Brooklyn— The Bronx Flame opened up the second half in New York, on a 27-8 run, lighting up the scoreboard with a barrage of three-pointers that the Worcester 78’s (2-1) couldn’t extinguish. The 78’s would eventually succumb to the Flame and the season’s first defeat, 121-107, on November 17.
Worcester wasn’t able to either spread the floor or create in transition as the small gym in Brooklyn wasn’t conducive to Worcester’s speed on the floor.
Despite the setback, Worcester head coach Anthony Leonelli isn’t making any excuses for an assortment of variables that didn’t go the 78’s way.
“I wasn’t pleased with our effort and at the end of the day, that starts and ends with me,” said the second-year coach, Leonelli. “If we wanted to play the excuse game, we could blame the ride, missing guys, the delay in start, or the horrific officiating — but bottom line I need to prepare us to win better.”
Without star guard Tony Gallo in the lineup, the 78’s turned to Kamahl Walker (19 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists) to replace their leading scorer on the floor.
Flames Make Run To Open Second Half
The Flame opened the second half knocking down their first four shots from beyond the arc while Worcester turned the ball over twice in the first four minutes of play to trail the Flame, 65-60.
The 78’s would go on to miss their next three shots from three-point land, finishing the game a woeful seven for thirty-three from behind the arc.
The Flames, however, began to get on the break as they picked up a loose ball at half-court and finished it off with a thunderous dunk to give the Bronx a 76-63 advantage.
Worcester’s Jose Cruz Jr. (7 points, 2 rebounds) then finished on a pick-and-roll from Walker to cut the Flame lead to 78-65.
The 78’s followed up a defensive stop with a missed three from the corner, that allowed the Bronx to get on the break again, as they knocked down a jumper from the wing to finish off a 27-8 run that Worcester couldn’t recover from.
A Final Push
Leonelli gave his team a brief spark by earning a technical foul with the officials, that seemingly sent his team on a 15-7 run, to cut the Bronx lead to 87-80.
With five minutes to go Worcester added a Walker three from the wing and Scotty Tavarez-Taylor (5 points, 7 rebounds) knocked down three consecutive free throws after being fouled from behind the arc to cut the deficit to 100-94.
That would be as close as the 78s would get before settling for the 121-107 defeat.
Worcester Players Horton, Bull, Lead The Way
Former Burncoat High School star Maurice Horton (26 points, 13 rebounds) was one of the few bright spots in Brooklyn on Saturday, and rightfully earned the praise from Coach Leonelli after the game.
“Maurice is a competitor and he gave us a lift offensively,” Leonelli said. “He should have been on the line [at least] eight or nine times and didn’t get the whistle.”
Worcester also had a significant contribution from Dominque Bull off the bench, as he scored 18 points, with three steals, while starting guard Naadir Tharpe had 13 points, with five assists.
Fellow guard Dmitri Floras chipped in with 12 points, five assists, and five steals, to help Worcester’s cause.
The road only gets tougher for the 78’s during the next two weekends as they travel to play the ATC Cardinals and the Jersey Express. This time around, Coach Leonelli hopes to see more from his team than what he saw in Brooklyn against the Flame.
“We play tough teams the next two [weeks] so we’ll learn a lot about our team,” Leonelli said.