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Neither the pace of the game nor the threat of bodily harm can get Menwith Hill’s Greg Puccetti out of the lineup.

“I just can’t take him out of the game,” Menwith Hill basketball coach Pete Resnick said by telephone Sunday about Puccetti, a 6-foot-3 sophomore center. “He has too much value to our team.”

Puccetti, 16, is averaging 15 points and 11 rebounds a game for the surprising Mustangs, who just completed a road sweep at Alconbury and boosted their Division III-North conference record to 4-0. Puccetti scored a combined 28 points in the 57-35 and 51-44 triumphs.

Pucetti’s consistency on the court was anything but a sure thing a few months ago, after a violent encounter in nearby Harrogate. A released English juvenile offender smashed a bottle on one of Puccetti’s cheeks as the American walked by.

“I was kind of surprised when it happened,” Puccetti said of the unprovoked attack that opened a large cut.

“There was a lot of blood, but it didn’t hurt at all at the time because I had nerve damage.”

His assailant was arrested and went to court last week, Puccetti said, adding that no one from the justice system has contacted him about the outcome of the hearing.

“I was angry,” Puccetti said about the attack, “but I’m not going to let it change my life.”

The injury forced Puccetti, who played tight end for the football team, to miss Menwith Hill’s playoff game at Ansbach last October. And it leaves him with a potential problem underneath the basket as the Mustangs chase a possible Division III-North league title.

“I sometimes feel tingling now,” he said. “When I get hit hard there, it kind of hurts.”

This season, most of the pain has been borne by Menwith’s foes. The Mustangs have a 7-1 record against teams, Resnick said, that pull out all the stops against minuscule Menwith Hill (enrollment 94 students).

“The other teams do everything they can to try to beat us,” Resnick said. “They see us on the schedule and tell themselves, ‘If we can’t beat them, we’re in trouble.’ We always get their best effort.”

What those teams don’t appreciate, however, is just who is included among Menwith’s 94 students.

“We didn’t lose that many people from last year,” Puccetti said of his squad, which includes Le’Shawn Adams and Andrew Kaaihue, both all-conference athletes and double-digit scorers. “We had a year to grow and a year to work together.”

And to get into shape. The short bench for a team at such a small school doesn’t allow the starters many breathers during a game — although that is no problem for Puccetti.

“I like playing the whole game,” he said.

Puccetti and his team face tough tests the rest of the way, with a tournament at Alconbury against the Dragons, London Central and Rota this weekend, a road trip to D-II power SHAPE Feb. 2-3, and home games against London Central Feb. 9-10 to decide the league crown.

After that, there’s the European Division IV tournament in Mannheim.

Puccetti thinks his Mustangs, whose only loss came at Lakenheath on Dec. 2, are prepared for the challenge.

“The team’s feeling strong,” he said. “Since we’re one of the smaller schools, we’ve got to step it up.”


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