FLORIDA — The Worcester 78’s arrived in Florida, New York with an arsenal on Saturday night. The 78’s improved to 3-1 on the season by shooting the lights out, knocking down 25 of their 61 three-point attempts, to finish with a team best in points and a 170-113 victory.
“Coming off a loss [to the Bronx Flames], and it’s not something we do a lot of, so it was interesting to see how the team would respond,” said Worcester head coach Anthony Leonelli.
“Our guys got out of the bus ready to compete, and we really got going shooting 25 3’s.”
Daivon Edwards (10 points) got Worcester going to put them up 7-0 with a three from the top of the key. As the starting five built the lead up to 13-5 before Coach Leonelli sent in five players off the bench that lit the scoreboard up, with their pressure defense, and prolific passing.
The second unit of Sam Longwell (18 points, eight rebounds, five assists) and Sean McCarthy (11 points, 9 rebounds) led the front court, while Dimitri Floras added 30 points, four assists, four steals and Tony Gallo had 14 points, with 10 assists. Newly acquired Jerry Buchanon also had a significant contribution off the bench with 22 points.
Longwell knocked down a three from the corner to make the score 16-5, followed by a Floras three from the wing, to make it 19-10 with 7:08 left in the first quarter.
“I was really happy to see Dimitri Floras get going,” said Leonelli. “When he shoots the ball like that [11-16 from the field], we can really be tough. It’s guys like Longwell who had 18 points on nine shots, and Gallo had 10 assists and really got other players involved.”
McCarthy then added a little hook in the lane on a feed from Buchanon, before he knocked down a floater off a fast break. Rockwell then found Domonique Bull (10 points, four rebounds) underneath to make the score 23-14. Floras and Longwell then added a pair of treys to make the score 31-14 with 3:27 to go.
Gallo then found Maurice Horton (20 points, 10 rebounds) from the baseline, to make the score 36-14.
Scotty Tavarez-Taylor (18 points, seven assists) came in off the bench and immediately had an impact, adding a steal and layup in transition before Kamahl Walker (15 points, four assists) went coast-to-coast off a miss to make the score 48-24.
Horton closed out the onslaught of 52 points scored by Worcester in the first quarter, by knocking down a pair of free throws, to give Worcester a 52-28 advantage.
“With the depth that we have, we can have guys pick up full court, and play aggressively,” Leonelli said. “We want to work on us, and what I go back and [tell the team is] we only get 20 of these games, and we need to work on different situations, we aren’t trying to run it up on anybody, [but] 10 guys in double figures is pretty special.”
The Worcester 78’s went on to take an 85-58 lead into the locker room, before utilizing their unselfish play to put up 52 points again during the third quarter, before running away with the 170-133 victory in New York.
“Anytime you put up 170 points, you’re really happy with your offensive output,” Leonelli said. “I’m really happy with how unselfish we were.”
With 10 players in double figures, many quality players on Worcester have been sacrificing their minutes to embrace Leonelli’s team concept.
“Sean McCarthy at six feet, eleven inches gives us a dimension we don’t have otherwise,” Leonelli said. “He’s amended a lot of his minutes to play with us and gives us a nice piece [in the frontcourt].”
Coach Leonelli also had a lot of praise for newly acquired Jerry Buchanon from Springfield, who in the past, would light up the 78’s with his ability to score the basketball.
“(Buchanon) would do that to us when he was at Springfield,” Leonelli said. “He went 40 (points) against us more than once, and he gave us a lot of trouble. I knew he was a good player and a good shooter, but he is unbelievably smart, and he fits in with our group really well.”
Now Coach Leonelli prepares for one of the 78’s biggest games of the season against the Jersey Express before heading home for a December 8 matchup against the Western Mass Zombies.
“It’s Jersey week, and we have a great rivalry with Jersey,” Leonelli said. “We’ve split with them the last two regular seasons and they beat us in the playoffs last year. It’s a big week for us as we practice and prepare for a huge game.”