mentally, he’s tough physically, he’s a hard shell to crack emotionally because he doesn’t show a ton of emotion, but he’s playing like a senior should and a senior usually does.”

On Domenick Mastascusa and Ryan Kolb working together, as well as the impact of Sam Longwell: “(Kolb and Domenick have) been together now for three years, so they know when one is low (on defense) the other is usually coming high. They know where they’re going to be, too. We pretty much run motion offense, so having those guys in sync and working well together is huge. Some games, it is better for Ryan to be on the perimeter, while other games he needs to be down on the post, so it just depends on the matchup. I think Dom knows when he has a good matchup and goes to the spots where he can score and he’s been terrific for us.

“I think one of the keys to the whole thing has been Sam Longwell. He’s just (exhibits) consistency on both ends of the floor for every single practice and every single game, and he’s just been a rock for us and just has brought it from a leadership standpoint, talent standpoint and toughness standpoint. He often covers (our opponent’s) best player, too. He’s doing it on both ends of the court and he’s really had a special season so far.”

On the play of first-year guard Marcus Middleton: “What I have found with Marcus is he’s a really a good all around player, he’s got a really good understanding of what we’re trying to do and he’s got a lot of confidence in himself, both mental and physical toughness. I think our guys are pretty good when they get an opportunity because they try to take advantage of it and he’s one of those kids where we put him in there in some tough positions and he seems to come through every single time.”

On facing Springfield College on Saturday: “They’re a very mentally tough team. I think Sean Martin is one of the best point guards and one of the toughest kids in the region from what I’ve seen and I think Robbie Burke is the same. Tim Swenson gives them a dimension where he compliments those guys really, really well and he’s a beast in there. They also have a bunch of guys that can make shots from (beyond the arc), so they really have a nice balance and statistically they’re terrific, they do a nice job on defense by holding teams to a low field goal percentage and rebounding the ball well. They also take good care of the ball with Martin as their point guard because Charlie Brock’s teams always execute well. They’re a very, very formidable team, they do everything well, so you really have to be on top of your game to battle and we’ll have to be on Saturday in order to be a position to be successful.”

Mass. College Hoops: Mastascusa, Karalis Lead No. 5 WPI Past Babson, 66-62

By NoontimeSports.com 

Courtesy of the WPI sports information department, here’s this evening’s release about the No. 5 Engineers, who defeated Babson College:

Worcester, MA — Junior Domenick Mastascusa (North Reading, MA) and sophomore Zach Karalis (North Andover, MA) headlined one of WPI men’s basketball’s best bench performances of the season Wednesday night at Harrington Auditorium as the host Engineers held of Babson late to vanquish their NEWMAC rivals by a 66-62 final score.

Mastascusa led the fifth-ranked Engineers with 15 points, but it was Karalis who emerged down the stretch, icing the game on a pair of free throws with four seconds left to thwart a Beavers comeback bid. The sophomore swingman also came up with key late points in a NEWMAC Tournament semifinal win over Babson in 2013.

Overall, 34 points came from the Engineers’ bench as stars Ryan Kolb (Southington, CT) and Sam Longwell (Acton, MA) were both limited by the Beavers (10-4, 1-2). Kolb contributed 11 points, while Longwell had eight points and eight rebounds.

WPI (13-1, 3-0) now sits alone atop the NEWMAC standings after running the gauntlet with consecutive games against Springfield, MIT and Babson, winning all three. It was the Engineers’ 10th straight victory overall and their 25th straight at Harrington, matching Florida for the fifth-best home arena streak in the country.

It’s the ninth time in program history WPI has had a double-digit winning streak, seven of them under coach Chris Bartley, including a 22-gamer last season.

Babson’s John Wickey (Manchester, NH) scored 15 of his game-high 21 points after the break, but it wasn’t enough as the hosts led the entire second half. The junior led all players with 11 boards, all on the defensive end. Guard Matt Palazini (Franklin, MA) chipped in 14 points, 12 in the first half as the Beavers enjoyed a 31-12 bulge in points in the paint.

WPI held standout freshman Joey Flannery (Acton, MA) to nine points.

Chad LaBove (Shrewsbury, MA) leveled the score at 17-17 just past the midway point of the first half, drawing a back-and-forth opening stretch to a conclusion.

