Yellowjackets Pop Minutemen in Season Opener

Windsor — The Windsor High boys basketball no longer produces the run-and-gun numbers like it used to, but the Yellowjackets can still ramp it up on occasion, as they did Saturday afternoon in a 59-50 win over Mill River in the season opener for both teams.

The contest began like many openers, as the butterflies and shaky ballhandling resulted in a 4-2 game with three minutes to play in the first quarter. While the players eventually batted those butterflies away, it was the Jacks, led by 16 second-half points by Russell Simonds, that keyed the win. Simonds finished with 23 points.

“Russell played a great game,” Windsor coach Harry Ladue coach. “He was explosive.”

He was also a Mill River heartbreaker, as every time the Minutemen took a little bite out of the lead, Simonds was there to see that it was not a very big bite. In the third quarter, Mill River twice cut the lead to six points as the momentum began to swing. Then Simonds first drove the lane for a pair, and next hit a 3-point bomb.

Back came Mill River again on a nifty steal and lay-in by Omari Brown, But there was Simonds once more, hitting from just inside the arc and added two free throws as Windsor took a 35-27 lead into the fourth quarter.

While the second half was not entirely the Russell Simonds show, the 5-foot-11 junior started the third period out with a drive for a hoop, and after Mill River’s Patrick Fiske hit a 3-pointer, Simonds matched it to enable the Jacks to keep some breathing room at 40-30.

But the Minutemen kept hanging around to make it just close enough to keep the Jacks nervous. When Mill River freshmen Mike Morgan hit a 3-pointer with 2:04 to play, it was a 52-44 game, but the Minutemen were in one of those have-to-foul situations, and the Jacks held on for the win.

Mill River coach Mark Benatatos was not particularly pleased with what he saw.

“We had no energy in the first half, and our upperclassmen did not play well all night,” Benatatos said. “I’m disappointed in our upperclassmen.”

In preseason conversation, Ladue made it a point to talk about the school’s shrinking enrollment and the inability to get some big numbers out for basketball and what effect it had on the program.

“We used to have around 160-170 boys, and now we have around 100,” he said a couple of weeks ago. “We just haven’t been able to play like we would like to.”

And the Jacks were not playing the way they would like to in the first half, trailing 8-7 after one period before taking a 19-16 lead at the half.

But it got better as 6-foot-3 sophomore Mike Bradley began swatting balls away as Simonds along with Tyson Boudro took charge of the offense.

Boudro spread his 15 points out, but he had a huge shot in the fourth quarter. The Minutemen were just nine points behind with 4:35 to go when Boudro drilled a 3-pointer.

Mill River got very solid games from Brown, with 18 points, and Jonathan Noboa, with a hard-working 13 points.

Windsor goes to Thetford on Monday.

CORRECTION

The Mill River Minutemen were misidentified in an earlier version of this article's headline.