December 12, 2023
• The Rockets are back and hope to build on last year’s historic run.
The Needham Varsity Boys Basketball team last walked off the court back in March after competing in their first ever state championship game. Although the Rockets fell short of winning it all, Paul Liner’s team has refocused on this season, with a strong core from last year. Brian Cloonan, one of the team’s standouts from last year, is now a senior, as are Jackson Shaw, Campbell Keyes and Devin Dellamarggio among other returning Rockets, along with a few new varsity faces, like Chris Morrison, also a member of the Class of 2024.
Needham opened the 2023-24 season Tuesday night from the A Gym, welcoming Bay State Conference foe Milton and although the Wildcats kept it close throughout the first half, the Rockets blew the game open in the second half, winning the opener 68-38 in front of an enthusiastic crowd. Cloonan led the way with 16 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists, while Keyes added 15 points and 8 rebounds, Morrison had 11 points, 3 rebounds and 3 steals, and Dellamarrgio finished with 6 points, 7 rebounds and 3 steals.
The Rockets took an early 11-7 lead, then extended that to 15-7 at the end of the first quarter. Keyes had 6 of his 15 points in that opening frame. The Wildcats would drain a pair of three point shots to cut the lead back to 5, 18-13, with 6:25 left in the first half, then pulled within two points late in the second quarter. But Needham went on a 7-0 run, with Dellamarggio hitting a three, to extend the Rockets lead to 9, 29-20 at the break.
Needham opened the third quarter strong, extending their lead to 10 before Milton cut it back down to 6. But the Rockets went on another run, first going up 41-26 with 3:31 left in the quarter, ending on a Keyes three. They outscored the Wildcats 18-9 in the third, with Cloonan getting a layup, followed by an assist to Oliver Pollack, who drained another Needham three, to make it a 47-29 lead for the Rockets heading into the final 8 minutes. By that point Keyes had 13 points and Cloonan added 11 (7 in the third quarter).
The Rockets turned up the jets for the fourth quarter, quickly taking a 20 point lead on a hoop by Morrison and they never looked back. Needham would get 11 total players on the board as after Cloonan, Keyes and Morrison, they also had Pollack with 7 and Dellamarggio with 6, Sophomore Andrew Chen who hit a three, as well as five other players with 2: Shaw, Harrison Goodrow, Jeremy Gould, Ben Marino and Sam Croopnick. They would outscore Milton 21-9 in the fourth quarter.
After the big opening night victory, Needham has a few days off and will hit the road for their next game Friday night, December 15th at Weymouth. Their next home game is next Tuesday, December 19th, as they welcome in Brookline.
The Needham Channel has the full broadcast of the game debuting Wednesday, December 13th on-air and online. We’ll have several Boys and Girls Varsity games live from the A Gym as well, beginning Friday, December 15th at 6:30pm as the Girls welcome in Weymouth. TNC Sports Producer Kristen Connors has highlights from the season opener vs. Milton on the Needham Channel News here: