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AMCAT Basketball Featured in TelegramTowns

AMCAT Basketball Featured in TelegramTowns
By Jay Gearan CORRESPONDENT

PAXTON — It's often difficult to pin down exactly when a sports team makes a dramatic turn, one that changes the overall atmosphere and leads the squad in a new, more positivedirection.

But Anna Maria men's basketball coach Shawn Conrad can tell you exactly when his AmCats pivoted from dismal to dazzling this year.

Conrad's team had lost six of its opening nine games, and then dropped its seventh at Fitchburg State University, 79-64, in early January.

Saddled witha 3-7 record, the AmCats appeared headed for a season of mediocrity. Quickly, things changed.

"After that loss to Fitchburg State in the first game of the second semester, we went on the road to Mount Ida," Conrad explained. "Midway through the first half, that's where our season began to turn. We were down by about eight points, but after halftime we put it all together."

The AmCats rallied to defeat Mount Ida, 72-62, and, including an 83-67 victory over Suffolk University earlier this week, have streaked to nine straight wins. The victory over Suffolkresulted from a remarkable second-half surge of 55 points.

"We're having a nice little run," said Conrad, his team now 12-7 overall and 10-2 in the Great Northeast Conference. "We've really turned it up defensively and committed our defense as our staple."

Prior to the AmCats' win over Suffolk, they upped their winning streak to eight Jan. 26 with a 76-68 win over Johnson & Wales University, led by senior Javier Bristol, who scored 25 points, and senior Anthony Click, who had 22.

Post-graduate Brad Peterson, in a win over Rivier University a few weeks ago, scored his 1,000th career point, joining an elite group of only 21 players in Anna Maria College's men's basketball history to reach that milestone.

Conrad praised his most experienced players: Click, Bristol and Peterson.

"Anthony is a special player as well as a person," Conrad said. "He's our go-to guy who loves the moment and is very difficult to guard. He's very athletic and can score from the inside and outside, but he's also given us a lot on the defensive end too." Click scored 27 against Suffolk.

Conrad added, "Javier Bristol plays as hard as anyone I've ever coached. His effort and his inspirational play is what we feed off of. And Brad, back for his last year of eligibility, has been exceptional."

Click is averaging 20 points a game, while Bristol is at 12.3 and Peterson has 12.2.

No doubt the most exciting game of the winning streak occurred Jan. 8 at Anna Maria's Fuller Activities Center home court, when the AmCats took Lasell College to four overtimes and won, 96-93, at the buzzer on freshman Patrick Bradanese's 3-point shot.

In the Lasell victory, Click poured in 39 points and added 11 rebounds and six blocked shots.

Other key AmCats include sophomore point guard Mike Gorman, junior guard Joe Barillo, and guard Hugh Daye, a former South High star from Worcester.

Other valuable reserves include seniors Brian Conrad, Jose Pena and Dan Beliard, junior Quantez Franklin, sophomore Corey Pryor and a strong crew of freshmen: Cade Jones-Pearson, Tyler DeLorey, Jaylen Dottin, Pedro Trindade, Kyle McKissick and Connor O'Leary.

Conrad is in his seventh season as head coach of the Anna Maria men's basketball program. He has 24 years of collegiate coaching experience.

Last season, Conrad's squad had an epic run to the Great Northeast Athletic Conference Championship. As the No. 6 seed in the GNAC tournament, the AmCats earned hard-fought one-point road victories against Johnson & Wales and St. Joe's of Maine en route to the finals against powerhouse Albertus Magnus College. In 2012, Anna Maria was also the No. 6 seed in the ECAC men's basketball tournament.