Knights basketball first conference division win of the season

On Tuesday, Nov. 8, the NECC Knights defeated Bunker Hill Community College Bulldogs 87 to 77 for their first conference division game of the season and improved to 3-0 overall during the season.

Before the game I asked NECC Basketball head coach, Coach Darren Stratton how he managed a conference division game vs non conference.

“Every game matters,” Coach Stratton said. “This game is more significant coming towards our overall record and as far as our regional record goes, I might be tonight tied in the bench to see how it goes and not goes as deep but which looks toward any other game and hopefully we tried to improve what we did over the weekend and hopefully to improve it to conference game,” said Stratton.

The Bulldogs were ranked number five in the nation preseason coming into tonight’s game. I asked Coach Stratton how scary the Bulldogs can be and what the Knights can do to stay focused and still get a victory in the road?

“I think we just got to play our type of game we can’t let them slow us down … they have a huge size advantage against us, their point guard is an All Region player first team so we need a lot in our group to try to control him. They beat a very good Bronx team in New York over the weekend so we are looking forward towards the challenge and I think my guys will be up for the challenge for tonight,” he said.

The game officially started at 6:05 p.m.

Bulldogs won the tipoff against the Knights.

Bulldogs struck first scoring the first four points during the game.

Phillip Cunningham of Haverhill scored a two pointer followed by two three pointer by Cristian Kinsley of Lawrence to put this game 8 to 4 in favor of the Knights.

The Bulldogs had four fouls in the first six minutes of the game.

Jeremiah Melendez of Lawrence scored a two pointer for the Knights to make this game 13 to 12 in favor of the Bulldogs, the next possession that the Knights had Melendez put the Knights on top as they were up by one.

Luis Reynoso of Lawrence made one of two in as the Knights increased their lead by two.

Knights vs Bulldogs on Nov. 08, 2022 at Charlestown, MA
Knights vs Bulldogs on Nov. 08, 2022 at Charlestown, MA Photo by Editor-in-Chief/ Sports Editor Jose Rodriguez

Bulldogs Osa Irlowen of Milton put the Bulldogs ahead 18 to 17.

Melendez was in the free throw line where he tied the score up at 18 a piece.

The Bulldogs made it 20 to 18 after the Knights tied the game at 20.

Melendez passed the ball to Kevin Monteiro of Sommerville to put the Knights up 22 to 20. In the next possession Melendez increased the Knights lead by four.

The game was tied at 26 when Reynoso with a lay up put the Knights up 28 to 26. Cunningham made it 30 to 28. Edwin SamMbaka of Paris, France made it 32 to 28.

The Knights kept them self in distance against the Bulldogs by going on a 21 to 2 run to end the first half.  

The Knights were up 49 to 28 when they went into their locker room at the half. Bulldogs had 10 fouls and the Knights six.

“I thought that was the key, we finished the half on a 21-2 run but then in the second half I believe they open up on a 13 to 1 run. I mean we can’t have that inconsistency, if you want to be a championship team you have to have consistency,” said Coach Stratton.

Forty nine points, that is the most the Knights have scored in one period during the course of the season.

In the second half Bulldogs ended that run by playing more aggressive and Bulldogs battle through.

Bulldogs had two different runs in the second period.

13 to 1 run and a 24 to 2 run.

“Our energy just dropped we didn’t rebound we didn’t push the ball in the floor but then they got back to say,” said NECC Knight basketball player Ryan Pacy.

The Knights weren’t playing aggressive basketball, they were playing sloppy defense and were not executing during that run that the Bulldogs had.

The Knights were missing a lot of free throws and they weren’t executing the way they wanted.

“We missed a lot of free throws and our executing wasn’t good, our executing got to be much better and I think we can learn from this, I am just glad that we came in the winning side,” Coach Stratton said.

The Knights scored the next four points to make it 66 to 59.

Mehmet Asik “R2” of Ankara, Turkey was in the free throw line when the Knights were up 69 to 65 Asik made two free throws in to make it 71 to 65.

The Knights increased their lead to 76 to 65.

SamMbaka nailed down a three for the Knights to put this game 79 to 70.

The Knights defeated Bulldogs 87 to 77. In the second half the Knights had eight fouls and Bulldogs 14.

Kinsley and Reynoso combined for 28 points in a win over Mustangs

 On Saturday, Nov. 5,  NECC Knights defeated Central Maine Mustangs 78 to 63 in Concord, N.H., for the tap off classic.

Before the game Coach Darren Stratton told me he talked to his players to clean up all the dirty plays that they did on opening night in the first game of the season.

