TOWNSEND -- Execution is the name of the game for the North Middlesex Regional boy's basketball team.
Predicated on a lockdown defense, the Patriots started in complete control. As is the case in any good story, North Middlesex then finished with the perfect ending, capping a hard fought 63-49 victory over visiting Lowell Catholic on Sunday evening.
The Patriots improve to 3-2 and begin the league slate with a trip to Algonquin Regional on Tuesday. Lowell Catholic falls to 3-4.
The only way to describe the pressure felt by Lowell Catholic in the opening minutes of the game was complete chaos. The Patriots executed an assortment of traps and presses, completely disrupting the Crusaders' offense. Through the first 5:30, Lowell Catholic only made one field goal and committed eight turnovers.
"We've been able to open up games with pressure," North Middlesex head coach Erik Dellasanta said. "Sometimes teams figure it out, but early on we put on some good traps, and forced them to make some difficult passes. We didn't foul on the trap, and made steals, which was great."
NM held Lowell Catholic to 4 for 20 shooting in the fourth quarter, including 2 for 8 from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, the Patriots shot 6 for 12 from the floor and a near perfect 8 for 9 from the charity stripe.
"We talk a lot about taking quality shots and being patient with the basketball," Dellasanta said. "When a team works as hard as Lowell Catholic and makes you earn every shot, you have to make sure it's a good one. In regards to the free throws, we needed to ice the game and the kids responded well."
The Patriots had three players reach double figures, as Bobby Larsen led the way with 13 points.
Drew Patno led the surge in the first half, scoring 10 of his 12 in the first 16 minutes, while Mark Rossi added 11.
Senior forward Mustapha Koroma netted a game-high 15 points in the loss for the Crusaders, and also grabbed a good portion of the team's 17 offensive rebounds.
North Middlesex opened the game with a 13-2 spurt, fueled by transition buckets, buckets in the paint, and five points from Patno on a trey and hoop inside.
Lowell Catholic finally broke the pressure, and went on a 11-3 spurt spanning the first and second quarter -- with backdoor cuts from Kyle Rafferty and Justin Oum -- which chopped the gap down to 16-13 with 6:35 left in the half.
The Patriots responded with some deep shooting, including a trey from Rossi and a deep two from Dylan Woods, which extended the lead back up to eight at the midway point of the second. But the Crusaders closed the gap, ending the half on a 5-1 run with a 3 from Brian Ngaruiya, which cut the deficit to 28-24.
"This game is huge for us to play up a few divisions," Lowell Catholic head coach Dan Hart said. "It's going to help us in the tournament. I'm excited with how we played, but would've liked the outcome to be different. But we fought the whole time and my kids worked hard."