By Kevin McCaskill Jr.
Wednesday was the earliest game of the season for FP SPORTS. The game started at 5 PM.
I was out in Ludlow to see the Lions host the Pioneers of Pathfiner Tech. Pathfinder is located in Palmer, MA, a neighboring town, east of Ludlow.
Today was another historical day; I had never seen Pathfinder play.
The early part of the game was back-and-forth. Both teams got the shots they wanted. Ludlow got more opportunities because they were active on the offensive glass. Pathfinder was getting to the basket but they were having a hard time converting shots. Pathfinder Center Colin Doktor got off to a good start early. He was active in the paint on both ends and he scored 2 baskets in the first. Pathfinder was also led by Darren Wawro and Nick Beaulieu.
(Colin Doktor grabs rebound)
The story of the first quarter though was Ludlow's Kyle Fontura. He came out hot early and hit three 3s in the 1st quarter 🔥. He chipped in another bucket for an 11-point 1st quarter. Fontura doesn't have a "classic" jump-shot but he has own form and rhythm and he can hit deep shots.
(Kyle Fontura attempts a 3)
The story of the 2nd quarter was, Braeden Schwartz. He was everywhere. He was active on defense. He hit a couple of 3s. He also got in to the lane and got fouled a few times.
(Braeden Schwartz looks the ball in after a fast-break layup)
Ludlow Senior Ethan Schwartz was also active early. He plays passing lanes very well and gets a lot of deflections that lead to steals. Those steals turn into transition opportunities for the Lions. One concerning trend though I have seen from the Ludlow team is missing make-able layups in transition. I asked Ludlow HC Cliff Zimmer about it and you can read his answer where the coach's comments usually are.
(Ethan Schwartz goes for a loose-ball)
The Lions led after 1 quarter 25-16.
The Pioneers got back in to the game in the second quarter. A few more of their shots started to drop. They still gave up too many offensive rebounds. They turned the ball over too much. Ludlow was up at halftime, 39-33.
In the 3rd quarter, the Lions started to press the Pioneers. They employed a "3/4-court, 1-3-1" press where the defender at the top was pressuring the ball. When the ball handler got over half-court, the closet defender would come up and the two defenders would trap the ball handler. Pathfinder couldn't find a consistent "press-break" all game. They turned the ball over. They couldn't get into their offense.
The implementation of the press by HC Zimmer was key for their victory tonight. Pathfinder doesn't have a true PG. They have young men who can handle the ball but they are all mostly shooters. The press opened up the transition/fast-break game for Ludlow.
The Lions outscored the Pioneers in the 3rd quarter 24-10. The 4th quarter was the same and the Lions protected their home court and won 79-60.
(Braeden Schwartz shoots jumper)
Everyone should keep their eyes out for Colin Doktor. He is a Junior at Pathfiner. By my judgement, he is about 6'6". He is agile. He isn't the fastest guy on the court but he's not "slow-footed". He has good instincts to keep the ball high when he gets it in the paint, even though he did bring the ball down sometimes. He has a nice touch on his jumper. We will see what type of season he has next winter.
(Colin Doktor shoots jump-shot)
(Doktor, Fontura and Hall watch the ball go through the net)
Scorers for Ludlow:
Braeden Schawartz - 21 points
Kyle Fontura - 17 points
Ethan Schwartz & Matt Mendez - 10 points each
Will Hall - 8 points
Tom Hitchcock - 6 points
Jeff Russell - 4 points
John Riordan - 2 points
Nick Henry - 1 point
Scorers for Pathfiner:
Colin Doktor - 20 points
Nick Beaulieu - 18 points
J Talbot - 7 points
Darren Wawro - 5 points
A Lagimoniere & H Griswold - 4 points each
(Nick Beaulieu shoots FT)
After the game, I spoke with HC Zimmer.
Q: The first quarter was competitive. What were guys doing in the first quarter to keep them in the game?
A: "Yea, we got off to a slow start...we started off in man-to-man. Pathfinder was sticking with us; they hit some open shots. And then we switched to a "1-3-1" zone there in the second quarter, mixed things up a lil' bit, put pressure on 'em. That ended up being the difference in the game".
Q: Was your "1-3-1" zone a full-court press?
A: No, its more of a three-quarter [3/4] type of trap. We put a little pressure on the ball, in the back-court and once it gets to the front court, we try to trap around half-court and then also in the corners. We haven't been able to play it much this year...but the boys played it well".
Q: Why does your team struggle with converting open layups?
A: "Yea...you know...it's been our problem all year, sometimes, its finishing. We practice a lot and practice on concentration and trying to make layups under pressure. Sometimes they go in, other times we miss. That's certainly an area we have to get better at before we play Pathfinder again on Friday...Another one of those areas of growth for us".
Q: Who is #12
A: "That's Matt Mendez".
(Matt Mendez layup)
Q: Can you tell us about him?
A: "Matt is a Sophomore and he has come a long way. He's probably grown 4 inches since last year. He's a soccer player first and a basketball player second but I think basketball is quickly becoming a sport he really loves and enjoys. You're not gonna find a better kid or a person that works harder than Matt. Everything he gets, he works for and he certainly earns".
(Mendez grabs offensive rebound)