SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Worcester Academy’s Rene Castro grabbed an errant pass and connected on a 3-pointer to give the Hilltoppers a two-point lead with 3:44 remaining in the first half. Worcester would hold the lead for the remainder of the game, countering several Wilbraham & Monson threats, earning a well-deserved and much-need 69-62 win to conclude Day 4 at the 2013 Hoophall Classic in Springfield.
Worcester built a five-point lead heading into halftime and started the second half on a 10-4 run, with several easy baskets coming in transition. Matt Mobley and Rene Castro on two separate possessions found the trailing Darryl Reynolds for layups. The early half surge but Worcester up 37-27.
“We were strong on defense,” said Worcester senior Matt Mobley. “We had a lot of help defense, we didn’t let them get to the middle.”
Luis Montero, Kerem Kanter, and Curtis Cobb provided much of the offense in the second half to keep the Titans within striking distance. Montero scored five straight, followed by a bucket by Kanter to cut the lead to 52-47. Worcester responded with a coast to coast finish by Mobley and a Castro layup.
Kanter and Cobb combined for a 6-0 run with 3.5 minutes to go, but Matt Panaggio connected on a three to put the lead up to 59-53.
“I think we just had breakdowns,” said Wilbraham & Monson head coach Chris Sparks. “We were able to guard them in the half court, but I think where we broke down was in transition.”
Worcester had a four point advantage on the boards, including two different instances late in the game when Worcester secured an offensive rebound off a missed free throw.
“When you’re two possessions away and you give up two offensive rebound that kills you,” said Sparks.
Worcester shot 15-of-31 from the free throw line, leaving the door open for a WMA comeback. The Titans couldn’t take advantage of second chance opportunities and coughed the ball up down the stretch.
“We didn’t shoot the ball well from the free throw line,” said Sullivan. “We kept fighting.”
Mobley had a team-high 17 points, to go along with four rebounds and four assists. Castro added 15. Goodluck Okonoboh had 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Worcester has won the first two games against Wilbraham & Monson this season. They meet again on Feb. 9 at Worcester.
Bounce-back win for Worcester: Worcester needed this win following an upset loss to Beaver Country Day the previous evening, as part of the BABC Prep Classic. Beaver Country Day defeated Worcester 71-69, even though junior center Jacquil Taylor went down with a reported ankle injury.
A day later, the Hilltoppers had to forget about that game and get back on track against a talented Wilbraham & Monson team.
“We got away from that last night playing Beaver Country Day,” said Sullivan. “With Taylor going down, which is a shame, that team rose up and beat up. But tonight was a night with a quick turnaround. Being able to in the gym, right away, without having that to fester too long was great.”
This bounce back win not only kept the Hilltoppers undefeated in league play, but came at the right time for Worcester Academy. On Wednesday, Worcester travels down to Connecticut to take on Class AAA opponent, St. Thomas More.
Kerem Kanter reclassifies: Back in December, during the BasketBull Hoops Fest, Wilbraham & Monson forward Kerem Kanter landed scholarship offers from Boston College and Pittsburgh.
On Friday, through Twitter, he announced he would reclassify and join the Class of 2013.
“I just thought it was time to move up,” said Kanter. “I felt like I will be ready by the time next year comes.”
Kanter, the younger brother of Utah Jazz center Enes Kanter, says he will decide on a college sometime in April. The 6-foot-7 forward is still working on visits, but intends on taking several before he makes a commitment. He listed Miami (Fla.), Auburn, Tulsa, and Drexel as other schools involved in his recruitment.
Kanter has been impressive this season for Wilbraham & Monson with his footwork and ability to score around the basket. Due to the size of the Titans, Kanter has also been able to step away from the basket and show off his shooting touch.
He joins Kamali Bey as WMA seniors still on the board.