Mascenic boys’ basketball shows promise in opening loss

New Mascenic head coach Nick Tzannos talks to his boys during a third-quarter timeout. 

New Mascenic head coach Nick Tzannos talks to his boys during a third-quarter timeout.  PHOTO BY BEN CONANT/BEN CONANT PHOTOGRAPHY

Mascenic's Chuck Phillips looks for an opening late in Tuesday's game.

Mascenic's Chuck Phillips looks for an opening late in Tuesday's game. PHOTO BY BEN CONANT/BEN CONANT PHOTOGRAPHY

Mascenic's Lucas Leroux gets a layup against Concord Christian.

Mascenic's Lucas Leroux gets a layup against Concord Christian. PHOTO BY BEN CONANT/BEN CONANT PHOTOGRAPHY

Mascenic's Lucas Leroux gets a layup against Concord Christian. 

Mascenic's Lucas Leroux gets a layup against Concord Christian.  PHOTO BY BEN CONANT/BEN CONANT PHOTOGRAPHY

Mascenic's Mike Koukkari gets to the rim against Concord Christian during Tuesday's game.

Mascenic's Mike Koukkari gets to the rim against Concord Christian during Tuesday's game. PHOTO BY BEN CONANT/BEN CONANT PHOTOGRAPHY

Mascenic's Brody Shaw attacks the hoop as Concord Christian's TJ Charbono during the Vikings' 50-38 loss to the Kingsmen in New Ipswich on Tuesday.

Mascenic's Brody Shaw attacks the hoop as Concord Christian's TJ Charbono during the Vikings' 50-38 loss to the Kingsmen in New Ipswich on Tuesday. PHOTO BY BEN CONANT/BEN CONANT PHOTOGRAPHY

By BEN CONANT

For the Ledger-Transcript

Published: 12-06-2023 8:09 AM

The new-look Mascenic boys' basketball team suffered a season-opening loss to Concord Christian in New Ipswich Tuesday night, but first-year head coach Nick Tzannos liked the fire he saw in his Vikings.

"They all play hard," Tzannos said after the 50-38 loss to the visiting Kingsmen. "They all get after the loose balls. We always have hands on it. And they move the ball well. When they see it and they're not timid with the ball on their hands, they're confident where the next guy's going to be. That ball movement is unbelievable."

Concord Christian is a far cry from last year's Division IV final four team, as all five of their starters, including Proctor Academy's Brode Frinke, have moved on. 

The Vikings showed their defensive capabilities from the jump, pressing the Kingsmen full-court with Lucas Leroux leading the charge.  On offense, Mascenic came out looking to launch from distance, and with a three apiece from freshman Mike Koukkari (10 points) and sophomore Brody Shaw, the Vikings kept it to 24-22 at the half. Tzannos cited Koukkari after the game for excelling in his first high school game.

"Coming out as a freshman, it's very easy to get timid, but when we started to falter, he brought some light on both ends of the floor,” Tzannos  said. “He rebounded, picked off some passes in the passing lane, made the right plays and finished at the rim."

But after the break, the Vikings went cold and the Kingsmen got hot. Mascenic, playing without Tyler Lowe to start the season, looked to Leroux to shoulder the bulk of the scoring, and while he put in a game-high 18 points, he wasn't able to connect from downtown - and not for lack of trying. In fact, despite an emphasis on shooting from the three-point line, Mascenic hit just one from deep in the second half. 

"We shoot them well in practice," Tzannos said. "We have a lot of capable guys, and I wouldn't run that style of offense if I didn't think we could commit to it. Our goal is to get those guys being pulled out to the lines where our middle opens up. We have a lot of open chances to go downhill with it, but, you know, shots don't fall and you live and die by it sometimes."

Meanwhile, CCA hit six threes, as TJ Charbono (10 points) and Logan Duffy (11 points) were able to get free and hit some shots. The Kingsmen opened the third quarter with a 14-5 run and created the separation they needed to put the game away. 

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"They're a fantastic group," Tzannos said of the visitors. "They're a group of guys who played together for a long time. They're very tight. They play hard. And, knocking down open shots, it was on us -- credit to them for knocking it down -- but our guys have to do a better job closing out and contesting."

Concord also benefited from a more evenly balanced scoring attack, as seven Kingsmen scored in the game compared to just four for the Vikings. 

"This is a young team," Tzannos said. "I tell everyone, I think we have the youngest starting lineup in the state with Tyler Lowe out right now. So a junior, three sophomores and a freshman playing varsity is tough, but they've all accepted the challenge. They all play hard. That's the first step. As long as they play hard and want to be there, anything can be coached."

Mascenic (0-1) will look to right the ship Friday at Division III Newport.