Thursday, January 23, 2014

Fazio Plays Big, Lakeland Outlasts Yorktown

Nick Fazio can’t catch a break.

When longtime Lakeland head coach Henry Weltman isn’t imploring the sophomore center to be physical, insisting he utilize every bit of his towering 6-foot-9 frame in the post, Fazio will hear more and more from his older brother, Chris Fazio.

At 6-foot-6 and blessed with considerable hops, Chris Fazio (Lakeland '10)  authored a memorable career as a high-scoring Lakeland forward.

 He cemented his legacy with a 27-point, 19-rebound performance in a thorough 70-51 drubbing of Carmel back in February of 2010, Weltman’s 200th career win.

So, Weltman has no issue with Chris being the de facto assistant coach.

 Chris is in the gym 90 percent of the time, advising Nick to post up. He can been seen motioning his (little?) brother to his extend his long arms into the lane. You'll see Chris demanding Nick to finish above the rim. You'll see Chris telling Nick to feed off intensified contact from defenders too small to front him. 

 Fazio’s other older brother, class of 2003 Lakeland grad Tom Fazio, was one the Section’s top scoring guards.

It was Tom Fazio who piloted a Lakeland team packed with shooters, underscored by a 6-foot-7 3-point ace in Ryan Schneider.

The former Vermont/Marist forward, Schneider played professionally in Portugal.

Back to the future.

During the Hornets 59-52 victory over Yorktown on Wednesday, Nick Fazio was able to appease his support system, turning in crucial late game plays.

 Fazio attacked the rim for a traditional 3-point play, supplying the Hornets with a 51-45 lead with 4:20 left in the fourth quarter.

Yorktown, which received a jolt of fourth quarter energy from junior guard Mike Nardone, answered as 6-foot-5 forward Anthony Coutsouros connected on 4-for-4 from charity.

Lakeland continued to feature Fazio. When he powered up at point-blank,  a defender pulled on his pipe cleaner arms. He drew the foul and knocked back 1-of-2 from the line.

“I have told (Fazio) many times, ‘once you get the ball inside, I want to see you go strong,’” explained Weltman.

“We’ve been talking about going strong and finishing. I remind him every day that he’s 6-9. Free throw shooting, that’s an aspect we’ve worked with at practice and today he was very good in that area. Remember, he’s only a sophomore. He’s got two years ahead of him and he’s going to put some weight on his body and get bigger.”

With go-to option Mike Morelli absent due to sickness, guard Kevin Kretzschmer was flushed into the starting lineup.

After Weltman pulled him in the first half, Kretzchmer re-registered his presence with three vital 3-pointers in the second.

The true dagger came with 3:15 remaining.

 With veteran guard Stephen Harten evading pressure from swarming Yorktown guards Nick DeGennaro and Nardone, Kretzchmer got free and spotted up. He rifled in a trey, giving the Hornets a 55-49 edge.

Ryan Thomas hit two free throws on the ensuing possession, icing it.

“We needed this win tonight,” explained Fazio. “I think this gives us a huge momentum boost, enough to carry into our game tomorrow night. We can win that game (against Kennedy-Catholic) because of this.”

This was Lakeland/Yorktown, but much of the luster surrounding this traditional rivalry game had been lost.

 Though the hostilities were evident, both teams entered the tilt mired in a grueling, 0-in-who’s counting freefall.

“What you just witnessed was two teams came in here tonight really needing a win,” said Weltman. “We’ve both been struggling, to a degree. We came in here on a seven-game skid. The desire to end it definitely helped motivate our guys tonight.”

Deep down inside, Weltman would love to see Fazio launch and deliver a violent dunk, as he’s suddenly been doing in practice.

With 30 seconds left and the Hornets nursing a seven-point lead, Fazio got the ball alone on the wing. While a few “Dunk It!” outbursts emanated from the Lakeland side of the bleachers, Fazio wisely held onto rock to immediately draw a foul.

Fazio, who played J.V. as a freshman, scored on the game-winner to defeat John Jay back on Dec. 14.

He’s still very much a work-in-progress scoring-wise, albeit he's developed a refined pack of post moves. Nobody can deny his upside or the presence he gives an otherwise average-sized Lakeland team.

“I’ve been working a lot on lifting, getting into the weight room, getting higher hops, getting down low,” explained Fazio. “Chris is usually here, coaching me during the game.”

A steady progress remains.

Ricky Corrado, Yorktown's bullish senior forward, cut Lakeland's lead to five on a shallow water jumper early in the fourth quarter. Corrado and junior forward Nick Delbene helped enforce a transition game, which kept the Huskers (2-11) at a hunter's range throughout.

As effective as Fazio was, he clearly wasn’t alone.

Lefty Kevin Lynch (who had 10 points against Putnam Valley) and junior forward James Harrison were crucial in the post, counterpunching Yorktown’s runs.