LUNENBURG – The Lunenburg boys’ basketball team is battling through a brutal league and non-league schedule and positioning itself toward a postseason berth at the midway point of the season. The Blue Knights have featured a balanced approach, where lock-down defense has fueled quality offensive opportunities, which has led to much success.
At the midway point in the regular season Lunenburg sits at 5-5 overall and 3-4 in Mid-Wach C after a brutal schedule to start the season. The Knights are coming off a huge win against Hudson High from last Wednesday, a team they hadn’t beaten in at least a decade. Lunenburg took a half step back last Friday, dropping a close contest to a highly touted Maynard team. Against Maynard, Lunenburg was down 18 at halftime, and ended up rallying back to cut it to 2, before falling short.
To make the postseason, Lunenburg will need to maintain its course at .500, or be in the top 32 in the state at the conclusion of the year. Currently in Division 4, Lunenburg is solidly placed in the power rankings due to a difficult strength of schedule, with a ranking of 20th overall.
“Our schedule is really hard by design,” Dellasanta said. “We’re a Division 4 team, we try to schedule Division 3 and Division 2 teams out of league to help our strength of schedule. We’re at a point now where we’re expecting to make a state tournament run, and hoping to make the Clark Tournament.”
Lunenburg started the season with a ranking-boosting win against Ayer Shirley Regional, the leader in Mid Wach D, then suffered a quality loss to Monty Tech which already has double digit wins this season. Another quality loss came against Maynard, who was in the top 5 in the state in Division 5.
“We had some early losses but I wouldn’t say they were mistakes,” Dellasanta said. “What we noticed as a team is that if we wanted to be better we had to focus on defense, on that side of the ball. We made a couple adjustments collectively as a team, and the kids were just buying in. It was almost automatic the next game, the team was focused on defense and defensive rebounding, and we started winning some big games.”
“I think the defense has led us,” Dellasanta continued. “Our kids that are getting a lot of minutes have committed to defense as a team. Being able to switch and defend, their best players, and really trying to lock them down.”
The Hudson game is a shining example of this elite defense working its magic. The Hawks have a dominant post threat who had scored at will against opposing teams, not only did the Knights limit his scoring, most importantly Dellasanta said, they held him to just 2 rebounds on the night.
“We’re doing all the small things,” Dellasanta said. “Committing to defense, rebounding, and help-side defense. We are clearly trending in the right direction, even though we didn’t win Friday night.”
Senior captain Waleed Qasim and junior Jackson Camerano have been leading the defensive surge of late. Each night, Lunenburg pinpoints the two biggest scoring threats of the opponents, and Qasim and Camerano take on those assignments.
“When we go into game prep each night, (Qasim) and (Camerano) know who the other players are,” Dellasanta said. “I literally have both of them come in and talk to me and tell me that they want this guy. Qasim can guard the point guard through the five. That’s very rare, and I’m proud of him for his effort for that. (Camerano) can also do the same, he’s an exceptional athlete, willing to guard anybody.
“I’m proud of their commitment to team, and the small things to help us win,” Dellasanta continued. “They’ve really led our team, and set a defensive tone to change how we go about our business each day.”
It hasn’t just been all defense for Lunenburg, as it’s been a balanced attack. The Blue Knights have two of the top 3 scorers in Mid Wach C. Senior captain Miles Seminatore is one of those stats leaders, as he currently sits third in the league in scoring at 17.8 points per game out of the forward position. Seminatore has the ability to score the basketball from inside and outside, plays strong, and doesn’t shy away from physicality heading to the rim.
Junior guard and captain Vinny Dellasanta is averaging 17.9 points per game, and is a true 3-point threat. In addition, Vinny Dellasanta is benefiting from the lock-down defense, as he’s had a lot of success scoring in transition.
“It’s typical that you have one kid at the top of the scoring list,” Erik Dellasanta said. “But having two of the top three is incredible.”
A third standout dual-threat would be point guard Evan Comesana. Comesana is the third top offensive threat on the team, and also might be the third best defender on the team. He solely guards the opposing teams point guard, but has certainly given the Blue Knights a lift on both ends of the floor.
“(Comesana) is an elite level defender against the ball handler,” Erik Dellasanta said. “He’s an exceptional athlete, low to the ground, he’s physical, and is a good rebounder from the guard position. He’s been driving the team, and pushing us in transition. Evan had 18 points against Hudson, which was his first breakout game, which helped us win that game.”
The balanced approach also compliments each other, as Lunenburg’s focus on defense often leads to transition opportunities on the offensive end of the court. The goal of the Knights in a perfect game is to not have to run an offensive set.
“We want to push the ball up the court before the defense gets set,” Erik Dellasanta said. “When (Qasim, Camerano, and Comesana) are making deflections and steals, we’ve got guys chasing to the rim. We want to play a fast-tempo game, we have kids that can score the ball from the 3-point line, in transition, and even in offensive sets. If we play well defensively it does fuel the offense.”