Five games into the season, veteran Immaculate Heart Central boys basketball coach Mike Delaney has learned a few things about his unbeaten Cavaliers.
His offense is more balanced than a season ago, the defense is forcing plenty of turnovers with full-court pressure, and his big guys are making significant contributions.
All of those things were apparent Friday night as IHC raced to a 27-point halftime lead and posted an 85-67 Frontier League A Division home victory over city rival Watertown High School.
Senior Robin Massey scored 24 points and senior Jude Fusilli poured in 23 to lead four Cavaliers in double figures. Senior Miles Sexton and junior Cole Carpenter added 11 points apiece for IHC (5-0 overall, 3-0 league), which took control in the opening few minutes against the sloppy Cyclones (3-3, 2-2).
Delaney said hes already seen a maturity level with this squad that was lacking last season when IHC finished 5-12 overall and just 4-8 in the league.
Most of these guys have been together on the varsity for three years now, so they are finally learning what it takes to be successful, Delaney said. Theyve all bought into what we want to do, and were receiving nice contributions from a lot of different people.
Fusilli said the key factor in IHCs long-term success this season is a different mindset.
Were a lot more unselfish, we take care of the ball a lot better and our defense is improved, he said. Together, thats making us a lot stronger and much more consistent.
Fusilli hit a 3-pointer to begin the game and the Cavaliers full-court press began turning the Cyclones over regularly. IHC forced 12 first-quarter turnovers, and turned most of them into points, racing to a 28-10 lead.
WHS fared no better the second quarter, coughing up the ball nine more times and allowing IHC to score 23 points and hit the half-century mark at intermission.
Our pressure got us a lot of easy hoops, Delaney said. But we also moved the ball well, hit the open man and executed about as well as we could.
Fusilli and Massey each connected three times from behind the arc to open up the IHC offense. The Cavaliers also got to the basket at will, making 29 free throws.
Its all about the turnovers for us, said WHS coach Jeff Britton. A lot of them were unforced. We just threw the ball to them carelessly. Those kinds of mental mistakes kept adding up in a hurry.
Britton also bemoaned the lack of intensity on defense and a failure in communication. We have a lot of new kids, but thats no excuse for so many breakdowns.
Isiah Dincol scored 16 points and Tyrell Thomas hit four 3-pointers and scored 12 for WHS.
For IHC, its first real test in a big home game with Indian River on Monday will reveal a lot more about this team.
Weve got four or five guys capable of leading us in scoring every night, Delaney said. And I like the way our big guys (Sexton, Carpenter) are playing right now.
Said Fusilli: We believe in each other and what we want to accomplish. Thats really going to help us when we get into close games.