Southington boys basketball had never started a season with two wins under head coach, John Cessario. In fact, the Blue Knights had not won their first two games of the season since 2006. That season, Southington started out 9-1 through their first 10 games on their way to a 14-6 record.
Now the Blue Knights are hoping to have a similar season to 2006 after defeating Berlin and Hall to start out 2-0. In their season opener against Berlin, Southington jumped out to a big lead in the first half but were not able to create separation versus Hall until the end of the third quarter.
Here is what happened:
Win over Berlin
DEC. 20—Southington outscored Berlin, 15-4, in the first quarter and never looked back from a 32-16 halftime lead. Jake Napoli was the only player from either team to score 20 or more points, and had nine points in the second quarter alone.
Napoli finished with 22 points on 9-of-16 shooting, including 4-of-10 on three pointers. Jared Kelly had a double-double for the Blue Knights as he recorded 16 points and 12 rebounds, including five offensive rebounds. Kelly also had three assists.
Southington held Berlin to 40% from the field, including under 50% from inside the three-point line.
Win over Hall
DEC. 23—Both teams were neck-and-neck as Southington held a slim 29-25 lead at halftime. But Southington went on a big run in the final four minutes of the third quarter to go up by 13 to start the fourth.
Southington was able to get to the foul line at will, shooting 18-of-26 in the game, including 13-of-19 in the second half.
Napoli put in another big performance, scoring 34 points while racking up eight rebounds. After making four three-pointers in the first half, Napoli began to attack the basket in the second half against an undersized Hall lineup.
Napoli scored 20 points in the second half, including 10-of-14 from the foul line. Kelly scored 11 of his 13 points in the second half while Aedan Derrick finished with 12 points.
“Napoli carried us in the first half with those threes then had that inside presence in the second half,” Cessario said. “Kelly had a huge second half. When you have senior leadership like that, you are going to be in good shape.”
The Blue Knights dominated in the rebounds department as Zach Zembrzuski and Derrick were able to control the glass, especially in the second half.
“Our big guys answered the call tonight,” Cessario said. “Obviously, it was against a bit of an undersized team. But if they are not doing it against undersized teams, then they may not do it at all. Aedan and Zach (Zembrzuski) were terrific tonight.”
While Cessario said there is still a long way to go, the team is continuing to get better each day.
“This is a bright and hardworking team,” Cessario said. “We have a great group of kids and we are starting to see them flourish in the positions that we are asking them to play. They are just starting to come together. I am proud to say that, going into Christmas, we have taken steps forward to getting better. That is all I can ask for.”
The Blue Knights tried to keep their undefeated season alive last Friday when they hosted East Windsor (0-2). They begin a three-game road trip tonight when they travel to Enfield for a 6:45 p.m. tip-off.
They will continue on Monday at Conard and Thursday at Simsbury.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Spencer Dreher, email him at SDreher@SouthingtonObserver.com.