Without his leading scorer, Immaculate Heart Central coach Mike Delaney was worried how that would affect the dynamics of his team Monday night.
But the Cavaliers didnt miss a beat against Frontier League A Division foe Indian River, racing to an early lead and finally pulling away from the Warriors late to earn a 63-53 win and remain undefeated.
Robin Massey, averaging nearly 15 points a game, missed school Monday and was not in uniform for IHC (6-0 overall, 4-0 league).
So Delaney inserted his valuable sixth man, sophomore Jake Fusilli, into the starting lineup and Fusilli scored 11 points for the Cavaliers.
And again, it was IHCs balance that provided the biggest lift.
Senior Jude Fusilli scored 18 points, senior Jude Whalen contributed 17, junior Cole Carpenter had nine points and senior Miles Sexton added eight in another team effort.
We all knew we had to step up our offensive games a little without Robin, said Whalen, who played another spectacular all-around floor game.
Our press was very good early and that helped us get off to a good start. And I think our defense is starting to really come together, Whalen added.
Carpenter, Jude Fusilli and Whalen scored early baskets to give IHC a 6-0 lead.
The Warriors missed their first five shots before Danny Angelo finally made a 3-pointer to get Indian River on the board with 3:40 left in the first quarter.
Angelo made two more threes before the quarter was over to bring Indian River (3-2) within 13-11 at the quarter break.
The Cavaliers held as much as an eight-point lead in the second quarter before the Warriors again fought back and drew to within 27-25 at halftime.
IHCs offensive execution in the third quarter was spot on, and the Cavaliers opened up as much as a 43-31 lead following a Jude Fusilli 3-pointer.
Still, Indian River notched the final three baskets of the quarter in the final two minutes to stay within striking distance at 43-37 as the fourth quarter began.
We had a few sloppy spots and let them get too many easy baskets, Delaney said. But for the most part, I thought we took away their second-chance opportunities.
IHC put the game away with a 9-0 run early in the fourth quarter as Carpenter scored on a follow shot, Jude Fusilli hit another 3-pointer and Whalen notched back-to-back buckets off steals as the Cavaliers surged to a 57-42 edge.
Indian River got as close as eight points late, but IHC hit six free throws over the final 1 1/2 minutes to protect the lead.
Indian River had one more field goal, but managed just one free throw, while IHC hit 14.
Whalen said this team, which features six seniors, is playing for each other. Were all good friends off the court, and I think that really helps us play together on the court.
Delaney said its a really competitive team. Most of these kids know what it takes to win coming off great soccer and football seasons. In close games, that can make a difference between making a big play or not being able to execute.
The goal for this club, said Whalen, is to win a Section 3 Class C title. Playing teams like Indian River and Carthage will help us when we get to sectionals.
Were going to keep pushing and working toward that goal as one unit, Whalen added.
Angelo finished with five 3-pointers and 17 points to lead Indian River. Malik Tillman contributed 12 points and Demetrius Gibson had 10 off the bench for Tim Callahans club.