2017-02-02 / Sports & Recreation

Three-game win streak lifts WRHS boys’ basketball to 8-5 record

By John Orrell

Left: Liam Griffin goes up for the block. Below: Erik Bjorn slips past a Ram defender. Left: Liam Griffin goes up for the block. Below: Erik Bjorn slips past a Ram defender. HOLDEN/WORCESTER — Call it a mini-win streak, a well-timed run down the stretch or whatever description best fits, but the Wachusett Regional High boys’ varsity basketball team has suddenly and methodically reeled off three straight victories at a time that matters the most.

With the regular season now past its midpoint, the Mountaineers (8-5) need wins in remaining games to sustain their momentum heading to the post-season. That boost has been fortified with consecutive victories versus Leominster High, Shepherd Hill Regional and Worcester’s Doherty High. Timing could not be better, according to head coach Tom Gibbons.

“We’re improving as we go along. You can kind of feel it and see it. I think our best basketball is still ahead of us. Any time you win in this League (Mid-Wach A) you don’t take it for granted.

Joyce Roberts photos Joyce Roberts photos “Every game’s a fight. Every game’s a battle. We knew that nothing was going to come easy this season. Tyler Dion (WRHS 2016 graduate who collected 1,000 career points) isn’t walking through that door. We knew we’d have to fight for everything but we knew that we could improve. We think we’re pretty good but I think we’re getting better.”

“We could certainly be doing better but I’m really happy where we are,” echoed senior co-captain Erik Bjorn. “I think we have a lot going for us heading to the future and we’re going to be just fine. We have some really competitive games coming up on the schedule but I think we’re going to be ok.”

In its 65-42 dismantling of visiting Shepherd Hill, the Mountaineer squad clearly had strong defense as its number one goal. The Rams had put up 80 points on the board in their previous game and taken visiting Wachusett to 72 points in an earlier-season matchup, won by Wachusett 75-72 in OT.

“Our focus point tonight was to keep them under 40 points,” said sophomore guard Joey Nuttall. “If we can hold teams to the 40-range we should be able to win. We can compete with anyone.

We’ve made big strides since the beginning of the season and we’re just going to continue to improve.”

“I thought our defense has improved and what we wanted to do was hold them in the 40s,” added Gibbons. “Once we got our fast break going and Nuttall got us going on the break, we are able to take care of business.”

The team’s offense was ignited by a burst of early threepoint conversions that stretched Wachusett’s lead to 32-18 at the halftime break. Promising sophomore forward Liam Griffin hit for back-to-back threes while Nuttall added one of his own in the opening 16 minutes. Other contributors on the night from beyond the arc were Nuttall and Ryan Brodin with two apiece while Sam Dion and Brian Quinn each chipped in with one.

Leading scorers for Wachusett were Nuttall with 17 while Bjorn and Griffin each hit for 12 points.

48 Hours later it was on to Worcester to face off with Doherty High and there would be no letup as the Mountaineers extended their win streak. Bjorn had a night to remember hitting for a gamehigh 26 points while Dion was not far behind striking for 20 in pacing the 68-54 victory over the Highlanders. Nuttall managed to record ten points while Griffin dropped in nine.

Wachusett now moves on to play its final road games of the regular season with trips to Shrewsbury on Feb. 3 and

Marlborough on Feb. 7 before returning home to conclude the 2016-2017 campaign with matchups against Algonquin, Leominster, Westborough and Worcester North. Tip-off for all is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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