AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy – The long bus ride up north didn’t seem to tire out Naples on Friday night.
In fact, the Wildcats seemed to get stronger as the night went on.
Isaiah Wesby scored 15 of his game-high 17 points in the second half as the Naples boys pulled away from Avaino 56-45. That came after Shanice Alexander grabbed 14 rebounds and keyed the Naples girls past Aviano 50-45 in the opener.
Naples outscored Aviano 20-11 in the fourth quarter in the boys’ game and 17-10 in the girls’ game.
“We can play with them,” Aviano boys coach Ken McNeely said. “We just don’t have the number of athletes they have.”
Two players, in particular, gave the Saints trouble. DJ Stockman scored 13 points in the first half as the Wildcats built a 27-19 advantage. So McNeely sent his team out in a diamond and one defense, with Dundree Peoples hounding Stockman all over the court.
Aviano scored the first seven points of the second half and tied it at 29-29 on Alex Robertson’s basket with 3 minutes, 31 seconds left.
But then Isaiah Wesby, who had scored only two points in the first half, took over. He scored 15 points as the Wildcats gradually pulled away.
“I knew when they took DJ out of his game that Isaiah would have to expand his game,” Naples coach Craig Lord said. “Fortunately, he did.”
Point guard Aaron Smith added 12 points for Naples, which moved into a tie with the Saints at 8-1 with the victory. The two teams play again Saturday. Aviano then finishes the regular season against another contender, Vicenza. Naples ends with Marymount.
“Today is good, but we have to be prepared for tomorrow,” Lord said.
The Saints girls, who led for most of their game, will be looking for a bit of revenge Saturday.
Down 26-20 at halftime, Naples stayed on their sidelines and didn’t go to the locker room.
“I just wanted to stay on the court, maintain the feel,” said coach Amie Pennartz.
Aviano was up by double digits in the third quarter when it all started to fall apart.
“They stopped listening to me,” Aviano coach Lola Smith said. “When I said drive, they shot. When I said shoot, they drove.”
With Laneisha Jeans operating from the outside for Naples, Alexander and Caitlyn Kroupa worked down low. Jeans and Alexander each finished with 12 points. Kroupa had a team-high15 and nine rebounds for Naples, which improved to 5-2.
Aviano’s Kyerha Smith put on a show in the first half, scoring 10 straight points at one point with two-three point shots sandwiching a pair of steals and layups. But she went ice cold in the second half and fouled out with less than a minute to play. Smith had 19 points, seven rebounds and six assists for Aviano, which fell to 3-4 on the season. Jasmine Green added 10 points.