SOMERVILLE— Worcester answered the bell following a disappointing loss this past Saturday night, with a win over the New England Outtatowners, 124-117 in Boston on Sunday. As the 78’s guard combo of Tony Gallo (35 points), and Dmitri Flores (30 points) led all scorers for the 7-point margin of victory.
“Coming off Saturday we were fortunate the schedule gave us an opportunity to do something about the [Saturday loss],” said Worcester head coach Anthony Leonelli. “We had a lot of great discussions on how we can improve, and we talked a lot on improving our urgency, and coming out ready to play — and we did that.”
Worcester jumped out to an 89-76 lead heading into the fourth quarter, as Gallo came off a Jose Cruz Jr, (10 points, 11 rebounds) screen to nail a three-pointer from the wing, and Kamahl Walker (16 points) added an off-balance lay-up in transition.
The double-double for Cruz Jr, was his first of the season, as the center has been imperative for the team both on and off the court.
“(Cruz Jr.) is a solid presence for us, he rebounds very well, he’s very good defensively, and a very good passer for a big man, and can be explosive around the rim,” Leonelli said. “He’s very invested, and he’s a great teammate to have on the team.”
Flores was also explosive in the fourth quarter as he scored 14 of his 30 points in the final quarter and followed Walker’s lay-up with a three-pointer while being fouled to earn a four-point-play, to put Worcester up 98-80.
“(Flores) can be a special player for us,” Leonelli said. “He didn’t back down on Saturday and was one of our best offensive players on Sunday.”
Defensively, the 78’s worked on their communication and switching on the pick-and-rolls along the perimeter, a problem for Worcester on Saturday night verse Western Mass.
“With their tall wing players, we went to a switching set, where we switched on every screen,” Leonelli said. “What that makes you do is communicate, and makes you move your feet while dialing up our communication.”
Offensively, communication is just as key for the 78’s, just as spreading the perimeter while setting back screens and moving along the baseline, as well as getting out on transition as Worcester did against New England on Sunday.
After Flores converted on a four-point-play, he took a long outlet pass from Cruz Jr. and hit a step-back three, before converting in transition on a lay-up with a behind the back pass from Walker, to make the score 105-80 over the Outtatowners.
“On Saturday, I thought we got caught ball-watching,” Leonelli said. “We get in trouble when four guys watch one guy play offense— we had really good ball movement and play the way we normally play [on Sunday].”
Cruz Jr. added a lay-up off a drive from the perimeter to make the score 107-88, while Walker padded the lead with a three-pointer from the wing to make it a 22-point Worcester advantage.
Gallo would add a three from the wing and Flores would finish a lay-up with a foul, converting the three-point play to put the 78’s up for good 116-95. Worcester would hold off New England the rest of the way, 124-117.
“One of the few positives is how invested these guys are and how positive our locker room was after the game, and that’s important for our growth,” Leonelli reiterated on Sunday.
Notes: Worcester has still been without guard Lee Vasquez with an upper body injury and were also without Scotty Tavares-Taylor and Sam Longwell on Sunday.
Worcester will travel to play the Bronx Flame again on December 15th before returning home following the holiday break at Worcester State University on January 5th to host the Oneonta Octane.