WESTPORT, Conn. – Staples High boys basketball may have lost 84-75 to Norwalk on Tuesday, but coach Colin Devine learned a valuable lesson: He has scoring options behind senior forward Peter Rankowitz.
Rankowitz, who averaged 17 points a game last year, figures to be the primary weapon for the Wreckers (1-1). Senior guard James Frusciante scored 21 points and Ross Whelan scored 15, both career highs. The Wreckers may have lost offense with the graduation of Michael Argosh, but this year’s team appears to have more balance than the squad that went 9-12 last year.
Frusciante, who earned all-state honors on the football field this fall, showed he can step onto the court without missing a point. The Wreckers’ point guard took the ball to the basket with reckless abandon and made several sweet assists.
“James played great at the point,’’ Devine said. “He got the ball to the basket and made some great basketball plays.”
Frusciante scored 18 in a game against Newtown last year, his previous career high. Whelan had 10 points in three games last year but easily passed that total against the Bears.
Rankowitz, in his third year as a starter, is the Wreckers’ leader. He backed up his opening-night 23-point performance with 24 against the Bears, including a buzzer-beater from 22 feet at the end of regulation to send the game into overtime. Devine called it one of the best shots in Staples’ history.
But Staples went cold in overtime, scoring just one field goal in the final three minutes. Staples also went 11-for-19 from the foul line, including three in the third quarter when it built a nine-point lead. A few more free throws could have made a difference.
Still, the contest proved that Staples can play with the league contenders. Norwalk (3-0) is one team observers say can make a run at the league championship. Staples stood toe-to-toe with the Bears in Norwalk and lost narrowly. That has to be an encouraging sign for Devine.
“We just have to get better every game play our best basketball at the end of the year,’’ he said. “It was a great basketball game but we just came up a little short. Now we have to respond and see what we can do.”
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