Frankie Carroll splits the Copiague defense for two of his...

Frankie Carroll splits the Copiague defense for two of his 17 points in the non-league victory for Ward Melville on Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2021. Credit: George A Faella

Ball movement, defense, and hustle have been the keys to success for Ward Melville this season. That formula proved to be effective once again as they protected their undefeated record.

The Patriots (8-0) controlled the game from the start, racing out to a 18-6 lead and ultimately grabbing a 78-56 victory at home over Copiague in a non-league matchup. Frankie Carroll was the team’s leading scorer with 17 points as Ward Melville had nine players finish the game with at least five. Rashad Kee scored 18 to lead Copiague (4-4).

"It’s a huge part of our offense to find the open guy," Tommy Engel said. The focus of our offense is to find that open guy and make sure we pass around every possession."

Engel was the beneficiary of that ball movement in the third quarter where he scored all nine of his points. His hot hand helped the Patriots extend an eight-point halftime lead, to a 24-point lead entering the fourth quarter.

"Everything was just working together," Engel said. "We were playing good defense, getting out on the break, finding the open guy, and hitting our shots."

With that offense came stellar defense. Ward Melville allowed just 10 points in the first quarter and nine points in the game-changing third quarter. They hit the floor countless times to retrieve loose balls and consistently knocked the ball out of the hands of offensive players.

Ward Melville coach Alex Piccirillo praised his team’s ability to do the dirty work and excel on the less glamorous side of the ball.

"They’ve bought in to my defensive philosophy and they’re tough on that side of the floor," Piccirillo said. "Not everyone wants to play defense like that, we want to grind it out and force teams to run their stuff in the half court."

Despite appearing dominant on the court so far, Piccirillo wants and expects even more from his team.

"We’re not exactly where we want to be, despite what our record says," Piccirillo said. "Keeping them grounded, knowing we didn’t play a perfect game defensively today, helps us move forward in practice."

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