Christmas came a bit early this year for Joel Barlow High head basketball coach Matt Whelan.
The first-year varsity coach led the Falcons in his first varsity win with a 69-49 victory over Abbott Tech in the first round of the Danbury Tip- Off Classic on Thursday, Dec. 13, at the War Memorial in Danbury to start the season.
The Falcons were paced by Kieran Geyer’s 15 points, Phil Moriber’s 13 and a hoist of turnovers by their opponent. They will now face Bethel, which defeated Immaculate in the other game, for the championship.
Barlow raced out to a 41-28 halftime lead, using a very effective full court press, and dominating the glass in the early going.
“No doubt, our defense, especially our press and rebounding , won this one for us,” said Whelan. “We knew coming in that Tech was thin on experience, and the kids executed the press extremely well.”
Barlow’s press accounted for much of the 24 turnovers the young Wolverines committed.
But the big difference was a 10-point run at the start of the fourth quarter that helped Barlow secure the win. The Wolverines were down by just seven points (49-42) going into the frame off a 14-8 run that ended the third quarter, prompting the Falcons to change their defense.
“We went to a two-three zone,” said Whelan. “Our press was starting to give them a few easy baskets and we allowed them to get back into the game. I thought our fourth quarter execution was the difference.”
Jack Pantalena scored 12 points for Barlow. Will Bracken, John Richetelli and Jack Gallagher each netted six while Finn Cohane and Liam Rooney sank four and three respectively. Cooper Brown and Chatham Studer each scored two.
“I thought Pantalena and Bracken both did great jobs on both ends of the floor, and Geyer hit every big shot when Tech made a run,” said Whelan. “The kids did a great job.”
Barlow visits Oxford today (Thursday) at 7 p.m. before facing Bethel on Saturday at 7:30.