The Wolves opened the season against the Neuqua Valley Wildcats Monday evening. This game marked the first game of Coach Velazquez’s time as head coach without star guard Ray J Dennis but the Wolves were optimistic about their season with additions such as seniors Will Wolfe and Taha Khan. The Wolves looked to start the season strong with a win, although it had to be without senior star center Sam Schultz.
Unfortunately for the Wolves, they were not able to capitalize on the early mistakes made by the Wildcats and lost 64-60. The Wolves had a solid outing against the Wildcats but ultimately lost due to late game mistakes.
“We’ve got to play better as a team,” junior forward Odin Liam said. “We had plenty of opportunities to get the lead back at the end of the game but we killed ourselves by committing some dumb fouls. I think you’re going to see us get better at that as the season progresses.”
A big part of the Wolves game plan was to limit junior guard John Poulakidas. Poulakidas, a 6’6” guard, is one of the premier players in the area and the Wolves tried to limit him as much as they could. Poulakidas only contributed 2 points in the first half and left the game early with three fouls but came back in the second half and put up 23 points.
“I think we really got shown up on the boards tonight,” junior guard Antonio Hughes said. “We played well defensively and didn’t take dumb shots but our presence on the glass needs to be a lot better. Right now we don’t have Sam [Shultz] but once he’s back we’re going to have a much better impact in the paint.”
Shultz suffered a meniscus tear in July and is not projected to return to the Wolves lined until late December.
The Wolves got out to an early lead in the first quarter leading the Wildcats 14-6. Will Wolfe led the scoring with 7 points, outscoring the whole Wildcat team on his own. The Wolves showed a great defensive effort early in the game by limiting Poulakidas’ touches by face guarding him.
It was more of the same for East in the second quarter as they were able to maintain the lead behind the scoring of Odin Lium and Antonio Hughes.
“These guys battled tonight,” coach Velazquez said. “We played hard and we did a good job defensively to stop any major runs in the first half.”
Unfortunately for the Wolves the third quarter changed shifted the momentum in the Wildcats favor as the out scored East 20-7 behind Poulakidas’s 12 point scoring burst.
“It’s tough,” Wolfe said. “We played well defensively all game but that third quarter killed us. That was our game to take but we didn’t capitalize.”
“It’s a game of runs,” coach Velazquez said. “They were hot tonight and the score reflects that.”
Already trailing by four entering the last quarter, the Wolves started slow and trailed by as many as 11 early in the fourth only to crawl back behind Wolfe’s 12 points in the quarter.
Wolfe, who led the Wolves in scoring, was in foul trouble all night and fouled out with a minute and forty seconds remaining. East was unable to close the deal without Wolfe in the game to help complete the comeback, and the game ended in a 64-60 opening day loss.
“We’re only going to get better,” senior Rithik Ganesan said. “We’re going to get better as the season goes on and we’re going to clean up some of the things that went wrong tonight so I’m not worried about us too much. We’re going to see better teams and we’ll be better prepared.”
The Wolves look to rebound tonight against De Kalb at 5:45 at Oswego High School.
Sahishnu Boyapally is a sports writer for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the Howl