Steinert Basketballs Mario Mazur blocks a shot in the Spartans win against Lawrence. Photo by Michael A. Sabo.
By Rich Fisher
Feb. 3: Each Memorial Day, the “The Dawgs” perform at Nottingham Tavern as a warm-up for folks to enjoy the day’s picnics.
If for some reason the band has to cancel this year, the Nott only need to go up the road and get a replacement group — “The Dogs.”
That’s what Steinert High’s boys’ basketball team is referring to itself as these days, and it seems to be working. In fact, it appeared there was some actual howling going on in the locker room after today’s 68-26 victory at Lawrence.
“My fiancée and I have a 140-pound dog, and we use that to try to motivate them,” coach Kyle Flanagan said. “We say ‘Let’s bring the dogs out in us.’ At times I think we were too relaxed and we wanted to go and play a different style of basketball.”
It started during a 56-55 loss at Robbinsville on Jan. 16, and the Spartans have been barking ever since.
“Two games later we played Delran, it was late in the game, I said ‘Let’s bring the dogs out, let’s go ahead,’” Flanagan continued. “And Lamont (Morrison) and the other seniors on the team kind of adopted this whole mentality that we’re gonna go ahead and play scrappy. We’re gonna play tough no matter who we play. We’ve got that dog mentality, we’re a pack, we stick together and we go ahead and play hard.”
It seems to be working. Steinert (4-15) won two of its next three (including Delran); and over the past week had come extremely close to winning three more. It lost to Robbinsville by a point on a last-second 3-pointer, fell to Northern Burlington in double overtime and lost to Lawrence in overtime after taking an 11-point lead.
After a lopsided loss to Ewing Friday, the Spartans unleashed a lot of frustration on the Cardinals (4-14) today. Steinert took a 6-0 lead and Lawrence would never draw even. It was 13-7 after one quarter, 30-17 at halftime and 49-17 after three quarters.
Correct. The Cardinals did not score a point in the third quarter.
“Defensively our rotation was the best we’ve seen so far this year,” said Flanagan, who is constantly changing defenses. “I’ve learned over the years the more time you stay on your heels and try to hope you win; now all of a sudden you’re playing behind the eight ball and you’re playing timid. So we figure let’s go out there, we worked defensively in the first half, then we came out in the second and we kept going, kept scrapping. The kids played hard and got some buckets off our defense.”
Mario Mazur led the attack with 19 points and five rebounds, while Morrison had 16 points and 14 rebounds. Trevor Giordano and Nella Scanlan had eight points each. Ryan Meszaros chipped in with six points and seven rebounds off the bench.
“We were having fun,” Morrison said. “No doubt, we’re getting better. We keep pushing each other in practice, every game, every night.”
It’s all part of the dog mentality, which helped reverse an overtime loss to an astounding 42-point victory over the same team just five days later.
“We were in a group chat, it was called Steinert basketball,” Morrison said. “After the first Robbinsville game I said “Nah, we’re dogs.” And we changed the name to Steinert Dogs.”
They looked like true thoroughbreds in this one, playing their best overall game in likely several seasons.
“I think this was a very good showing of what we can actually do, how we can execute things very well,” Mazur said. “This was a very good game for us. We were hitting our shots, finishing, getting the ball moving, hitting the fast break.”
It was exactly what Steinert needed as Flanagan tries to rebuild the program in his first year. Today’s victory allowed the Spartans to surpass last year’s win total of three. The coach is hoping Steinert is learning how to close a game out after playing close and losing.
“We had about six games where we’ve had a lead and we’ve kind of let it slip,” he said. “It’s growing pains for a program trying to get used to a little bit of success. We haven’t had it follow through. We lose three close games; all of a sudden, to let out this frustration, to show the potential when we execute and we play hard again, it’s a very great thing to see. I’m excited to see how these guys build on it going forward.”
Just keep the Purina One well stocked and things should be just fine.
Richie Jones explodes as Nottingham boys top Robbinsville
Richie to the left, Riche to the right, Rich from the arc, Richie all around.
Richie Jones erupted for a career-high 43 points in an 87-42 victory over Robbinsville. Jones, who has an outside shot at reaching 1,000 points, drained seven 3-pointers to pull within 20 of tying the school’s single-season record of 77.
Cliff Joseph and Darell Johnson rounded out the Winter Jo-Storm attack with 16 points apiece, as the Northstars won its sixth straight to move to 15-1.