EAST MARLBOROUGH >> You expect a lot of jitters in a season opener, and that’s exactly what happened on Friday between the Haverford and Unionville boys’ basketball squads. The two combined to turn the ball over 45 times.
But the host Indians forced a lot more mistakes than they committed, and the end result was a convincing 61-42 non-conference triumph over the turnover-prone Fords at the Unionville Tournament.
“I’m ecstatic for our players. They deserve it,” said first-year Indians’ head coach Chris Cowles, who spent the previous two seasons at West Chester East. “Everybody says it, but they’ve really been putting in the work.”
In all, Unionville forced 27 turnovers and never trailed. For a nice chunk of the first half, Haverford had as many turnovers as points. It was close, however, until the Indians used a 14-3 third quarter rally to take command.
“We did not value the ball, unfortunately,” said Haverford head coach Keith Heinerichs. “To win on the road your first night, you have to play good basketball, and we had too many turnovers to win.
“We didn’t trust our fundamentals. We went to the dribble too soon and that messed up our spacing.”
Junior Shawn Rafferty scored 11 of his game-high 15 points in the second half for Unionville. It was enough to equal the career-high in scoring for the 6-foot-4 junior. Afterwards, he said that the transition to a new coaching staff has been uneventful.
“It’s been smooth,” Rafferty said. “We started workouts this summer with 6 a.m. practices and everybody showed up and put in the work.”
The Indians scored the first seven points of the second half to open a double digit lead, and after guard Connor Ash buried a 3-pointer and a 3-point-play, the home team was in control 39-23. In all, Unionville outscored the Fords 18-10 in the quarter, took a 13 point lead into the final eight minutes and pulled away from there.
“When you turn it over that many times, it leads to a lot of points for (Unionville),” Heinerichs pointed out. “I didn’t think our defense was great, but our offensive mistakes led to more scoring opportunities for them.”
The Indians opened in a highly effective 1-2-2 zone defense, and Haverford turned it over five times before scoring a point. Later, Unionville switched to a man-to-man and scored eight straight, but Haverford knocked down a couple late 3-pointers and only trailed by five at the intermission.
“I think this season we are going to be a defensive team,” Rafferty said.
“Switching defenses helped out a lot,” Cowles added. “That’s a credit to our guys. They are intelligent and they’ve bought in to what we are trying to do, so we are able to play different styles and play them pretty effectively.
“We’ve tried to establish defense from day one here and it’s come along since we started workouts in July. It’s nice to see it come along, but we have a long way to go.”
Rafferty led a balanced scoring attack, with five players scoring at least nine. Junior guard Bo Furey-Bastian added 12 points and Peter Kucharczuk came off the bench to chip in 10 for Unionville.
“We focus on maximum effort and maximum unselfishness,” Cowles said. “It was really just guys taking open shots, and trusting what we are doing based upon our principles and the game plan.”
Luke Verzella paced the Fords with 13 points and teammate Dan Roe contributed 12 on four 3-pointers. In all, Haverford hit eight shots from beyond the arc, but were just 8 of 15 from the free throw line.
“We missed a lot of easy layups and foul shots,” Heinerichs said. “I told the kids, if we take away eight turnovers, make four more foul shots and three more layups and we would have been in this game. That’s where all of the little things just add up.
“We have a lot of improving to do. We are more experienced than last season, but we have to learn how to win.”
Unionville 61, Haverford 42
HAVERFORD – Verzella 4 4-4 13; Roe 4 0-0 12; DePrince 0 2-2 2; Gillen 1 0-0 3; Young 0 0-2 0; Ruane 2 0-0 5; Seidman 1 0-0 3; Smyth 1 2-7 3. Totals 13 8-15 42.
UNIONVILLE – Kucharczuk 3 1-2 10; Furey-Bastian 2 7-9 12; Ash 2 4-5 9; Cicarelli 1 0-0 2; Hockenberry 1 0-0 2; Zubillaga 1 -0-0 2; Rafferty 7 1-1 15; Lenkaitis 4 1-2 9. Totals 21 14-19 61.
Haverford 9 11 10 12 — 42
Unionville 14 11 18 18 — 61
3-point goals: Verzella, Roe 4, Gillen, Ruane, Siedman, Kucharczuk 3, Furey-Bastian, Ash.