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Senior captain Ian Reynolds and the East Haven boys’ basketball team are standing at 5-3 this season after winning two of their three games last week. Reynolds scored 21 points when the Yellowjackets earned a 52-39 victory versus Lyman Hall on March 3. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Senior captain Nick Furino and the Yellowjackets took a loss to Xavier last week, but rebounded with wins against Lyman Hall and Guilford to boost their record to 5-3 and eclipse last year’s win total. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Senior Trey Garea has been collecting plenty of rebounds for the East Haven boys’ basketball team in his first season with the squad. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Junior Shea Carasone and the Easties claimed a 52-39 win versus Lyman Hall and then defeated Guilford by a 42-34 score in last week’s action. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Last year, the East Haven boys’ basketball team only won four games for its entire 20-game season. Now, in the middle of their 11-game 2021 campaign, the Yellowjackets have already surpassed last year’s win total by claiming victory in two of their three games last week to improve to 5-3 on the year.
East Haven started off the week by taking a 51-42 road loss to Xavier on March 1. The Yellowjackets bounced right back by earning a 52-39 victory at Lyman Hall on March 3, followed by a 42-34 win versus Guilford in a home game on March 5.
In their first game of the week, the Easties trailed Xavier 14-7 after the first quarter, but outscored the Falcons 14-2 in the second to take a 21-16 lead into halftime. However, Xavier outscored East Haven 35-21 during the second half to win a 51-42 decision.
Senior Alias Ford scored 13 points for the Yellowjackets. Junior Shea Carasone hit four 3-pointers on his way to scoring 12 points, while senior captain Nick Furino had 10 points in the loss.
“I thought we played really well, just not well enough to win the game,” Head Coach Ricky Narracci said. “We got down early in the game, had a tremendous second quarter, and took the lead at half. It basically back-and-forth the rest of the second half. It was a one-point game with three minutes to go. They have a special sophomore who made some plays down the stretch. That was the difference.”
Two days later, East Haven played an away game against Lyman Hall and jumped out to a strong start with a 16-11 lead after the first quarter and a 27-20 advantage at halftime. Lyman Hall battled back and won the third quarter by a 16-9 margin to tie the game at 36-36 entering the fourth. In the final frame, the Yellowjackets ramped up their defensive intensity to outscore Lyman Hall 16-3 for the period and walk off the floor with a 52-39 victory.
Senior captain Ian Reynolds had a big game for the Easties by netting 21 points in the contest. Furino had nine points, and fellow senior Trey Garea added eight points to help East Haven prevail.
“We’ve had some great games with Lyman Hall over the years. We got out to a quick start, making four-straight threes. We played really well in the first half,” Coach Narracci said. “They made a nice run at us in the third quarter to tie it. In the fourth quarter, we really played tremendous. Their first basket came with 30 seconds left. Defensively, we did a really nice job. We handled things the right way down the stretch.”
East Haven finished its week by returning home for a matchup against Guilford on March 5. Both teams struggled on offense during the first half as the Yellowjackets took a 16-15 lead into intermission. After halftime, East Haven came out and outscored the Grizzlies 13-5 in the third quarter for a 29-20 lead through three. The Yellowjackets then held off Guilford in the fourth quarter for a 42-34 victory, marking the team’s first two-game win streak of the season.
Furino led all scorers with 19 points in the contest. Reynolds made a pair of 3-pointers and scored 10 points in the win. Garea had six points for Coach Narracci’s squad.
“It’s the first time we put together back-to-back wins all year. Guilford has good size. They have multiple kids who can shoot. We had to do a good job of guarding the 3-point line. They’re very well-coached,” said Narracci. “Defensively, we’re really starting to jell. We made it hard for them to get good looks. Situationally, we’re playing at the pace we want to play at. We’re trending in the right direction.”
Coach Narracci was impressed with how well the Yellowjackets played defense last week. Heading into the season, the Easties implemented a new hybrid zone that begins with 1-2-2 pressure and can transition depending on who has the ball. Narracci credits Assistant Coach Ruddie Montalvo with helping develop East Haven’s new defensive scheme and instructing the team’s players on how to run it.
“We put in a new zone this year. Ruddie is responsible for that. He has done a great job with the defense. The kids are really starting to learn what we’re asking of them,” Narracci said. “It’s not a traditional zone. It’s a hybrid. It’s hard for teams to scout, and the kids are really starting to grasp it. Teams seem to be having trouble with it.”
Coach Narracci said the Yellowjackets have been bolstered by the play of seniors Furino, Reynolds, and Ford—whom he calls “The Big Three”—this season. Narracci said all three athletes are key pieces of the Yellowjackets’ foundation and that, while they can certainly score their fair share of points, they’re doing plenty of other things that benefit East Haven on the court.
Aside from those three seniors, Coach Narracci is also pleased with the play of Carasone, who is in his second year as a starter. Carasone has always been a strong defender, but Narracci said that he’s shooting better from the outside as a junior.
The Yellowjackets are also benefiting from the efforts of a few new players. One of those players is Garea, who was slated to be the football team’s starting quarterback last fall, but opted to play basketball after the football season was canceled. Narracci said that Garea is proving a vital member of this year’s team due to his rebounding abilities and overall hustle.
“Trey has been a tremendous asset for us. He is a great athlete, he rebounds for us. Any offensive production he can give us is a bonus,” said Narracci. “He’s not a skill guy offensively, but he is in tremendous shape. He runs the floor great. He is really active defensively and has gotten key rebounds for us. He gives us more depth than we had last year.”
Heading into the home stretch of the regular season, East Haven has a matchup with West Haven and two games against Branford on its schedule. With West Haven undefeated and Branford being the Yellowjackets’ longtime rival, Coach Narracci said that he’s looking forward to these contests. Narracci wants to see the Easties take the momentum that they generated last week and ride it through the rest of the regular season and into the SCC Tournament.
“They’re probably the top team in the league this year. We’ve talked about how when you’re playing well, you want to go up against the best. It will be a great test for us before the tournament,” Narracci said of West Haven. “Branford is the highlighted game on our schedule every year.”