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By James Kinneen
Hometown Weekly Reporter
As any fan of Super 8 hockey will tell you, when a public school comes up against a Catholic Conference powerhouse, the results are rarely good for the public school kids. Whether it’s their ability to recruit players from many towns, private school finances, or having twice as many boys due to being a single-gender school, the teams of the Catholic Conference take full advantage of their unique status. The bottom line is if you can compete with one of them, you can be sure you have a pretty good team.
So, while it may not have been a game that officially counted toward their win-loss record, the fact that the Needham Rockets basketball team kept up with Catholic Memorial, basket for basket, in their scrimmage on Wednesday night (with the Rockets winning 74-73) bodes well for their future.
Coach Paul Liner praised the competition after the scrimmage, noting that the style of basketball CM plays provided a solid challenge for his team and a good opportunity for evaluation.
“This was the first time we’ve scrimmaged them,” said Coach Liner. “We knew that if there was any team that could get us ready to play, it would be CM, so it was a great opportunity to play today against a team that is outstanding defensively, pushes the ball all the time and is a great test for us.”
With the game not counting officially, Coach Liner noted that while he got to see what his veteran players could do against CM, the more important thing the scrimmage did was allow him to see what newcomers looked like against a high level high school team, in front of a live crowd.
“The biggest thing I learned is who can do what, and what roles kids can have. For a lot of these kids, it is the first time they’ve played at this level, or if they had a minor role last year, now they have a major role. We knew we had the MVP, Will Dorion, coming back, but for a lot of the other guys, this is the first time they’ve ever done this. So it was exciting to see what they can do in a pressure situation like this.”
One of the newcomers who looked good was freshman Nick Petronio, whose corner three late in the scrimmage led to a loud “he’s a freshman” chant from the Rocket crowd.
“Yeah, Nick Petronio,” commented the coach. “He does one or two things in practice that just look different. He’s prepared himself well for the season, hit some big shots, was confident and is gaining confidence day by day. I think Will handled the pressure tonight really well. He’s always going to be a kid that people try to key on, and he hit some big shots today. I though Joe hit some big shots, Tim Reidy has been one of the best players in the gym every single time. He’s a tough kid, and did a great job tonight.”
While every coach would like more time to get their team prepared for the season, on Wednesday night at least, the Rockets looked ready.