The Worcester 78’s didn’t disappoint any of their fan base on Sunday night. The 78’s finished off the opening weekend of their ABA season with a hard fought 133-123 win over the Elite Kings in Queens, New York to remain unbeaten at 2-0 overall.
Worcester kept the pressure on the Elite Kings all night, lighting up the scoreboard with their high-octane offense and guard play on overload to outslug the New York team at the end.
“We knew going down there it was going to be tough,” said Worcester 78s head coach Anthony Leonelli. “They’re a really good team, we split with them last year and they’re one of the real class organizations in the league.”
The 78s’ Naadir Tharpe (23 points, 12 assists) led Worcester and Coach Leonelli’s guard heavy lineup, while fellow guard and the 78s leading scorer last season, Tony Gallo (28 points), lit up the stat sheet with his mid-range game, while Sam Rockwell chipped in 20 points and nine rebounds. Jose Cruz Jr. added 6 points and 13 rebounds from the power forward position.
Coach Leonelli cited his unselfish guard play, and not settling for contested shots around the perimeter as the key in coming away with a needed win over a quality opponent.
“One of the things we stressed about the (Elite Kings) is that they are never going to go away, we got (the score) out to 18 or 19 points a couple of times and they made a run every single time, and got back to seven or eight points,” Leonelli said. “They are relentless, extremely talented, and extremely deep.”
However, Coach Leonelli’s versatile guard lineup and Worcester’s ability to get out in transition was the difference as 78’s guard Lee Vazquez chipped in 17 points and 4 rebounds while handing out 4 assists, while Dmitri Floras and Scotty Tavares-Taylor chipped in 14 points together respectively
“Gallo was really invested in our mid-range game while Tavares-Taylor and Vazquez were really solid guards for us, as well as Floras,” Leonelli said. “Those guys really affect a game in a lot of ways.”
Following two games, the Worcester 78’s are averaging nearly 137 points per game, making their brand of basketball both entertaining and successful both on and off the court.
“We want to be in transition, make it or miss it, we want to get the ball up the floor and make a play,” Leonelli said.
The 78’s are looking to continue their resounding scoring and early success as they prepare for the toughest part of the schedule with weekend trips to upstate New York, the Bronx, and New Jersey in the next three weeks.
“We have a tough road coming up, “Leonelli said. “What’s tricky for me is that I’ve got 15-16 guys who can contribute, and I can only dress 12. That’s tough, but it’s a good stretch coming up and we’re excited about it. We are going to learn a lot about our team in these next three games.”
What Coach Leonelli already knows is that is his team is unselfish both on and off the court, as they enjoy playing together, and aren’t afraid to give up a contested or good shot for a great open look.
“To have guys give up a good shot for a great shot, you know our guys are on the same page, and they do that across the board,” Leonelli said.
The Worcester 78’s travel to the Brooklyn on November 17 to take on the Flames at 8:00pm. Visit Worcester78s.com and This Week in Worcester for more coverage on Worcester’s undefeated ABA basketball team.
*Header image by James Kusz