Season is Starting to Look Special

January 5, 2019
Lowell High's Deven Okowuga looks for some elbow room as he is confronted by Andover High's Aidan Cammann during action in Friday's game between two top MVC schools. UN/Julia Malakie Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

LOWELL -- There is an exciting big-city bounce to the swarming style of play the Lowell High boys basketball team has displayed in the early going this season.

But it’s the Red Raiders’ sweatshop work ethic, along with its ability to transition from defense to offense in the blink of an eye, that’s enabled Lowell to get off to the most electric of starts.

Andover arrived at the Riddick Fieldhouse Friday night ready to put the undefeated Red Raiders to the test. The Golden Warriors started fast and were leading by five points late in the second quarter.

But Lowell responded to the challenge by ripping off a 12-0 run to close out the first half and never took its foot off the gas pedal in the second half while racing to a 70-50 victory over the Golden Warriors in an MVC Division 1 game.

Carlos Nunez led the way on offense for Lowell with 20 points. Rashawn Settles (14 points) and Nate Siow (11 points) also scored in double-figures for the Red Raiders.

Lowell improved its record to 9-0. Andover, a perennial MVC power, is 5-2.

“Our defense gets us going,” said Settles, a senior guard. “Once we get started on defense, it leads to a rhythm on offense and we start scoring points.

“We have a deep team. We have a big bench. Everyone on this team can contribute in some way. If someone is tired we can sub someone in and there’s no drop off on offense or defense.”

Lowell got off to slow start on offense. The Red Raiders trailed 16-12 at the end of the first quarter.

In the second quarter, the Red Raiders stayed within striking distance. Then Settles and Nunez took over just before halftime keying a surge that gave Lowell a seven-point lead at the break.

“When offensively you are struggling a bit the easiest way to turn things around is with defense,” said Lowell coach Bob Michalczyk. “Defense is effort. When we are playing good defense we can turn it into some easy buckets. Good defense keeps you in the game and gets you going.”

Justin Villanueva (4 points) and Deven Okowuga (7 points) made their presence felt in the paint and on the boards for Lowell. The Red Raiders got strong play off the bench from Otto Okonoboh (5 points), Tyson Kong (4 points), Treyvon Bun (3 points), AJ Boykai, Ritchie Etienne and Ty Chan (2 points).

“Those guys (off the bench) brought tons of energy,” said Michalczyk. “They played great. They gave our other guys a break. They were playing so well there was no real reason to put the other guys back in.”

Nunez continued his hot shooting early in the second half as Lowell opened the third quarter with a 9-3 run.

“Carlos was awesome, especially in the first half,” said Michalczyk. “He kept us in it.”

Every time Andover was about to put a run together, Lowell responded to the challenge. The Red Raiders led by as many as 23 points in the second half.

“We know teams are coming after us,” said Settles. “We like the challenge. It makes us play hard. They tested us a bit and we responded.”

The Red Raiders responded as a team. This team-first approach to winning has Lowell running up at the head of the pack in MVC Division 1.

“The very first thing we told them is, ‘If you guys are able to check your egos at the door we have a whole lot of talent,’” said Michalczyk. “We have guys who can contribute in multiple ways, whether it’s offense or defense.

“One game Carlos is going to have 20. The next game it’s going to be Deven. The next game it’s going to be somebody else. They do a really good job of being unselfish and that doesn’t always happen.”

Follow Carmine Frongillo on Twitter @cwfrongi

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