This is probably not going to be a vintage season for either the Watertown High School or Immaculate Heart Central boys basketball teams.
The Cyclones are trying to define several roles with a mixture of veterans and newcomers, while the Cavaliers are still learning how to win at the varsity level with a predominantly underclassman roster.
So while neither may challenge for a Frontier League title, their annual two-game A Division rivalry series carries even more importance. The host Cyclones drew first blood Thursday, beating the Cavaliers 54-39 at Case Middle School in their home opener.
In a game that featured more turnovers (46) than baskets (35), Jeff Brittons Cyclones found enough scoring to offset an IHC squad that was playing without leading scorer Jude Whalen, who was ill.
Senior Willie Scott led WHS (1-3 overall, 1-1 league) with 14 points, while all 11 Cyclones that played scored at least two points. That, said Britton, may overcome a lack of a go-to guy following the graduation of All-North MVP Dustin Pond.
When you receive contributions from so many different players, it takes the pressure off two or three to do all the scoring, said Britton, whose club pulled away from a one-point halftime deficit with a 21-8 third-quarter run. This isnt the type of explosive club that will beat anybody by 25 or 30. But I think weve got enough pieces that we can be competitive.
After losing a couple of games in the Central Square Tournament last weekend (Whitesboro, Rome Free), and dropping its league opener to an improved Altmar-Parish-Williamstown squad on the road Tuesday, Watertown got off to a slow start, falling behind 10-3 after four minutes.
The Cyclones then scored the final nine points of the first quarter to seize a 12-10 lead. But they managed only a Scott 3-point field goal in the opening four minutes of the second period and fell behind 20-19 at halftime.
Coach told us (at halftime) we were rushing our shots, not making enough passes and just playing too fast, Scott said. Once we slowed down and showed some patience, our offense was much better.
Trailing 25-23 early in the third quarter, WHS scored 17 of the next 20 points to pull away for a 40-28 advantage at the quarter break.
The lead grew by as much as 15 points in the final quarter as IHC (2-2) had no answer offensively.
When you make better decisions, it really makes your offense run smoother, Britton said. You can see that with us scoring more points in the third quarter than the entire first half.
Senior center Siraj Sindhu scored eight points, grabbed nine rebounds and blocked four shots for WHS. Senior guard Mason Phillips scored only three points, but dished out six assists.
Without a guy like Dustin, new guys have to step up this year, Scott said. Its still early and were learning how to play with each other. Its going to take time, but I think we can be a pretty good team.
Whalen, who was averaging 16.3 points per game, was unavailable after fainting in school earlier Tuesday. IHC coach Mike Delaney said he was held out as a precaution, but will probably be ready for IHCs participation in this weekends Harrisville Tournament.
We miss Judes scoring for sure, Delaney said. But he also pressures the ball on defense and handles the ball a lot for us. Without him, we were very sloppy (with 25 turnovers).
Jude Fusilli scored all 10 of IHCs first-quarter points and finished with 20. Matt Moran added 11 points, but only three other Cavaliers scored.