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Junior small forward Jack Naccarato and the Westbrook boys’ basketball team earned a 66-45 home win against Old Saybrook on Jan. 6. Naccarato supplied 33 points in the victory over the Rams. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
Sophomore point guard Joseph Caslin and the Knights split a pair of games last week. Caslin is Westbrook’s floor general who handles the ball the majority of the time. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
Sophomore Jesse Whitney plays disruptive defense for Westbrook by grabbing steals and jumping passing lanes in order to start fast breaks on the other end. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
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The Westbrook boys’ basketball team is a young squad that’s building for the future, but last week, the Knights picked up a win that helped them in the present. Westbrook earned a split of last week’s matchups by defeating Old Saybrook and losing to Portland. The team now has a record of 3-5 as it approaches the midway point of the regular season. Head Coach Jeff Beeman and his club are looking to build some momentum and pick up the five additional wins that will be necessary for the Knights to make the Division V State Tournament.
On Jan. 6, the Knights grabbed a 66-45 home win against Old Saybrook. Coach Beeman felt the victory was an important one for his inexperienced squad as its looking to gain more confidence.
“Any win is a good win for our very young basketball team. We’re still getting our feet wet and figuring out the level of intensity it takes to win at the varsity level,” said Beeman. “We wish we had more wins than we do. We have three and the magic number is eight. You want to win them all, but you just can’t always do that.”
Coach Beeman thought the biggest factor in the victory for the Knights was that they were able to limit the impact of the Rams’ top-scorer, point guard Davis Brown. It also helped that Westbrook got some good shots to go down.
“We defended really well against their best player. We played a solid game against him. We were able morph that into good offense and get some easy points on our end,” said Beeman. “We shot the ball pretty well. We were 43 percent from two and 37 percent from three for an overall mark of 41 percent. If you’re in the high 30s to low 40s at the high school level, you can win a fair number of games.”
One of Westbrook’s biggest contributors this season has been junior small forward Jack Naccarato. In the game against Old Saybrook, Naccarato provided 33 points, 15 rebounds, and four blocks.
“Jack has been our best scorer throughout the season,” Beeman said. “He’s the guy who’s playing big minutes, and then we have eight other guys that we’re rotating through and getting a lot of experience.”
Another player who had a big impact against the Rams was sophomore guard Joey Caslin. Caslin is Westbrook’s primary ball handler, and he helped the Knights maintain possession and prevent live ball turnovers.
“Joey had 14 points against Old Saybrook. He handles the ball the most for us, and he only had one turnover in the game,” said Beeman. “We only had 10 turnovers as a team for the entire game. If you shoot like we did and have 10 or less turnovers, you have something good going on.”
On Jan. 9, Westbrook dropped a 54-36 home contest against Portland. The Knights were able to put together a strong shooting performance against Old Saybrook, but they couldn’t maintain that momentum in their follwing game against the Highlanders.
“We had a poor shooting night. We had our chances in the first half,” Beeman said. “We were down by three at halftime, and Portland came out and stuck it to us. They are a good solid team.”
Westbrook was effective on the boards, but it wasn’t enough to move the needle against Portland. Coach Beeman also thought his team needed to capitalize at the charity stripe to have a better chance.
“We’re struggling a bit from the foul line, and we’re working on that,” Beeman said. “We’re small. Our biggest guy is six-one, but we rebounded well though in the first half. Our guards had four rebounds each.”
Overall, Coach Beeman is pleased with the brand of defense his team has cobbled together this season.
“We are playing some good, solid man-to-man defense. We’re putting more pressure on people,” said Beeman. “When we play so many people we can rotate more people in without anyone getting too gassed.”
One of the bigger contributors on the defensive end is sophomore Jesse Whitney.
“Jesse may be one of the most disruptive defenders I’ve ever had, in terms of anticipating steals and getting into passing lanes,” Beeman said. “He’s unbelievably fast. He takes possession away from the other team.”
On the offensive end, Coach Beeman and his staff are trying to get the Knights to adjust to defenses on the fly. Beeman believes that will make his players more versatile on the attack.
“We’re trying to teach them concepts that can be used in a read and react offense. We want them to be able to decide if they are curling popping out, or going back door,” Beeman said. “Once you learn the concepts, you can play for everybody. I like to think when my kids get done with me, it doesn’t matter where they are playing, they’ll always be solid.”
In the end, Coach Beeman knows that the Shoreline Conference has some solid talent throughout and a couple of elite teams that will be challenging for his team to face. Coach Beeman knows that his team will not be able to win every game that they play, but the Knights can go out and put up a good fight regardless of the opponent.
“We’re still working at it. We’ve got some monsters in our league that will be difficult for us to beat, but stranger things have happened,” said Beeman. “Our goal going into summer league and fall league was that we just wanted to compete start to finish, and we’re continuing on with that mantra. If we lose to a better team, we can live with that, if we don’t compete, we can’t live with that.”
From the Sidelines
The Westbrook boys’ basketball team’s roster includes senior Joshua Maura; juniors Brenden Engels, Jack Naccarato, Cameron Neely, Nicholas Palumbo, Daniel Ruppernicker, Luca Troop, and Zachary Zanzalari; sophomores Joey Caslin, Kyle Czenthe, Samuel Freeman, Evan McIntyre, Jesse Whitney, Justin Whitney, and David Willis; and freshmen Enzo Adorno, Lucas Bennett, Jonathan Brajczewski, Ryan Engels, James Grace, Grant Libeson, Brandon Naccarato, Vincent Naccarato, Jacob Perreault, Tyler Prisley, Michael Sharpe, and Michael Von Ehr.
Head Coach Jeff Beeman’s coaching staff includes assistant coaches Brett Cavilieri, Torin Wood, and Dan Shapiro.
For the rest of the regular season, Westbrook has home contests against Morgan, Valley Regional, Hale-Ray, Wilcox Tech, and East Hampton. The Knights play road games versus Hale-Ray, East Hampton, Old Saybrook, Old Lyme, Portland, Whitney Tech, and Haddam-Killingworth.
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