Lenox boys basketball team scores rivalry win over Lee
LEE — Nick Nicotra still sports the bleach-blond hair as an artifact from the 2019 Lee football season.
But on Tuesday night at Lee High, Nicotra was sporting the maroon of Lenox, and he played a big part in putting a hurting on his former football teammates.
Nicotra was one of three Lenox players in double figures, helping to lead the Millionaires to a 55-31 win over their archrivals.
"It's awesome. A lot of the guys on the team were on the football team. Throughout my whole life it's been an awesome experience," Nicotra said. "There's a different sort of energy with these games. It's definitely one you circle on the calendar.
"There's always a lot of fans, and it's a fun atmosphere."
Nicotra went for 10 points, eight rebounds in three assists in the win, while Luke Patella had 11 points, three boards and two blocks, and Averin Paradise finished with 10 points, five rebounds and five dimes.
"We've had, this is game [No. 10] for us, we've had five or possibly six games where we've had four guys in double figures," Lenox coach Brian Cogswell said. "That makes the other team's defense a lot more difficult to cover us. Because if one guy isn't having a good night, someone else steps up. It's great to see, share the basketball. We had 18 assists tonight."
But while the final scoreboard showed a lopsided final, the game started like the cagey rivalry affair that it was.
In a back-and-forth first quarter, Lee jumped out to a 5-4 lead on a corner 3-pointer by Declan Drozd (6 points). Lenox, though, got the lead back when Mike Ward finished on an assist from Nictora. Lee would not get the lead back the rest of the night.
After one it was 14-10 in favor of Lenox. Then in the second quarter, the Millionaires (8-2, 2-0 Berkshire South) outscored the Wildcats (3-5, 2-2) 20-10 to go up 34-20 into the break.
"They beat us with the backdoor screens," Lee coach Eric Cardinal said. "Our inability to communicate and hedge those screens, switch on those screens, really hurt us to where they got a good-size lead on us."
Lee also had to deal with the absences of Collin O'Brien, Tag Roosa and Gabe Kelly in the game. Cardinal said the trio will be back for Thursday's game against Hoosac, but their presence — or lack thereof — was felt on Tuesday.
"I don't think they were real deep tonight, they had a couple guys who weren't playing tonight," Cogswell said. "I think our pace, we kind of, as the game progresses we step out a little further defensively, and I think that extra pressure got to them a little bit, and it helps us in transition, as well."
Lenox ramped up the defensive pressure in the second half, holding Lee to five and six points, respectively, in the third and fourth quarters.
"I think defensively, all year we've been pretty good," Nicotra said. "Holding teams to an amount of points where I think if we score 40, 50 a night, then we are going to win most games. I think a lot of that has to do with our length."
Evan Heath led Lee with 11 points in the loss, and added five rebounds. Cole Redstone hauled in nine boards, while Jack Purcell had eight rebounds, four assists and two points.
"I wasn't upset with our team. Like I told them in the locker room, I felt that we easily could have competed," Cardinal said. "I was very happy with the effort that was given, having three guys down obviously hurt us."
With the win, Lenox is now two wins away from securing a Western Mass. Division IV tournament spot. Asked if thoughts of the postseason are already creeping in, Cogswell acknowledged his team's position, then put the focus where he thought it should be.
"We talked about it today. We have goals," Cogswell said. "Goal No. 1 is let's get in, goal No. 2 is let's make a run at the South and see what we can do. and then we'd love to get to The Cage, because once you get there anything can happen.
"We have to take one step at a time, and getting in is our first step."
Lee returns to action on Thursday at Hoosac Valley, while Lenox is off until Friday and a trip to Mount Everett.
Ward 3-2-9, Collins 3-2-8, Patella 4-1-11, Paradise 4-2-10, Nicotra 5-0-10, Steinman 1-1-3, Fielding 2-0-4, Blake 0-0-0, Laughner 0-0-0, Thompson 0-0-0, Armstrong 0-0-0. Totals 22-8-55.
Heath 4-1-11, Trombley 0-1-1, Drozd 2-0-6, Ca. Redstone 2-0-5, Benson 0-0-0, Co. Redstone 1-0-2, Purcell 1-0-2, Clarke 0-0-0, Bombardier 1-0-2, Durkin 0-0-0, Brighenti 0-2-2. Totals 11-4-31.
Lenox 14 20 9 12 — 55
Lee 10 10 5 6 — 31
3-point goals — LEN 3 (Patella 2, Ward), LEE 5 (Drozd 2, Heath 2, Ca. Redstone).
Geoff Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, @GSmith_Eagle on Twitter and 413-496-6254.
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