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Beware the Highlanders

POSTED January 18, 2012
BY Rick Wilson
Twitter: @scribewilson


                                                  Beware the Highlanders

            WINSTED – It was hard to tell what to make of Tuesday night’s Berkshire League boys basketball game between Northwestern Regional and Nonnewaug. Simply because previously undefeated Nonnewaug forgot to show up and Chiefs coach Tim Drakeley would tell you that after coming out on the short end of a 46-26 game.

            But even with Nonnewaug having one of those deadly nights where the energy is low and the game can’t be found, Northwestern showed enough to scare the heck out of the rest of the league.

            Not that the Highlanders’ talents are a surprise. There is talent on the hill in Winsted that houses the red and white every year.  They don’t sneak up on anybody. But coach Doug Sebach has a contingent that when all is right you wonder if anyone can match the Highlanders.

            It starts with junior John Stevens, a wiry 6-foot-2 bundle of talent. Stevens made everybody sit up and take notice in the BL Tournament last season with 21 points in the championship victory over Litchfield and 20 points in the semifinal win over Nonnewaug.

            He’s got range and he’s got a nose for the hoop with more than a few gyrations to further befuddle the defense. He’s got a jumper and he has a floater. There is little that Stevens can’t do. Now, he is working on his defense and rebounding as evidenced by his 10 boards against Nonnewaug.

            The Chiefs saw a little bit of it all. Stevens (18 points) drilled a couple of three-pointers, hit a floater in the lane and slipped a nice pass around a defender in the lane although the layup was missed.

            Gilbert coach Mark Douglass was in the crowd and he knows about Stevens.

            “He’s got it all, all he has to do is get a little more physical,” said Douglass.

            Sebach lauded Stevens saying, “When he is patient and lets the game come to him he is hard to stop. When he is going, everybody else is going well.’

            Sebach then when on to say that Stevens is just a small part of the team’success.

            Okay, we understand the team thing and Northwestern is certainly no one-man team. But, a small part? Stevens is an immense part of the Highlanders’ power source. Oh, and did we say that Stevens also has attitude? Good attitude.

            “I’ve got to do what needs to be done whether it is passing, scoring rebounding or defense. Whatever I need to do.”

            There is plenty of company, however. Running mate Connor Guiheen who had 12 points has a deft touch with his left-handed jumper and can also go strong to the hoop. As a duo, Stevens and Guiheen are as lethal as any pair in the league and there are some good ones like Gilbert’s Austin Brochu and Robert Skinner.

            Mike Jeffko provided an inside presence with seven points but more importantly nine rebounds. Art Lefevre tossed in a couple of treys. And all along the Highlanders played some pretty effective defense.

            Some full court pressure for rattling purposes and then back in the zone which looked pretty good especially to Nonnewaug.

            Nobody is getting carried away here and claiming title. There is half of a season to go with plenty of tough teams on the schedule including Nonnewaug and you know the Chiefs will be looking to erase this memory when they get to their place.

            And you can’t get carried away on a night when Nonnewaug was just somewhere else. It happens sometimes. But there was more than a hint that the Highlanders can be high octane and maybe more than the rest of the BL can handle.

            So far there has only been one meltdown when a 19-point halftime lead over Gilbert turned into a gut-wrenching loss. Already the Highlanders seemed to have learned from that. They led, 26-14, at the break here and there was no letdown in the final 16 minutes.

            In years past the Highlanders have games they should have won and watched titles slip away. This team certainly has the look of a team that could be on the top of the Mountain in a month.

            No givens and a long way to go. But the ingredients are there. Even on this night that was evident.   

Northwestern 46, Nonnewaug 26

Nonnewaug (9-1) Greg Porcelli 0 0 0, Pat Potter 3 1 8, Jake Pogodzienski 2 0 4, Ben Timme 2 2 6, Dylan Martland 3 0 6, Kyle Kennedy , Christian Metallo 0 0 0, Totals 11 3 26.

Northwestern (9-2): John Stevens 8 0 18, Art Lefevre 2 0 6, John Lippincott 0 0 0, Eric Weingart 0 0 0, Connor Guiheen 4 4 12, Mike Jeffko 3 1 7, Jacob Plitt 0 0 0, Ed Bremer 1 1 3, Totals 18 6 46.

Nonnewaug                 11 3 6 6—26

Northwestern              15 11 12 8—46

3-point goals: N – Potter 1; NW – Stevens 2, Lefevre 2.

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