The Beavers, who receiving votes in the D3hoops.com Top 25, strung together seven straight points over the next 1:57 with the final five coming from Palazini on a 3-pointer and a layup. That gave the visitors a 24-17 lead with 7:30 left in the half, but it was all WPI over the final stretch.

The Engineers’ responded to Babson’s biggest lead with a 17-4 run over final 6:46, initiated by a Ryan Kolb jumper.

Freshman reserve Marcus Middleton (Stoughton, MA) sank a trey with 2:04 left in the half to give WPI its first lead in over 10 minutes, 28-26.

After a Palazini layup, Middleton and Mastascusa hit consecutive baskets from beyond the arc to deliver the hosts a 34-28 halftime lead.

The Engineers led by at least five over for nearly the entire second half, stretching the lead as high as nine on three different occasions.

Freshman Sean Doncaster (Medford, MA) made it 37-28 on a three-point play 18 seconds out of the intermission.

A Kolb jumper kept WPI ahead, 59-50, with 4:52 to go, while Mastascusa struck with a mid-range jump shot 32 seconds later, making it 61-52.

The Beavers closed it to a two-point game, 61-59, with 2:13 left after a Wickey 3-pointer, but Longwell hit both his free throws on WPI’s next trip down.

Wickey added three more points in the final 1:02, but LaBove made one of two from the line and Karalis followed to close out the win.

WPI leaves home to play Emerson at 1 PM Saturday, while Babson follows up with a second straight road game, playing Wheaton at 1 PM on Saturday as well.

Mass. College Hoops: WACBA Honor Roll (Week Four)

By NoontimeSports.com 

WORCESTER, Mass. – Another week of college basketball in Worcester is in the books and below is this week’s Worcester Area College Basketball Association (WACBA) honor roll.

Men’s Player of the Week: Ryan Sheehan (Nichols) – The senior guard led the Bison to a pair of conference wins last week. After a slow start against Roger Williams in which he scored four first-half points, he rattled off 17 in the second half – including three 3-pointers – to finish with a game-high 21 to lift the Bison to an 81-50 win. Three days later, he poured in 23 against the preseason No. 1, Gordon College, in a 78-72 win. He knocked down 11-of-12 from the charity stripe down the stretch to seal the win. He now ranks No. 3 in school history with 1,744 points.

Men’s Rookie of the Week: Marcus Murray (Assumption) – The first-year guard averaged 19.5 points, six assists, four rebounds and two steals while shooting 55.6 percent from the field. Highlighting the week was a career-high 27-point effort in a road win at Merrimack.

Women’s Player of the Week: Raquel Scott (Holy Cross) – The sophomore forward helped lead the Crusaders to a 1-1 record on the week with 19 points and nine rebounds per game. She began the week with her third consecutive double-double (fourth double-double of her career) with team-highs of 17 points and 10 rebounds to go along with three steals versus Northeastern. Against Fordham, Scott recorded a team-best 21 points and eight rebounds in 38 minutes of action.

Honor Roll:

David Dudzinski (Holy Cross) – The senior, who finished Saturday’s contest with 17 points and seven rebounds, recorded his 1,000th point of his collegiate career on a turnaround jump shot late in the first half. According to Saturday’s press release, Dudzinski became the 47th 1,000-point scorer in school history.

Jimmy Zenevitch (Assumption) – The junior forward averaged 21 points and 9.5 rebounds while shooting 59.4 percent from the field.

Shannon Ray (Assumption) – The senior guard averaged 19.5 points, 3.5 assists, 2.5 steals and one block per game while shooting 47.1 percent from the field.

Josh Imadiyi (Fitchburg State) – The sophomore forward averaged a double-double effort of 13 points and 11 rebounds in an 0-3 week for the Falcons. Imadiyi recorded 15 points and 15 rebounds against New England College, as well as 13 points and 10 boards against WPI.

Alexis Wegrzynek (Nichols) – The junior forward recorded her second double-double of the season with 17 points and 13 rebounds against Gordon on Saturday. She also tallied two assists, one block, and one steal. Earlier in the week, Wegrzynek went for eight points, nine rebounds, two assists and one steal against Roger Williams.

