Coach Wants to Power Up Boys Bball

Published in the January 16, 2008 issue of Stow Independent

By Jordana Bieze Foster

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When they're at their best, they play like scrappy junkyard dogs. But at other times, they look like they're just dog-tired. For the Nashoba Regional boys basketball team to turn its season around, head coach Jon LeSage says his up-and-down Chieftains will need to bring more energy to every game.

“We're really trying to elevate our level of play and our level of emotion,” LeSage said Friday night following a 48-38 loss at home to league rival Gardner, which dropped the Chieftains to 2-6 on the season and 0-2 in Mid-Wach B. “We're a team that needs to scrap and fight hard every night, because nobody's going to give us anything. We do it in practice, but we haven't really been able to make it carry over to game situations.”

Although Nashoba jumped out to an early 6-2 lead over the Wildcats and led 11-10 after one quarter, Gardner regained the advantage with a lay-up to open the second quarter and parlayed it into a 20-15 halftime lead. The poor shooting by the Chieftains in the first half was eerily reminiscent of last Tuesday's game at Quabbin, in which Nashoba never recovered from a 31-15 halftime deficit and ended up on the short end of a 64-30 drubbing.

On Friday, the Chieftains did manage to turn things up a notch late in the fourth quarter, with a 7-point run that began with four minutes remaining in the game. Following a jumper by senior guard Mike Pesanelli and a three-pointer by senior guard Jason Breitenwischer of Stow, junior forward Matt Murray of Stow came up with a big block on the defensive end and turned it into two more points to make the score 42-34 with two minutes left. But that was as close as it got.

“In the first half we came out kind of slow—again,” said Breitenwischer, who is a team tri-captain along with Pesanelli and senior forward Peter Steere. “In the second half we started to pick it up. But we still haven't played a whole game to our full potential. Once we do that, things will come together and we'll start getting the results we work for in practice and the results we expect to have.”

In many cases, LeSage said, the Chieftains' positive energy comes from Breitenwischer, who came to the team well-conditioned from a season of soccer and epitomizes the scrappy mentality that the coach is looking for from all of his players.

“Jason plays with so much emotion,” LeSage said. “He plays hard all the time. If things aren't going his way offensively, he's still on the floor because he gives us a lot defensively and he gives us a lot of energy. He's really taking over as a leader on this team.”

For his part, Breitenwischer applauded the efforts of fellow senior Kyle Grasso, who missed the first few games of the season with an ankle injury. After not making the varsity squad last year, Grasso worked hard to improve his game in the last year, and it paid off.

“Kyle came back as a better player this year, to his credit,” LeSage said. “He's a real hard worker.”

The Murray twins, the only juniors on the team this season, are both significant contributors. Although the 6'3” Paul is the taller of the two by an inch, Matt—who played on the offensive and defensive lines during football season and will don catcher's gear in the spring—is more likely to be posting up for the Chieftains. Paul, who plays end on the gridiron and pitches in the spring, is more versatile as a scorer on the basketball court.

“We've talked to Matt more about being a presence inside, playing a major role as more of a big man, and he's had success with that,” LeSage said. “Paul's more of a slasher. He's definitely aggressive in going to the hoop. Both have been big parts of what we're doing.”

The size of the Murrays and the 6'5” Steere is matched by that of sophomores Chris Parenteau (6'6”) and Peter Hagermoser (6'3”)--something that LeSage hopes to take more advantage of as the group continues to play together.

“You can't teach size, so it's a bonus to have,” he said.

The Chieftains' next test will be Friday against league opponent Groton Dunstable (6-2). Tip-off is scheduled for 7 pm in Bolton.

Copyright 2008 Jordana Foster – 24 Kirkland Dr, Stow, MA – Email: – Fax: (815) 346-5239