Heading into today’s Western Massachusetts Division IV semifinal game against Quaboag at the Curry Hicks Cage, Lenox boys basketball coach Scott Sibley is stressing the importance of solid team basketball and playing under control to his players.
The matchup features two teams with contrasting styles. The Millionaires like to get up the court and score in transition whenever possible.
The Cougars are a more deliberate team; playing at a grind-it-out type pace, looking to play a low-scoring game.
For Lenox, it will be important to find the right pace offensively to disrupt the Quaboag defense.
"They’re a little bigger, stronger and quicker than we are, so it will be a big challenge," Sibley said. "We’re hoping to get out and run, but at the same time, I don’t want to create a lot of turnovers [on offense]."
Guards Evan Lanoue and Bailey Patella will be in charge of controlling the tempo for Lenox.
Lanoue’s shown the ability to find the hit the open man in stride in transition throughout the postseason. Patella can slam home a transition dunk as well. But if Quaboag has its way, the game will be played in half-court sets. This means precise passing and solid ball movement will be important.
"We’re working on taking it slow, running offense and taking a good shot," Sibley said. "If we get the opportunity to run we will, but [the Cougars] get back on defense pretty well."
"It’s important being the point guard to dictate the pace," said Lanoue. "[If we] stay organized, run our sets and execute, we have a good chance of winning."
In addition to solid ball movement, Sibley said a balanced offensive attack is another way to exploit Quabog’s man-to-man defense. With Patella and Lanoue’s penetration, Ben Herrick’s outside shooting, and Kris Vahle down low; the Millionaires have plenty of options.
"With us you can’t focus on one guy," Sibley said "That’s one of the things that makes us difficult. We don’t have problem with man or zone."
If the game does become a half-court affair, Sibley said he likes the matchup the Vahle creates in the paint. Vahle said solid post play starts with effort.
"Against a team like Quaboag our effort has to be at 100 percent," Vahle said. "We have to rebound, get them out of the paint, and work as hard as we can try to gain an advantage down low."
Defensively for Lenox, Sibley likes how his players match up against Quaboag. Stopping Quaboag starts with containing guard Will Watkins.
Sibley said Watkins is similar to Lanoue, as both players can finish with both hands at the rim, and can knock down open jumpers. Sibley added that Watkins runs the floor well and has a quick first step.
With Watkins running the point, the Cougars will look to 1,000-point scorer Jake Wisniewski for offense as well. At 6-foot-5, stopping Wisniewski on the inside and outside will be crucial for Lenox.
The Lenox boys are making their first trip to The Cage since the 2011 Western Mass. championship team.
While none of the current members of the Millionaires played on that team, Vahle said he does not anticipate any additional nerves playing at The Cage.
"For us it’s just another game," he said. "We feel like we’ve earned the right to be here. There will be the usual butterflies that you get before any game. ... A lot of adrenaline, and a lot of excitement, but not any more nerves than any other games."
Sibley said he told his team to play together and enjoy the experience.
"Continue to play team basketball and keep our heads up," he said "Enjoy the moment and just have fun. We’ll wake up the next day and either prepare for next year, or prepare for our next game."
To reach Akeem Glaspie:
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