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Nipmuc Hoops Battles Tough Start to Season

Eight games into the regular season, Nipmuc Regional High School boys basketball coach Jim Grant admits his teams wins and losses are not where he would like to see them, but the veteran head coach says there are still plenty of positives and reason for optimism despite the 1-8 start.
"Our coaching staff continues to be as positive as we can be and the kids continue to work really hard," he said. "Even with the record, they really work very hard every practice and are trying hard in games and practices."
Grant and the Warriors have dealt with a number of challenges this season, including starting forward Derek Moore being out with pneumonia and having senior Ryan Malone learning a new position.
"Ryan has always been a forward, but we moved him to the point guard and he has jumped into this role and done better than anyone else could have," said Grant. "We rely on him even though he is out of position, and he is adapting a bit better to the role and learning that he has to run the show."
The Warriors have struggled offensively, averaging just 44 points per game while allowing just over 61. They lost their first five games of the season before earning a 55-49 win over Blackstone Valley Tech for their only win of the year so far. Nipmuc has lost three in a row since that victory, including a 54-44 loss to defending state champion Whitinsville Christian, a 10 point loss to Blackstone-Millville Regional, and a lopsided 31 point defeat against Worcester Burncoat.
"Our offense has not been where we need it to be because we are having trouble with our guard play and as a result we are averaging more than 20 turnovers per game, which is way too many," said Grant. "The second issue is we don't have any consistency from the perimeter, we are a team that has to get the ball inside to score."
The lack of perimeter scoring has allowed teams to play zone against Nipmuc, packing it into the lane and making it difficult to generate any offense inside the arc. Moore, despite missing time due to the illness, leads the team in scoring at 12.7 points per game. Sam Merten and Zach Giardini both average around nine points per night while Tom Lemons checks in at around eight points a game. Danny Dias has been a strong presence on the defensive end. The lack of overall consistency has allowed Grant to mix up his rotation a bit more than he typically would at this point in the season and reward players who put up strong showings in practice.
"Jim Lovely had a good practice on Saturday, so he is going to be one of the first guys off the bench," he said. "It is unusual to have changes like that at this point in the season, but it exemplified where we are as a team right now."
Nipmuc took on Douglas last night, January 17, and will host West Boylston tomorrow afternoon, January 19 at 4:30 p.m. in Upton.




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