CLAYTON — The 7-2 Thousand Islands boys basketball team is beginning to believe in its potential.
Playing only their second game in two weeks, the Vikings bounced back from a sluggish first half to defeat LaFargeville, 60-38, in a Frontier League crossover game Friday.
Returning most of last year’s team that finished 6-8, the Vikings are getting to a point in the season where aspirations of sectional success become more reality rather than fantasy, at least that’s what coach Scott Lalonde is pushing.
“That’s what I’m trying to get into them, last year was a struggle for us but they’re all back, we’re all juniors and sophomores,” he said. “So these guys are going to come back for another year, I want them to get their confidence now so that next year we can hopefully keep rolling.
“This year isn’t a year of ‘Oh we just want to be OK,’ I think we can be good,” Lalonde continued. “And I think these guys are starting to see that we can be really good.”
The Vikings demonstrated their potential in the third quarter when they scored 28 points and held LaFargeville (2-5) to 18. After a lackluster first half that lacked energy — which led to poor play on both ends of the floor and only a nine-point lead at halftime — the Vikings turned it on the second.
It started with defense.
“Our defense will turn into offense, basically,” said Joey Melfi, who scored 20 points. “Get steals and get out and run which then we made layups.”
Brayden Mason, Emmet Baker and Melfi combined to make up the Thousand Islands’ 12 steals, which led to three breakaway scores in the third quarter. Mason, who finished with three of the those steals, had 10 points, all in the third quarter.
“When our defense works better, it gives us momentum for our offense,” Mason said. “We got out and ran and got steals.”
Melfi again led the offense, exactly in line with his 20.4 ppg he had entering the game. Melfi played a lot more efficiently in the second half and limited the amount of rushed shots.
Alongside Melfi and Mason, Brayden Wiley finished with 13 points and Baker finished with 10.
The Red Knights were led by center Jarett Beach’s 14 points.
Finding offensive success outside of Melfi has been part of Thousand Islands’ growth this season, and is becoming a key to their success.
“These guys are more than capable of scoring, I think we had a pretty balanced scoring tonight,” Lalonde said. “We got three or four other guys who can put the ball in the basket consistently ... they just have to get some confidence. If Joey is only scoring 20 points but he’s getting eight or nine assists, that’s a great night for us.”
As the rest of the Vikings learn how to become confident scorers, Melfi is learning how to put more trust in his teammates. He had a team-high five assists against LaFargeville.
“He’s gotta learn to get some confidence in these guys, too, and I think he has,” Lalonde said. “I think he’s starting to get a lot of confidence in these guys because he’s passing the ball a lot more. He’s passing up shots that he wouldn’t normally pass up, he’s still gotta learn when to get his shot but still get these other guys opportunities.”