“That’s the first thing we said to clean up the stuff, clean up the game clean up the turnovers. It’s tough  when you can’t practice you can talk all you want but when you can’t practice it, it’s going to be extremely difficult but that’s the first thing we enforced, we enforced finding a men boxing out and cleaning up the turnover we gave them 22 turnovers, that’s 22 extra position we gave them so we can’t have that we going to lose more than what we going to win,” he said.

The Mustangs won the tap-off against the Knights. The game started at 12:04 p.m.

Central Maine scored first to get things started against the Knights.

Luis Reynoso of Lawrence scored a three pointer to put the Knights up 3 to 2 in the game.

The Knights increased that lead as Jeremiah Melendez of Lawrence made it 6 to 4.

Mustangs tied the game up at 6.

Reynoso put the Knights ahead 8 to 6.

The Knights were up 12 to 8 when Edwin SamMbaka of Paris, France went to the free throw line and made two shots in.

Cristian Kinsley of Lawrence shot a three and made it in Kinsley was five for four on three point line in the first half Kinsley finished with 12 points in the game.

Kinsley and Reynoso combined for 28 points.

“Yeah I think Luis and Cristian as well as some other guys had some excellent game today. Luis and Cristian played all the way through high school. So I think they know each other tendency and they work off each other and was showing today, I mean Luis this weekend I think was man against boys and I think everyone else in the team rally against them and he is firm believer as well as anyone else that there is no special person in this basketball team that everyone has held accountable,” Coach Stratton said.

Philip Cunningham of Haverhill stole  the ball and passed it to Reynoso as Reynoso banged a two pointer to increase the Knights lead.

It was clear the first half that the Knights got the Mustangs number. The Mustangs started to play sloppy basketball all around as the Knights got into their head.

A steal by Reynoso made it in to make it 40-18 in favor of the Knights.

The Knights were taking advantage of Mustangs foul as the Knights was making free throws. The Knights had 11 fouls while Mustangs had 10.

Knights vs NHTI on Nov. 05, 2022 at Concord, New Hampshire
Knights vs NHTI on Nov. 05, 2022 at Concord, New Hampshire Photo by Editor-in-Chief/ Sports Editor Jose Rodriguez

The second half started with Reynoso shooting a two the very next play he stole the ball and passed it to Mehemet Asik “R2” of Ankara Turkey to Melendez to Tre Fite of Massillon, Ohio who scored a three point shot.

The Knights largest lead in the first half was 24 and in the second half was 26.

“The lead slipped away some of the guys we start defending we start doing the simple things we can’t take anything for granted we have to get better every day every possession and I think we felt we took some of the possession, I think Central Maine close out the first half with an 8-0 run and then early in this half they made a 10-0 run because we got lazy, we weren’t very effective,” Coach Stratton said.

The Knights opened the second half with a 10-2 run over the Mustangs.

Metin Yavuz and Asik got technical fouls in the second half.

I ask Stratton why they were able to stay in the game if they got technical fouls.

“When you get two technical you are not allowed to get back in the court each of them receive one technical R2 was from hanging in the basket and Metin was for vulgar language that we got to clean up,” Stratton said.

The Mustangs were on a run against the Knights as they were trying to keep it closer as the run ended on Reynoso three pointer.

Stratton called a timeout, the Knights was in business Ashton Ventola of Danville, N.H. came off the bench by scoring a two pointer.

Coach Stratton used another timeout as he was pretty upset and angry that the team wasn’t playing well the way that Stratton wanted the team to perform during the middle of the second half.

“I was very upset because I had some basketball players on this team that weren’t all about the team, that they were about them self and individual and they have to understand that there is not enough minutes on this basketball game to get everyone involved and they either want to be part of the team or they going to be part of individual and from day one they know I will sign a transfer for any single player on my basketball team to transfer else where…” he said.

The Knights in the last five minutes of the game they started fouling and missing shots. They could have scored more than 78 points during the game which they won 78-63.

Reynoso 21 points lift the Knights a victory on opening night

 On Friday, Nov. 4, the NECC Knights defeated New Hampshire Technical Institution NHTI 81 to 69 to begin their 2022-23 campaign for the NHTI tap-off classic.

During the pre game interview NECC Basketball head coach Darren Stratton said he was excited to get the season underway “I’m excited but I know the (guys are) excited more, we’ve been doing workout since September, been practicing since October so I think the kids are more excited to get this under way than I am…” he said.

The game officially started at 7:35 p.m. NHTI won the tip off. Mehmet Asik of Ankara, Turkey fouled with just 38 second in the game.

