Ten straight third-quarter points by Mepham helped propel the Pirates to a 57-48 victory on Jan. 8 at home in a Conference A-1 boys’ basketball matchup against crosstown rival Calhoun.
The lopsided third quarter distanced Mepham in what had been a one-point game at the half. Leading the way for the Pirates was senior Corey Lichtman with a game-high 18 points, freshman Richie Vaquero with 11 and senior Jack Fontanetta with 11.
Calhoun got off to a fast start, jumping out to a 9-2 early lead that would extend to 14-6 by the end of the first quarter, a low scoring quarter in which both teams were struggling to find their rhythm.
Mepham’s offense got going late in the second quarter, when junior Jack Fontanetta hit a three-pointer and Lichtman followed with a bucket to give Mepham their first lead, 17-16. Calhoun would add a late field goal – just their third and fourth points of the quarter – to go into the locker room with a one-point lead.
While Calhoun did have an early advantage, head coach Jay Kreutzberger said he saw ominous signs from his team that foretold what would happen later in the game. “We made some baskets early, but we were undisciplined and didn’t really focus in a way that would allow us to execute our set plays,” he said. “We’re going to get a lot of film that we can learn from.”
Suffocating defense by Mepham in the third quarter would lead to a handful of transition points. After a three-pointer by Vaquero, whose presence in the passing lane was a constant disruption to Calhoun’s offense, the freshman would steal a pass and score an easy fast break layup to give Mepham a 26-24 lead early in the third.
“He’s a tremendous defender,” Mepham head coach Pat Fallon said of Vaquero. “He’s got the ability to turn it from defense to offense very fast.”
A subsequent three-pointer by Fontanetta and another fast-break basket by senior Kieran Gilroy capped the 10-point-run to give Mepham a 31-24 lead. Mepham’s offense wouldn’t relent, and junior Greg Paul would give them their largest lead with a three-pointer with four minutes remaining to make it 50-35 in favor of Mepham.
Baskets by Calhoun junior Jake Edwards, who led Calhoun with 17 points, helped trim the deficit to eight, but a layup by Vacquero with two minutes left put Mepham up 12 to ice the game.
“We played well defensively,” Fallon said. “In the second half we shot it really well. As the game unfolded late, Kieran Gilroy and Corey Lichtman really played like seniors down the stretch in terms of making pivotal plays.”
Mepham (9-3 overall), which dropped a nail-biting 65-63 decision on the road to Garden City last Friday, sits in a three-way tie with Calhoun and MacArthur, all with a 3-2 conference record.
Both Mepham and Calhoun were in action on Wednesday, with Mepham taking on Great Neck South and Calhoun (6-6 overall) hosting Garden City.