Masuk’s Mateo Esmeraldo turned in a monstrous performance Monday night in his return to the court after a two-week quarantine.
Eighteen days after a COVID outbreak sidelined multiple members of the boys’ basketball program, Esmeraldo paved the way to a triple overtime 84-83 victory over Bethel.
Esmeraldo, a 5-foot-11 senior captain, led all scorers with 44 points, including two clutch shots to force multiple overtimes, while tallying 12 rebounds and six steals.
The win puts an end to a two-game slide, and brings Masuk back to a winning record at 4-3.
“It was my first game back and it was seven quarters,” Esmeraldo said. “It was draining, but I am glad we got the win. Every game matters, our goal all season has been to have a winning record so we can get a home playoff game.”
The game was just the second time Esmeraldo stepped on a court since his last game on Feb. 17th. At the time, Masuk was on a three-game winning streak with just one loss.
“It was pretty exhausting because I had only practiced once,” Esmeraldo said. “I practiced the day before and then we had the game. I had a couple free throws in the third overtime where my legs were numb. When we got into the locker room after the game everybody just laid down. It was a heck of a game to come back to, that’s for sure.”
Masuk got out to an early lead in the first half, but Bethel was able to even the score and hang with Masuk throughout regulation thanks to Dylan Breeland’s 35 point performance.
With Masuk trailing in the final seconds of regulation, Esmeraldo forced the first overtime.
“Down three with five seconds left, my team trusted me with the ball,” Esmeraldo said. “I just let it fly and it went in.”
Masuk led in the first overtime, but a late foul left the window open for Bethel.
“We got a small lead in the first overtime,” Masuk coach Peter Szklarz said. “We were up four and we fouled them shooting a three-pointer. He hit it and the foul shot which forced the second overtime. It was a back-and-forth game, it honestly felt like a marathon.”
The second overtime remained close throughout, and with Masuk trailing by two in the final seconds it was Mateo’s two free throws that forced yet another overtime.
The third overtime was a true team effort, as exhaustion and fouls came into play.
“I had three guys foul out,” Szklarz said. “But guys were stepping in. Holden Adragna stepped in and had a big steal with a couple of big foul shots along with senior guard Quinn Braddick and Brandon Francisco to ice the game in the third overtime.”
Masuk pulled ahead in the third overtime, and though the lead stuck this time, it came with one last Bethel breath.
“We had a four-point lead with three seconds to go,” Szklarz said. “They inbound it and their guy hit a half-court shot and we only win by one. That’s what kind of night it was.”
“I am proud of myself and the team as a whole,” Esmeraldo said. “It was a next guy up sort of thing. Guys who hadn’t played all season came into the game and knocked down major free throws. For everybody to step up when we needed them to, it made me proud as a senior captain to see these guys battling like that.”
Masuk 84 Bethel 83 (3OT)
Mateo Esmeraldo 13 15-20 44 Quinn Braddick 2 2-2 6 Brandon Francisco 6 6-6 17 Jake Rosati 2 3-3 7 Sean Minnick 4 0-0 8 Garrett Lazor 0 0-0 0 Nate McCauley 2 0-0 2 Holden Adragna 0 2-4 2
Leynard 1 0-0 2 Brelland 15 5-9 35 Bruino 0 0-0 0 Cerreard 7 5-9 19 McCoughlin 0 0-0 0 Ferrante 0 0-2 0 Foster 3 0-0 7