Luis Reynoso of Lawrence made the two pointer and went to the free throw line for a chance for a three point play. Reynoso finished the game with 21 points.

“Very excited you know (the) team came out came a little slow but we came through in the second half and finished,” said Reynoso.

The Knights committed four fouls in the first five minutes of the game, also they were having a lot of turnover and were playing sloppy basketball. The Knights finished the game with 22 turnovers.

I asked Coach Stratton during the post game about the 22 turnovers that his team had. “It can’t happen, that’s my biggest concern coming in is I think I told you preseason losing Daniel (Almarante) and not having someone in the point guard position, 22 turnover it is just crazy and we just can’t have that to move forward but we are going to try some different things, try some different guys, try to find someone (who) could settle that in and hopefully some one can do that,” he said.

Edwin SamMbaka of Paris, France put the Knights ahead 12 to 11. This was the Knights first lead of the game.  

Stratton called a 30 second timeout when the Knights were losing 15 to 13.

Cristian Kinsley of Lawrence made this a one-point game when he shot it for three to make this game 17 to 16 in favor of NHTI.

NHTI made a pair of free throws to make this game 19-16.

The game was 21-16 when Reynoso made the next four points for the Knights as they were down by a point.

The Knights took a 22-21 lead as Mehemet Asik “R2” of Ankara, Turkey put the Knights on top.

Luis Reynoso strong came up huge for the Knights on opening night
Luis Reynoso huge night for the Knights on opening night Photo by: Bryan Thomas

Reynoso missed one of the two free throws as the Knights were up 23-21. Reynoso was 11 for 13 in the free throw line. Phillip Cunningham of Haverhill increased the Knights lead to four.

Ryan Pacy of Salem, N.H., shot for three and he fall down on the floor. Stratton was arguing that Pacy was fouled as the referee did not look at it that way.

“Ryan Pacy shot a three and they didn’t let him land, they said they let him land but they didn’t let him land and I felt the referee missed but he told me that he let him land so they give him the space and we move forward from that,” he said.

The Knights were down by three when Tre Fite of Massillon, Ohio found Cunningham to make this a one point game.

It was a back and forth game with two minutes left in the first half.

The Knights were trailing by a point, it was 36 to 35 at halftime. The Knights had 14 fouls while NHTI had 12.

In the second half Asik “R2” started the scoring for the Knights. The game was 39 to 38 when Kinsley laydown a three point basket to make it 42-38.

NHTI made this a two point game as the Knights answered back by scoring the next five points, a two point shot by Reynoso and Peter Lopota of Groveland, off the bench, banged a three pointer.

The Knights had momentum to begin the second half, that lead wasn’t big enough, the momentum was taking away a little as NHTI had a lead and the Knights came back to tie the game at 52.

During the course of the game the lead hanged 16 times.

The Knights were winning 56 to 54 when Reynoso was in the free throw line and made both of the free throws in.

The Knights were building up momentum and created this time a large gap against NHTI as Reynoso for the second time in less than one minute was in the free throw line as he connected both shots successfully.

 Pacy stole the ball and run made it into the bucket to put this a 10 point game.

The Knights were up 79-66. The Knights increased their lead to 13 as Cunningham made two shot in as the Knights were up by 15.

Coach Stratton told me the adjustment the team had from the first half to the second half.

“The biggest adjustment we made is we decided to rebound a little bit and finding men? to block out in the first half, they just kill us in the half and we gave up way too many chance opportunity and it wasn’t just coming from the bigs it was coming from the not sure what that should say but gods spot seems weird …it was coming everywhere hopefully we can show this kids in film and clean up some of that can help us move forward,” he said.

The Knights went on to defeat NHTI on their opening night 81-69.

Knights All-Region Women’s Volleyball


Knights player's All-Region Women's volleyball

Knights  All-Region Women’s Volleyball

On Monday Oct. 31, NECC Knights Women’s Volleyball players Kaithleen Perez-Flores of Lowell, Ashley Martinez of Lawrence, Caroline Burns of Haverhill, and Eliany Dejesus of Lowell were chosen All-Region Volleyball by the conference volleyball committee for their hard work and dedication on the court throughout the season.

Perez-Flores was in the top five on five of the eight categories of Region 21.

Martinez was in the top 10 on five of the eight categories of Region 21, including ranking first on digs per set with 3.48 and digs with 178.

Dejesus was in the top 20 on five of the eight categories of Region 21.

