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Steady Improvement for Nipmuc Boys Hoops

After winning just one game last year, the Nipmuc boys basketball team has already made significant strides under second year head coach Bob Manzello. "This year was a little easier because coming in, we already had a system in place," Manzello said. "We had returning players who already knew the drills, how to run the offense, and what I expected."
Nipmuc started 1-4 on the season before winning three of its next four. At the midway point of the season, the Warriors are within striking distance of .500 at 4-6 and have a 2-1 record in the Dual Valley League.
While Nipmuc has a number of seniors making key contributions, the team has received a spark from a pair of freshmen. Manzello called up point guard Cameron Dunning before the team's game against Douglas and he responded with eight points in playing all 32 minutes and hit several crucial free throws down the stretch. Fellow freshman Kyle Downing has also earned some spots in the starting lineup.
"Between the two freshmen on varsity and our JV team, which only has one loss so far, we have a good nucleus of younger players," Manzello said.
Nipmuc also has a number of talented seniors. Co-captain Nick Greer leads the team, and the DVL, in scoring with more than 15 points per game. He scored 21 points against Valley Tech and dropped a season-high 23 in the win over Douglas. "Nick is a very good shooter and slasher," Manzello said. "He is having a good year."
Junior center Tom Sperino and senior co-captain Brandon Esker each average around nine and a half points per night. The 6'3" Sperino has been a force in the post and Esker has provided an outside scoring threat. "Sperino plays a big part of our team, he's one of the best rebounders in the league and I almost feel the team goes as Tom goes because whenever he plays well, we seem to have a good game," Manzello said. "Brandon is one of the smartest players on the team and a real workhorse. He plays big minutes for us on a nightly basis."
Senior co-captain Dom Mespelli has seen time for the Warriors at every position from point guard to power forward. 6'6" senior Jack Gallagher serves as a back-up center to Sperino, and Sam Manning and John Gillespie are both new to the varsity level this season and are giving Nipmuc quality minutes off the bench.
While Manzello is happy with his team's improvement to this point, he's set his sights on the goal of making the postseason. "That's all we talk about," he said. "Our goal is to compete for our conference, to get to that .500 mark, get into the Clark Tournament, and get to the districts. Last year it was almost like we learned how to lose, this year we are learning how to win. It's a process but they come to practice and work hard every day."




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