by BRYAN EVERSON
If Berkley had an answer for Stoney Creek’s ferocity of the ball, the Bears must have left it at home.
Fresh off a 46-43 win over rival Rochester Adams three days earlier, the Cougars forced turnovers and feasted in the interior Monday night to score a 55-37 win and pick up their second victory of 2017.
“We had some things we had to clean up after Friday night, and we showed that tonight,” Stoney Creek coach Steve Norgrove said. “What I really appreciate about this team is their adaptability, going from one game, making adjustments and taking them to the floor.”
Stoney (6-2) simply out-hustled the Bears to build the early lead. Junior guard Nate Davis scored a pair of baskets off turnovers, and Michael Melaragni proved to be too much in the paint. He and his teammates drew 10 fouls in the first half, and Melaragni made the most of his first and second-chance opportunities, including a tip-in at the buzzer of an in-bounds play from under the basket to close the opening quarter to take a 16-3 lead.
“Once we started to control the tempo of the game, good things start to happen for us offensively and defensively,” Norgrove said. “When we can rely on each other defensively as opposed to playing as individuals, we’re tough at the defensive end.”
Melaragni and Davis both drew and-1 opportunities in the second quarter, and a 3-pointer by Drew Kell helped propel the Cougars to a 19-point advantage at one point before half, which proved too steep a hole for Berkley to climb out of.
Two quick inside baskets helped Stoney jump out to a good start after the break and continue to outpace Berkley in the third quarter. Although the Bears put together several good consecutive possessions to begin the final eight minutes, junior guard Cameron Keaser answered with a 3, and an inside basket by Ian Catallo helped bring the lead again to over 20, allowing Norgrove to get some of his reserves several minutes of run to close the game.
“Our guys are playing extremely hard in practice, and I know it’s tough sometimes when guys aren’t getting minutes,” Norgrove said. “Tonight was a great game that got everyone involved. The thing I appreciate most as a coach is when guys who do lot a lot of minutes are every bit as excited as the guy who don’t when they’re in. The selfishness doesn’t creep into our team.”
Davis finished with a game-high 16 points for Stoney, followed up by Melaragni, who was one of 10 other Cougars who scored, chipping in 11 and providing a focal point for his team’s inside game.
“Mike’s the kind of kid who just plays with extreme energy,” Norgrove said. “He’s a tough matchup. I don’t know if you guard him with a guard or a big, but he definitely knows how to take advantage of situations, and he’s adaptable. That’s what we appreciate about him, he gives us what he has.”
Melaragni may have been the biggest physically, but Stoney did a good job collectively on the boards.
“Guys were covering their assignments,” Norgrove said. “We send some guys to the glass and some have to get back, and guys did a good job tonight covering those assignments. And that’s why rebounding is a team effort on positioning and clearing guys out. We try to really make sure we’re getting everybody involved, and instead of just watching a shot, we’re involved with the shot.”
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