Reading keeps eyes on prize
The Reading boys’ basketball team has had plenty to celebrate this season with two starters eclipsing 1,000 career points and coach Paul Morrissey notching win No. 100 with the program.
However, the 19th-ranked Rockets have a larger goal in mind for this season, one the team hasn’t accomplished in 24 years: win the Middlesex League title.
“If we could take the title it would mean a lot to the kids,’’ said Reading coach Paul Morrissey, who reached the century mark Jan. 13. “It would be something that they could look back on for a long time. But honestly we’re trying to take it one game at a time and just don’t want to get ahead of ourselves.’’
At 10-1 on the season the Rockets already have as many wins as they had all of last season (10-11). Reading is 5-0 in the League and has won 10 straight since losing by a point opening night. They hold sole possession of first place in the league, with a two-game edge over both Arlington and Lexington, who sit at 2-3.
The tandem of Jerry Ellis-Williams and Kenny Reed has been central to Reading’s success. Reed, the team’s starting point guard for the past four seasons, became the fifth Rocket to eclipse the 1,000-point mark when he scored 22 points in a 73-62 win over Arlington Jan. 13.
Reed followed in the rather large footsteps of Ellis-Williams, the team’s emotional leader, who has moved his way up to second all-time in scoring at Reading with 1,160 points. Only Brian Wilson’s mark of 1,547 in 1985 stands in front of him.
“So far it’s been a fantastic season for us,’’ said Morrissey. “With Jerry and Kenny getting to 1,000 points, and doing it together, it’s been impressive. Both of them have worked extremely hard and I’m happy for them.’’
Ellis-Williams plays power-forward, but he can also shoot the three with the best in the league. His versatility is something that Morrissey appreciates, “Jerry can score both inside and outside,’’ he said. “He can do a lot for us.’’
For the season, Ellis-Williams is averaging 15.5 points per game and seven rebounds. Reed, who quarterbacks the offense, is averaging 14 points and 7.5 assists per game.
“Kenny leads us by example,’’ said Morrissey, who likes to keep his offense spread out, allowing the senior to drive on his man and create high percentage shots for the team.
“Kenny runs our offense and distributes the ball,’’ said Morrissey. “But he’s also strong at taking the ball to the hole. Most of his points come from inside the paint. He’s just a strong kid.’’
The depth doesn’t end with the Big 2 for the Rockets. All five starters are capable of putting the ball in the basket. Nate Clarke is a jack of all trades, averaging 10 points, 6 assists, and 5 rebounds. Sophomore big man Drew Belcher, who is the quarterback on the football team, is averaging 7 points and seven rebounds, while defensive stopper Dominic DeSimone is netting 6 points a game.
Reading’s depth has even caught the eye of Arlington coach John Bowler.
“They’re just a great fundamental team,’’ said Bowler. “Their two stars are great players, but it’s the other players that do all the little things that have allowed them to be a 10-1 team.’’
“The chemistry on this team has been great,’’ agreed Morrissey. “It’s not just [Ellis-Williams and Reed], it’s the whole team. We have more kids this year with experience that have dedicated themselves to basketball and it’s showing.’’
“Practice has been great,’’ he continued. “They show up. They work hard. They watch a lot of film and see their mistakes and work on correcting them.’’
Morrissey, who has coached at Reading for nine seasons, was reluctant to rank this season’s team among his all-time greats just yet, preferring to wait until the end of the season, but he did say:
“I enjoy coming to practice with these guys every day. They have a will and a desire that make them really fun to work with.’’
On Friday night, the Rockets will host Wakefield, which leads the Middlesex Small Division, as they continue to their quest for a league title.
Games of the Week
No. 10 Stoughton at No. 15 King Philip, Tuesday, at 6:30 - Stoughton (9-1) will take its Hockomock-leading offense (69.8 points per game) on the road to face the Warriors (8-1) and Jake Layman, who boast the Hock’s top defense (45 points allowed per game).
No. 20 Boston Latin at No. 9 Acton-Boxboro, Friday, at 7:30 - This game will have repercussions in the Dual County League, currently the teams are tied atop the league at 3-1. The Wolfpack (12-2) are coming off a 20-point loss to No. 5 Catholic Memorial (9-2). The Colonials (11-1) have won four straight.
Andover at No. 2 Lawrence, Friday, at 7:30 - After No. 1 Central Catholic’s, 80-56, win over St. John’s Prep Sunday, this might be a battle for second-place in the Merrimack Valley. Lawrence (7-1) can’t take Andover too lightly if it wants to stay in the hunt.
Wakefield at No. 19 Reading, Friday, at 7 - The Rockets (10-1) have run off 10 straight wins. At 8-2 on the season the rival Warriors (who lead the Middlesex Small) should make for a good test.
No. 17 Charlestown at Fitchburg Saturday, at 3 - The Townies (6-3) have been fighting injuries and taken a hit in the rankings. Fitchburg (8-2) hung with No. 7 BC High (9-3) earlier this season and has a chance to extend Charlestown’s losing streak to three.