Sussex Academy basketball program making progress in first varsity season

FELTON – Sussex Academy’s boys’ basketball program has come a long way over the last month or so of play.

This season marks the first year that the Sussex Academy Seahawks’ basketball program is competing at the varsity level. It’s a big step to make, especially given a roster comprised mainly of sophomores and juniors.

Despite falling to Lake Forest on the road, 83-24, on Thursday night, the Seahawks played hard until the final whistle.

“The kids competed hard tonight, and that’s what we ask,” head coach Marc Merlo said following the game. “We were out-manned most of the game. They were bigger, faster, stronger. But we asked them to compete hard and we’re pleased with what we did.”

Lake Forest (5-4) tipped off the game with a quick 18-2 run, but baskets from sophomore forward Zach Zalewski and sophomore guard Matt Berdini pulled Sussex Academy to within 24-9 by the end of the opening quarter.

Nineteen of the team’s 24 points came in the first half, with Zalewski and junior forward Will Davis leading the team to a 10-point second quarter.

Zalewski and Davis finished the game with seven points each, leading the team in scoring. Junior forward Adam Krim scored five points and Matt Berdini four, while freshman guard Kyle Berdini added one point of his own to round out the scoring.

Merlo has been impressed with what he’s seen from his team this season, especially Zalewski and Davis.

“Will Davis is a fierce competitor and he’s getting his confidence and is playing really well,” he said. “I see a lot of progression from Zach Zalewski. He was out the first two or three games, but he’s pretty much averaging about 14 points per game right now. He’s doing a good job. Zach’s a very quiet kid, but he’s starting to come out of his shell.”

The team’s effort hasn’t gone unnoticed by their opponents, either.

“I was impressed that they played as hard as they did. It’s not an easy thing to do,” Lake Forest head coach Michael Starkey said. “Sometimes it’s so easy to look at that scoreboard and let that dictate your effort, so credit to them and coach Merlo for playing hard the whole game.”

Sussex Academy has put up 50+ points twice this season, and fell just two points shy of Delmarva Christian before the holidays. With Merlo’s squad about to start playing teams for a second time around this season, coach is confident the team can pick up a few wins down the stretch.

“Our mindset is to compete every night. We’re looking for a win,” he said. “Second time around once we start seeing them again we think we can win a couple games because we know what we are up against. We lost pretty hard to teams we think we can beat. We’ll see when we play. That’s why we play the games, right?”

Sports Editor Ben Heck can be reached at bheck@newszap.com.

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