NEW BRITAIN - The Nutmeg State Games basketball tournaments began Thursday at New Britain High School and East Hartford-based team HD started its round-robin campaign with a 70-47 blowout win over Team Rickets from Stratford.
HD, led by guard Jeremiah Jenkins, built a 10-point lead quickly after tipoff and opened the contest on a 19-4 run. HD overwhelmed Team Rickets with its defense early, forcing turnovers constantly and getting transition scores. Team Rickets was forced to play at a faster pace than it wanted to and the players struggled to stay composed as they tried to rush the ball up the court, often resulting in bad passes, difficult shots and turnovers.
“Defense, that’s always the key,” HD coach Chris Foster said. “We were able to speed them up, play at our pace, get out in the open court where we have a lot of guys that can play our speed and finish. That was the key, just controlling the pace of the game and protecting the boards.”
Leading by more than 20 points at halftime, HD used the start of the second half to work on a full-court press, which forced Team Rickets to play more rushed than it was forced to in the second half. HD’s offense overwhelmed its opponents with strong ball movement and took advantage of poor communication from Team Rickets that left players open for easy scores.
Team Rickets did go on a short run late in the second half, cutting the deficit to less than 10 and getting as close as seven, before HD came storming back and stretched the lead back out to 23 before the final buzzer.
“I think we just let up in our intensity, but we were able to get our second wind and put a string of stops together and from there we were able to regain control,” Foster said. “They did make a few big shots and they were playing at a higher speed as well, so we were able to match that and get control of the game, which was important because a couple more shots and it would’ve been a closer game.”
Team Rickets had a second game Thursday night before a day off Friday while HD returns to New Britain on Friday to face Middletown-based team WeR1.
“[This game] gives us a feel of the pace that we need to be playing at from start to finish to win the whole [tournament], not take anybody lightly, rebounding, challenge every shot and protecting the ball in terms of not turning it over,” Foster said.
Matt Hornick can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org.