Nearly the entire first quarter of last Tuesday night’s rivalry game must have seemed like a dream for the Horace Greeley boys’ basketball team.
For the visiting Foxes of Fox Lane, it was more like a nightmare.
The Quakers scored the game’s first nine points, stretched their lead to 15-1 and eventually opened up a whopping 21-3 advantage before the overwhelmed Foxes could finally get their bearings. Even though Fox Lane cut its big deficit to just four points midway through the second quarter, the disastrous start proved to be too much of a hurdle as Greeley wound up winning 65-52 behind the game-high 26 points and 18 rebounds of precocious freshman Nick Townsend.
“Hard to fight back when you get down 20 to 2, or whatever it was,” said disappointed Fox Lane coach Mike Tomassi afterwards. “We always preach the first four minutes of the game, the first four minutes of the second half and first four minutes of the fourth quarter are very important. They won those first four minutes and it really put us in a hole and it was tough to fight out.”
“Yeah, I knew we were gonna come out with energy and a lot of aggressiveness because it’s a rivalry game,” said Quaker coach Felix Nicodemo. “One of the things we wanted to work on for the past couple of games is to start strong. And we did that. So I was very happy the way we started.”
The Quakers’ dazzling start began with a layup from Chris Melis 40 seconds after the opening tip. The talented junior forward scored five baskets while Greeley was building its imposing 21-3 cushion and finished the night with 21 points and 10 rebounds. The first-quarter scoring ended with a free throw from Melis that gave the Quakers a 22-8 lead.
But the Foxes managed to regroup and went on a 12-2 spurt early in the second quarter, sparked by a pair of 3-pointers from junior guard Will Crerend, that narrowed the Greeley lead to just 26-22 midway through the period. Unfortunately for them, though, the Quakers closed the half on an 11-3 run, with six of the points from Townsend, and took a 12-point lead at the break.
“Basketball’s a game of runs,” said Nicodemo. “They made a run and we adjusted. And then we made a run ourselves. But I liked the way we reacted to their run. You know, we’re a young team and we’re gonna be learning as we go, tested a lot of times in certain moments.”
The second half began with Crerend, who led the Foxes with 17 points, driving for a basket. Neither team scored for almost two minutes before sophomore forward Oliver Shevick, who finished with 15 points, connected on a runner that brought Fox Lane to within 37-29. Again, though, the Quakers stepped up when they had to, outscoring the Foxes 13-6 over the next three minutes to build their lead back up to 50-35.
Trailing 53-39 after three quarters, the Foxes began the fourth with John Rocco Trumpour scoring on a lefty hook in the lane and Crerend driving through the lane for another basket. With 6:30 left on the clock, the fearless Crerend drove the left baseline to score over traffic and again cut the Greeley lead to 10 points.
But with five minutes remaining, Michael Salore delivered a left-elbow 3-pointer, the Quakers’ only one of the game, to extend Greeley’s lead to 59-45. The Foxes never got any closer than 13 points after the shot from Salore.
“Listen, I think it was a tough environment to play in,” said the Foxes’ Tomassi. “They’re a good team. We kept fighting. We got it to four at one point. But coming out of that hole was tough. Unfortunately, we ran out of time today.”
The Quakers, now 5-2 this season after closing their week with win at home over Dobbs Ferry and another against Section 9’s Middletown at the Westchester County Center, are getting more and more production from Townsend, the 14-year-old, 6-foot-5 center with an angelic face but devilish moves in the paint.
“You know, I think he’s progressing the way I anticipated him to,” said Nicodemo. “A lot of the teams are collapsing on him, double-teaming him, triple-teaming him. But he’s getting better and better each game. And I think he handles himself with maturity and he just plays so hard. It’s so nice to watch.”