MIDDLETOWN – Monday marked a strong start for the Wilcox Tech boys basketball team, a squad entering the season with a high aspirations.
All five Tribe starters reached double figures, paced by returning leading scorer D.J. Ransom. The junior point guard delivered a game-high 30 points in a 90-61 CSC win over Windham Tech during the Tip-Off Classic at Vinal Tech.
This was anything but a one-man show, John Soto poured in 18 points, with 16 of them in the first half to get the Indians going. Soto also added four rebounds.
Senior Nick Milslagle drained a game-high four 3-pointers and totaled 16 points and six boards. Junior Bryce McClendon (11 points) and senior Will Pawlik (10 points, 10 rebounds) rounded out the balanced attack. The starters accounted for 85 of Wilcox Tech’s 90 points.
The Indians offense was cooking early with Soto cashing in on five layups on the back end of the press breaker in the opening 3:35 of the contest.
“I was just getting a lot of assists from my teammates,” Soto said. “We just played well as a team.”
Wilcox Tech’s first eight field goals were layups against the Mighty Tigers’ press. Soto’s deuce off of a steal with 1:52 left in the first quarter put the Tribe up 20-9 and capped a 16-2 run.
“We knew coming in that this was a tough matchup,” Wilcox Tech coach Randy Farkas said. “Their first game of the season (a loss to Windham High School on Saturday) was 110-96. They have some guys that can fill in the scoreboard and I was a little nervous coming in. Our energy hasn’t been there in practice, but when we hit the floor tonight they put out the effort. We really fired on all cylinders in the second half.
“I’m proud of the guys. I’m really excited about it.”
Twenty of Wilcox Tech’s 22 first-quarter points came in the paint. The lone exceptiion was a Ransom pull-up jumper.
The Mighty Tigers (0-2) stayed in the game during the first half by dialing it up from from long distance. Anthony Toce (8 points) and Daziel Colon (6 points) each had a pair of treys in the the first 16 minutes. Toce canned a 3-ball at the buzzer to end the first quarter, making the score 22-16 Wilcox.
Andre Jose’s steal and bucket brought Windham Tech within 35-33 with 2:34 left in the first half, but it was all Indians from there. Wilcox ended the half on a 10-1 run highlighted by a Mislagle steal and behind-the-back dish to Ramsom in transition for an easy layup in the final minute of the half. The Indians led 45-34 at the break.
Ransom exploded for 11 of his 30 in the third quarter. The junior was getting to the tin at will. He sparked an 11-0 run with six points and two assists in that span.
“We know their offense and we were practicing against it in practice and we were moving the ball,” Ransom said. “When they come over to trap, one person is open and we found him.”
The Wilcox streak expanded to 70-47 after three quarters, allowing Farkas to mix in his reserves.
“The style of play that Windham Tech plays really caters to D.J.’s game,” Farkas said. “He’s quick. He has a good handle and he knows how to get by people. When we get in games like this, he’s going to put up some numbers.”
The Indians played unselfishly, a trait Farkas saw all preseason. With so much experience returning, a lot is expected from Wilcox Tech.
“The expectations are high,” Farkas said. “We want to compete for the conference championship. We think we can. We have the talent. Can we gel? Can we play our best basketball at the right time? That’s what it comes down to.”