MEDFORD — The Swampscott boys basketball team’s struggles continued Friday night in a 64-46 loss to Medford at Cooper Gymnasium.
“We knew coming in that we’re shorthanded right now,” Big Blue coach Justin Fucile said. “We’re fighting through the flu season and it has bothered our team a lot. We had a couple injuries to important players but I think no matter what Medford’s a really well-coached team to play.”
Senior forwards Max Pegnato and Jackson Byrne each had 13 points and sophomore Andrew Augustin added 10 points. Overall, Swampscott struggled to score consistently against the Mustangs’ man-defense. The Big Blue also struggled to grab rebounds.
“They play terrific man-to-man defense,” Fucile said. “That’s what bothered us. We prepared all week to play against their man but I think they surprised us. We tried to express to our team how well Medford takes charges. When you’re going to the hoop you have to recognize that and know whether to pull up for a shot or drive. A couple times we got charges called on us and it was a legit call.
“Really what hurt us tonight was the glass,” Fucile added. “We didn’t box out at all. We talked about that but we just decided we weren’t going to turn around. We were ball watching when shots went up in the air. We weren’t looking for a body. You have to look for a body before we look for the ball.”
The struggles in the paint started early for the Big Blue. Despite struggling to get defensive rebounds early on, a pair of 3-pointers from Pegnato kept the score tied at 6-6. Eventually Medford pulled away with help from two baskets by Daniel O’Donovan (12 points) in the first quarter to put the Mustangs ahead 14-9.
Things only got worse for Swampscott with Medford going on a 15-5 run to start the second. Sophomore Alex Valera (20 points) made two baskets and was perfect at the line, scoring eight in the second quarter to help the Mustangs go ahead 29-14.
The Big Blue went on a much-needed run in the final minutes to keep the game from getting out of hand. Peganto hit a late 3-pointer and Byrne scored five points in the second to help Swampscott go on a 9-2 run, cutting down Medford’s lead to 35-27 before the half.
But any momentum the Big Blue could’ve taken into the second half was quickly erased by the Mustangs’ shooting game. Valera hit a pair of 3-pointers and O’Donovan added a three of his own on Medford’s first three possessions of the half.
“(Valera) played great and started shooting well for them,” Fucile said. “We focused on him and they slowed down a bit. We got a couple points our way but then they took him out and they started scoring again. They seperated it right there. They got it up to a 20-point lead and it stayed right there.”
Medford Senior Kester Dorestant piled it on in the third, converting and-ones on two straight possessions to put the Mustangs ahead 59-37. Swampscott couldn’t put anything together in the fourth quarter and the bench came in to wrap up the win for Medford.
The Big Blue (4-6) will have another tough test Tuesday night (7) when they host English.
“Because of the storm this weekend you can’t practice, so we’re coming out of this and just going to show up and play as hard as we can,” Fucile said. “We want to limit them to one shot at a time, after tonight that will be our main focus.”