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Nmuc F Clark Tournament Quarters
Nipmuc's stay in the 2016 Clark Tournament may have been short-lived, but head coach Bob Manzello said just getting to the prestigious late-season showcase is a sign of how the program has grown in just two years.
Manzello pointed particularly to his veterans, like senior forward Tom Sperino, and the experience gained in the 73-58 loss to Barlett Monday night.
"He went through our 1-18 season, through the six-win season, it's great for him to be able to get to the Clark and very fulfilling with the six seniors on the team they had that experience," the coach said. "It's something two years ago I'm sure they didn't think was possible."
The Warriors slipped to 9-10 with the loss, done in by a 26 point third quarter put up by the 16-win Indians. Junior Zach Hunter put up 16 points and 15 rebounds in the losing effort, and sophomore Kyle Downing added 12 points, eight boards, and five assists.
On the season, Downing leads the Warriors in scoring at 11 points per game.
"He is showing a lot of poise as a sophomore," Manzello said. "He will be the leading scorer for the season, has also shown a lot of leadership and it's great to see that in a sophomore."
The Clark experience was also the first for Manzello, in his third year at the helm of the Warriors. In past years, he said he spent time sitting in the stands, watching the small and large schools compete.
"It was great," he said. "I coached at two Catholic schools, so I never had had the chance to coach in the Clark. The kids were really looking forward to it, but were not in awe of it. To have a young team going back to that tournament, it's great to give them that taste so next year it won't be as big a deal."
The Clark Tournament, in its 77th year, bills itself as the oldest high school basketball tournament in the country.
The loss does put Nimpuc in a position of needing to win on Senior Night next Tuesday in order to finish the regular season 10-10 and lock up a playoff spot. The Warriors' final regular season opponent, Bethany Christian is 11-5 on the year.
"They are having a great year," Manzello said. "They are always well coached, they are in Mendon, so there's a cross town rivalry there, but it is nice that it will be our senior night."
The chance to play in the playoffs, the head coach added, is also going to be a motivating factor for his squad.
"We have played some good teams," Manzello said. "Many of the teams we played will be in the district or were in the Clark. We know Tuesday is a must win for us, every game from here on out is a district game for us."




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