Meaghan Burns (Worcester State) – The senior guard averaged 14 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists in an 0-2 week for Worcester State including 17 points in a 60-55 setback against Wesleyan before adding 11 points and eight boards in a 56-34 loss against Trinity.

Brendan Rios (Worcester State) – The junior forward averaged 11.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists in a 1-3 week for Worcester State including 17 points and seven boards in a 96-56 victory over UMaine Augusta.

Paul Brooks (Worcester State) – The first-year center averaged 7.0 points and 9.0 rebounds in a 1-3 week for Worcester State which include double-double efforts of 10 points and 10 caroms in a 75-57 setback against Western Connecticut and 12 points and 11 boards in a 96-56 victory over UMaine Augusta.

Chad LaBove (WPI) – The senior forward capped a 3-0 week at home by posting the unusual feat of grabbing 15 rebounds without scoring in WPI’s victory over fellow 2013 NCAA participant Fitchburg State. LaBove did it while just playing 15 minutes.

Marcus Middleton (WPI) – The first-year guard, who entered the week with just eight total points, registered nine points in both contests against Newbury and Tufts.

Danni Davis (WPI) – The junior guard averaged 11.5 and six rebounds in a pair of contests last week for the Engineers.

Mass High School Hoops: Calixte Leads Stoughton Past Duxbury, 69-63

By Matt Noonan 

STOUGHTON, MA – On Tuesday evening, Stoughton high school junior Aaron Calixte, (31 points, nine rebounds, eight assists) proved what it means to be a champion.

With the Black Knights trailing the Dragons of Duxbury by eight-points entering the final frame, the junior co-captain flipped the switch, and tallied 13 points during the final minutes of regulation, which helped Stoughton escape with a 69-63 victory.

“Losing [is] not an option to me. I can’t let my team lose in the first-round of the playoffs, I’m not for that,” said a composed Calixte. “[I’m going to] lead my team, [and] do whatever I have to do [to earn] a victory.”

Calixte provided the necessary spark for the Black Knights, who capitalized on Duxbury’s four turnovers and three missed free throws in the fourth quarter to regain the lead, which they hadn’t possessed since the first quarter.

“He’s really good,” said Duxbury head coach Gordon Cushing. “We knew he was going to get his points, [but] we just tried to make him work for [them] as best he can. He passes the ball well, so [we were] just trying to make him work for [them] as hard as you can.”

“Aaron did a nice job penetrating and scoring or penetrating and dishing,” said Stoughton head coach John Gallivan.

 

Stoughton didn’t exactly gain their fourth quarter momentum after the opening tap, as both squads swapped buckets and leads until Duxbury senior co-captain Curtis Owen, (22 points) completed a three-point play, layup and free throw, mid-way through the second session to spark the Dragons offense to close out the first half with a 39-36 lead.

The Dragons then attempted to grow their lead once the second half began, but various turnovers or missed shots hampered Duxbury’s offense, and allowed Stoughton to enter the final quarter trailing their opponent, 58-50.

“We had some turnovers, [and] they hit some shots, too,” Cushing said of the Black Knights second half effort. “We actually at halftime said, let them shoot it a little bit more outside, and keep out inside because most of their scoring was done in the paint, so you pick your poison a little bit, we just [needed] to score a few more points.”

Once the whistle sounded to initiate the start of the fourth frame, Stoughton rallied and regained the lead for good, as Calixte and his teammates used their defense to propel their offense to tally 17 points, which helped preserve the win for the Black Knights.

“Aaron’s just a phenomenal basketball player,” said Stoughton’s Marcus Middleton. “There’s pretty much no stopping him.”

Stoughton will return to the court on Thursday when they meet Norwood High School in the MIAA Division 2 South quarterfinals, and one can certainly imagine that the Black Knights will rely heavily upon Calixte to be their catalyst.

“[He’s] the best player in the Hockomock League,” said Stoughton senior Raymond Bowdre. “He’s a good scorer, and he’s a good facilitator. One of the best that can ever pass, and create his own shot.”

 

Also, make sure to visit our friends at HockomockSports.com for news, scores and updates throughout the remainder of the Massachusetts high school playoffs.