By Dan Harrison
---- — BEVERLY — With Endicott leading by five in final four minutes last night’s home opener against Lesley, the visitors decided to go back to the full court press they’d used sporadically in the second half.
It was the biggest mistake the Lynx would make. The Gulls beat the press for easy bucket after easy bucket, pulling away to win 80-70 for the club’s third straight win to start the season.
“We press a lot ourselves so we see it everyday in practice,” explained EC (3-0) head coach Phil Rowe. “I don’t think you want to press us with our back court.”
Even without its freshman stud at point guard in Kamahl Walker, the Gulls handled Lesley whenever it brought full court pressure, which it had to do late in the game to try and complete the comeback.
Max Motroni and Greg Jacques showed great ball handling skills to slip double teams and find the open guy. Center Andre Makris was the beneficiary of the ball movement, scoring six of his 15 points finishing on the break after the Lynx had cut the lead to 65-60.
Jacques (12 points) in particular had his way with whoever Lesley threw at him, weaving his way to the basket for a few tough, contested lay ups.
The best all-around player was John Henault. The junior forward led Endicott in points (16) rebounds (17) assists (seven) and minutes (38).
“He can play. He’s bound and determined to play every game to the maximum,” Rowe said of Henault. “He didn’t even shoot well but his impact was huge because of the little things. He’s emerging into one of the best players in New England.”
Endicott opened the game on a 7-0 run and kept the Lynx offense out of rhythm for the majority of the second half. The Gulls opened in a 2-3 zone but switched its defense constantly-a lot of the times in the middle of Lesley’s possession.
Nearly half the players on the visitors roster are freshman and they simply weren’t ready for the unpredictable Endicott defense.
“They (Endicott) switched their defense, sometimes mid-shot clock. When you have a young team they don’t see it as much and it takes time for them to settle down,” said Lesley head coach Donald Morris, whose club is 0-2. “They apply a lot of pressure and to beat pressure you have to be aggressive and we weren’t doing that in the first half.”
The Lynx found their way back in the game behind the hot hand of Mike Kaufman (22 points), who connected on 7 of 9 long range field goals including four trifectas in the second half. Lesley finished 10 of 17 behind the arch but Rowe and the Gulls were able to force the visitors to take the ball inside.
“They made a couple baskets and they had some open looks but they were NBA threes,” said Rowe. “Defensively we made a couple of wrinkles and were able to stem the tide in the last five minutes. Makris and Henault, their veteran leadership was huge the last five minutes.”
Endicott did have one glaring weakness. Despite all the good work done to beat the press, the Gulls turned the ball over 16 times and most came in half court, offensive possessions. On the bright side, the team dominated on the glass out-rebounding Lesley 53-30.
“We have some guys who have a nose for the ball,” said Rowe. “I’d like to say its the coaching but trust me its not. We have some great athletes.”