ARLINGTON, Mass. — Nick Gagliolo knew at some point that he would set a personal milestone. He just didn’t think it would come in the matter in which it came.
Gagliolo shook off a woeful start from the field to torch Arlington Catholic (10-3) with 25 second half points — surpassing 1,000 points for his high school career — as the Spartans (13-3) rallied from a double-digit deficit to take home a 78-63 victory last night.
The 6-foot-1 senior finished with a game-high 29 points on 7-of-10 shooting in the second half after posting four points at a 10 percent clip in the first two quarters of the game.
“The first half I was thinking about it way too much,” said Gagliolo, who was 15 points shy of the milestone coming into the game. “The second half I was just like I want to win the game and I got my mind off of it. That’s how basketball works.”
Gagliolo’s production mirrored his teams output in the first half as the Spartans settled for jumpers and seemed confused as to what shooting a ball from the inside the arc was really like. Once the Spartans got moving towards the hoop, the rust started to wear off and the shots that were forced and out of rhythm of the offense started to look a little more polished.
The Spartans fell down by 17 at the half, but Gagliolo’s 15th and 1,000th of his career gave wiped away the deficit with the clock striking zero in the third quarter. He maneuvered his way towards the free throw line and pulled up for a elbow jumper just before the buzzer sounded to knot things up at 46.
Gagliolo worked his way to the line on the opening possession of the fourth quarter and hit 1-of-2 at the line to give the Spartans their first lead of the game. He then went on a white-hot tear, hitting three 3-pointers in a row and the shots from the deep weren’t forced like they were in the first. He canned two transition 3-pointers without hesitation, and his final trey gave St. Mary’s a 59-52 lead.
"He’s got length, size and speed,” said Spartans’ head coach Kevin Moran. “He’s more of a slasher type of player and he’s tough to cover because he’s quick and athletic.”
Get to the rim -- and good things will happen: That’s what the message from Moran to his team at halftime was. The Spartans were 3-of-12 from downtown in the first half and went the entire 16 minutes without recording a single offensive rebound, while only taking two foul shots in that span.
“We put them on notice that first-pass 3-point shots are no good,” said Moran. “We lived off that in the first half, and our strength is the team as a group. If we go to the hoop then we are strong and then we can take advantage of our shots. It was moving the ball and getting inside.”
The numbers took on a completely different look for the Spartans after the halftime pep talk. St. Mary’s out-rebounded the Cougars 17-10 — with five of those boards on the offensive end — and it held a 17-2 advantage in free throws attempted in the second half.
“We had a huge talk at halftime,” said Gagliolo. “We were playing awful and we knew that we had to step it up. … It was an all-around team effort.”
Tommy Deveau stole the ball at halfcourt and took it hard to the rim where he had two Cougars draped all over him, but somehow the ball found it’s way into the hoop for the hoop-and-the-harm. Deveau nailed the free throw for a 73-60 lead with 2:01 left in the game to put an exclamation point on the comeback.
Aggressors no more: It was all Arlington Catholic in the first half, as they dominated on the inside and siphoned the ball around to open shooters in good scoring positions.
Robert Wesoloski had 12 points and eight rebounds at the break, and the Cougars held a 25-10 advantage on the boards. But instead of pounding away at the Spartans with the 17-point lead, the Courgars settled for outside shots and looked awfully similar to their opponents from the first half.
“I thought we were getting inside, but when we got it in to (Wesoloski) they were double and triple teaming him,” said Cougars head coach Joel Burke. “Our shot selection was kind of poor and we need to identify those double-teams and kick the ball out to open guys. … We lost to a great team and we have to get back at it tomorrow.”