Northwestern keeps pace in BL race with win at Gilbert
WINSTED – The night started with two rival schools coming together.
The Gilbert/Northwestern football team, winners of the 2013 Pequot Conference Western Division, was honored with a new banner in the Gilbert gym in a pregame ceremony.
It ended with the Northwestern basketball team winning on the home floor of its biggest rival in Gilbert, 53-46, before of a sellout of 400 fans, not counting the overflow crowd watching the game on the big-screen in the school’s auditorium.
In-between, the Highlanders (7-2, 7-1 BL) showed why they’re the biggest threat to upend unbeaten Terryville in the Berkshire League race.
Led by Stephen McGrath’s 21 points and eight rebounds, Northwestern's fast-paced and motion offense stifled Gilbert.
The Highlanders jumped out to a nine-point lead at the half and extended it to 11 (31-20) quickly in the third quarter.
After Gilbert head coach Mark Douglass called a timeout, the Yellowjackets showed immediate life thanks to Yorkarky Samiento. The senior, who finished with a game-high 22 points and 12 rebounds, hit a quick jumper and followed it with a dunk in transition that electrified the already fired-up crowd.
Northwestern, however, didn’t panic and scored four straight points to answer.
“Our kids let their emotions at that moment get the best of them,” Douglass said. “When you work that hard to come back, you expend a lot of energy. Once it gets close or tied, it’s easy to let up. The same thing happened for us against Terryville the other night and we were unable to overcome it.”
In the fourth, the Yellowjackets, who also received 10 points from Yordan Reyes, pulled within three on a lay-up from Samiento with 2:38 left. They were unable to get any closer as McGrath and Ted Bremmer each contributed baskets and critical free throws to seal the win.
“Any time you play a rival, the game is up for grabs and I thought we did a great job to get a tough win,” Northwestern head coach Doug Sebach said. “We know we still have to get better, though. The teams at the top of this league are very good and we have to keep working hard if we want to be there.”
“This was a big win for us, especially against a tough team on their court,” added McGrath. “It was hard. They never backed down and we had to earn it.”
Inexperience hurt Gilbert late in the fourth, says Douglass. But he is encouraged by the potential learning experience this game will bring.
“Right after the game, we talked about what we learned and what we need to do going forward,” said Douglass, whose team fell to 4-3. “The kids will learn that athletic ability alone will not carry you. We have to get better in a basketball sense – from passing the ball to being in the right sports. We will be OK.”
Richard Persechino added 13 points in the win, which keeps the Highlanders within one game of Terryville. Northwestern lost by eight to the Kangaroos on opening night, by far the closest league contest Terryville has played. The Kangaroos have won every game since by at least 24 points.
“We like that we control our own destiny," Bremmer said. "We’re looking forward to going down there and giving them our best shot when that times comes."
That time comes on January 28. Mark your calendar.