By Kevin McCaskill Jr.
On early Monday evening, I was in Holyoke, MA to watch the Purple Knights of Holyoke HS hosts the Mustangs of Monson HS. This was the 4th consecutive game that I've seen the Mustangs play (Northampton twice, Sabis and Holyoke).
This game wasn't close from the 1st quarter on. The Purple Knights were hot early. They hit five 3s in the 1st quarter. Senior Brian Cristobal hit four of those five 3s.
Half way through the 1st quarter, Monson was down 15-4. They were effective attacking the basket but they couldn't make shots in the lane. They also missed FTs that could have kept them in the game early. They went 15/22 from the FT-line.
The Monson's defense wasn't moving well. They were playing a zone and they had trouble getting out to shooters. That is a problem if you are playing Holyoke. They have one of the best 3-pt shooters in Western Mass, Brian Cristobal. They also get 3s from their role players.
Mo Silva was the primary defender on Colby Duggan. However, it was a total team effort to slow Duggan down in the game. Cristobal even guarded Duggan for multiple plays. Holyoke was keen on stopping Duggan and making the other players on Monson have to step up and make shots. The Mustangs other players didn't have enough on Monday.
The standouts of this game were Cristobal and Silva. Cristobal hit EIGHT 3s on Monday. He has a great 3-pt shot. The shots that go in don't hit the rim. Silva's offensive game is quickly trending upwards. He is making the shots he missed a month ago and he has extended his range to almost the 3-pt line.
The Purple Knights coasted to a victory on Monday 79-47.
Scorers for Holyoke:
Brian Cristobal - 26 points
Chauncey Ruiz - 11 points
Mo Silva & Nicholas Consedine - 9 points each
Pat Gubala & Jaimiel Rivera - 8 points each
Lordi Smith - 4 points
Adrix Madera & Shawn Rivera - 2 points each
Scorers for Monson:
Colby Duggan - 17 points (9/15 FT)
Danny Fiester - 12 points
Connor Santos - 9 points
Scottie Watson - 8 points
Colin Beaupre - 2 points
After the game I spoke with Monson HC Dennis Vacon and Holyoke HC Juan Maldonaldo.
Monson HC Dennis Vacon
Is this a team you would play in the regular season?
"Definitely not. No; a lot of the teams we play this year we would never play. The competition is great...tonight, uh, it kind of burst our bubble a little bit. It is what it is".
Do you think your conditioning and endurance are "up to speed"?
"For the whole season, we have only had one practice with the full team. Its definitely difficult but I don't think that was the issue tonight. It was shot making versus not being able to make a layup or a free throw and the game got away from us. [Brian Cristobal] is incredible, unbelievable shooter. Unreal".
Do you have another game this week?
"Yeah. We play tomorrow outside against Granby. So that will be interesting. Different for the kids; hopefully we can have fun tomorrow and maybe shoot a little bit better, despite it being outside.
Holyoke HC Juan Maldonaldo
How did you feel coming into the game today?
"We felt good; we felt excited. Monson competed against some of the teams we played - Northampton and Sabis. They competed; they split with Northampton and they competed against Sabis so we knew they are a well coached team. They are a good team, they play hard. We were excited. We wanted to see where we are at; we are getting better throughout the season. We were 100% ready".
Towards the end of the 2nd quarter, Cristobal guarded Duggan for a few plays. Was that his choice or was it a part of the game plan?
"That was a part of the game plan. I told the boys we were gonna throw different looks at him. He is obviously a solid player, big guy but we are gonna give him different looks and be physical with him. We are gonna put some smaller guards on him and make him feel uncomfortable. That was a part of the game plan".
What does Cristobal do to work on his jump shot?
"He is just someone who is hungry and gets shots up before [practice] and always working on his craft. He is a special kid who is always thinking about basketball and working on his game. Practice, we gotta do game planning, so skill work, you have to do on your own".