For the second straight year Perez-Flores was chosen for team one of All-Region. I talked to her about what was the difference between the last two years. “They were different skills level between both teams last year and this year but it still a good talent working with these people, just because it adds more skills to you as much as they add more skills to you so you know it is both experiences for both of us,” she said.

She found out the news that she was chosen All-Region by one of her teammates. “I was pretty surprised, I honestly forgot that they do those awards and I didn’t think that it was going to happen this soon ether but yeah I was pretty excited I was proud of my self and proud of the other girls that also won this title like Ashley(Martinez), Caroline (Burns) and Eliany (Dejesus),” she said.

I talked to her about what kind of support she has received from her family and friends for achieving this award. She mentioned to me that she hasn’t told her family yet and some of her friends found out and they were proud of her as well.

“In the off season I always tried to maintain active like I know last off season it came to me kinda early because I got injured… so get that ankle heel better making sure I was working out as much as I can that way I could give my 100 % and more to the team and to my play,” she said.

I talked to Perez-Flores how she is a great server in the court “Honestly, it is just the consistent practice of serve. I’ve been playing volleyball for almost nine years now and I have been working on that serve and also the clubs and other things that help me progress and become better so you know continue on that practice on that serve that really got me there,” she said.

I asked her if she was surprised that she was in the top five. “I was pretty surprised honestly, because you know there are a lot of girls that we compete with and you know as much as I consider myself a pretty good player although the players that we faced were really good as well as my teammates I didn’t think of getting too far but you know my skills level speaks for itself I guess,” she said.

She is currently majoring in Criminal Justice. During the two years in Northern Essex, she mentioned to me that it taught her to be more organized and prepare for four year college/ university and as an athlete there are going to be ups and down.

I asked Martinez who told her about the news and what was her reaction when she got the news once she was named All Region “A person here present (which was me) told me that I know what was going on. He told me congratulations and…..Suddenly I open Instagram and saw the page of the school and… I was in shock. I didn’t know how to react I didn’t know what is happening or what I got myself into but I knew it was something super good I felt so enthusiastic so happy… my first year my first semester I felt special,” she said.  

“To be honest at first before that I enter the university my vision was that I wasn’t going to be good like it wasn’t going to be sufficient for the team. that my level wasn’t sufficient and I was going to miss …although I knew that I had a lot of heart in volleyball I felt it wasn’t going to be sufficient but when I came and I knew I can do it and like always I tried to give my 100% in everything no matter what in practice and games always tried to put it in heart because what ever you do in practice you going to do it in games and if you don’t put your heart in a sport then why you are here… I felt that what happened to motivate me for this can happen,” she said.

I told her what kind of support did she receive from her family and family “… friends they were always there supporting me telling me I can do it you are the best give it everything they were always supporting me some of them came to a few of my games sometimes they help me in practice like my teammates like Kathleen one of them she was always motivate me and helping me,” she said. The part about there being a little distance from family is confusing.

I asked her if she feels honor and privilege that she was named All Region since most of the girls that play volleyball in the past never had a chance to be named All Region. “I really really still don’t believe it that I am in that category like for real, at first I thought it was an error but no, I said Ashley you got to believe it. I said wow, what an opportunity. this has never happened to me and look at me now,” she said.

She also told me for next year that she knows that she can bring her numbers up to be a part of different categories.

Her mindset before a game so she can be focused is listening to music.

A goal that she has in mind that she wants to focus on during the offseason is to be part of a club of volleyball. She also would love her level to go up to the max. She also told me that she would like to play professional volleyball.

Burns is the Knights captain. She got the news that she was an All-Region by her co-captain “Kaithleen texted … I was really confused at first then I was kinda looking at it and I was really surprised honestly so good achievement,” she said.

She never imagined her first year playing volleyball for the school that she was going to be part of All-Region, she said. “No honestly, I haven’t played for two years and I got a text from coach (Pelosi) …I was kinda doing it for fun because I missed it. I didn’t think I actually (would) make All-Reginal or anything.”

I ask Burns what kind of support did she receive from her family and friends. “It was hard at first like practicing everyday and balancing school work so my parents were really good about helping me all of that and my friends also were very encouraging, like I also play in a new position so my teammates were really helpful and my coaches,” she said.

She was surprised and thankful that she got this award. “I really thought this wouldn’t happen. I just was playing for fun and trying to do my best, I didn’t think of anything honestly,” she said.

An improvement that she wants to work on for next year is her strength and to get stronger.

She mentioned to me she has been playing volleyball since six or seventh grade and she is a biology major at Northern Essex.

I tried to interview Dejesus for this achievement but it was unsuccessful.