Pioneers beat Danvers, Pentucket at home

Published in the December 20, 2017 edition

SENIOR CO-CAPTAIN Danny Jameson (21) secures a rebound for the Pioneers against Lynnfield. The do-it-all forward made plenty of plays for his teammates, rebounded and defended well against both Danvers and Pentucket last week. (Dan Pawlowski Photo)


LYNNFIELD — The LHS boys’ basketball team is picking up right where they left off last season.

Led by senior co-captains Billy Arseneault and Zack Shone, the Pioneers toppled Danvers 71-52 on opening night Dec. 12, before holding on to beat Pentucket in overtime, 61-59 on Friday night.

Shone had 22 points to lead the scoring for Lynnfield against Danvers while Arseneault paced the Pioneers with 23 against Pentucket, including six of Lynnfield eight points in overtime.

Against the Falcons, Lynnfield showed no signs of rust, moving the ball up the court quickly and bringing a 42-22 lead into halftime.

“In that first half, Billy and Zack were getting anything they wanted,” said LHS head coach Scott MacKenzie. “We wore them down a little bit with our transition. When those two guys are able to get clean looks, we’re going to get points.”

SENIOR CO-CAPTAIN Billy Arseneault pulls up for a three pointer against Danvers. While scoring doesn’t define the playmaking point guard, Arseneault did have 16 points against the Falcons and 23 against Pentucket to help lead Lynnfield to a 2-0 record on the young 2017-18 season. (Dan Pawlowski Photo)

Shone had 15 first-half points while Arseneault racked up 12.

The Pioneers moved the ball well and got to the paint. Some other first-half highlights included a nice steal and long pass by co-captain Danny Jameson to Matt Mortellite for two. Mortellite finished with 14 points as the football quarterback will bring a level of competitiveness that will surely up Lynnfield’s performances in close games.

Jameson, Mortellite, Arseneault, Shone and Jason Ndansi, who coach Mackenzie calls “tough, strong and really smart,” make up an all-senior starting lineup that Lynnfield can count on to set the tone and play big minutes.

“I trust our first five guys a lot,” said Mackenzie. “The key for us is being able to be comfortable having a bench that can step in and not have a drop off.”

A couple of those bench performers include freshman Jack Ford, and sophomores Clayton Marengi and Khad Connell, who scored six second-half points.

SENIOR Matt Mortellite goes up for a layup against Danvers on opening night. Mortellite had 14 points against the Falcons. (Dan Pawlowski Photo)

“Khad did a great job. He came in and scored six quick points, that was impressive; good for him.”

It wasn’t perfect for Lynnfield, as the Falcons mounted a comeback led by athletic forward Tahg Coakley who dropped in 15 of 25 points in the 3rd quarter. Nearly all of Coakley’s points came right at the basket, attacking a point of emphasis moving forward for a Pioneer team who is a little undersized.

“We talked about shutting off his right hand and giving him five feet of space,” said Mackenzie. “We got Danny, Zach and Billy back but everyone else is a brand new varsity performer so in their first game I think we got a little hesitant and nervous to guard (Coakley) for some reason. We gave in to the moment a little bit.”

The Pioneers worked through a slow spell on offense as Danvers switched to zone, something that coach Mackenzie expects to see a lot this season. Along with excellent playmaking from Arseneault, LHS got some nice passing from Jameson as the big man set up at the free throw and elbows to help bust the zone.

“Danny Jameson is a phenomenal passer, he’s got a huge basketball IQ,” said Mackenzie. “We’re kind of small, so it doesn’t make a lot of sense to try to pound the ball in, so we want to use him as a cutter. He makes the right play which makes him a zone buster.”

Lynnfield responded well in the 4th quarter and closed strong, with the highlight of the game coming in the final frame as Arseneault hit a through-the-legs step back jumper that Kyrie Irving himself couldn’t have executed better. That put the Pioneers up 67-50 and gave a nice turnout from the student-section one more thing to cheer about.

Hang on against Pentucket

The Pioneers’ next game came against a tough and organized Pentucket squad who were playing their first game of the season. The Sachems hung with the Pioneers for the first three quarter, and mounted a comeback late in the 4th to force overtime. In the end, Arseneault proved why he was the reigning CAL MVP, taking over in overtime by scoring six of his 23 points in the final frame, including two drives to the bucket that looked easy. They weren’t.

“Today was about Billy,” said Mackenzie.

Pentucket played great defense from the start of the game, complete with excellent communication and rotations. They made the Pioneers earn every bucket.

Pentucket took a 31-27 lead into the break. Areseneault had nine first-half points while Mortellite and Shone chipped in with six each. The Pioneers played some excellent defense of their own, and did a nice job on the glass despite matching up against a taller front court.

The two teams played each other to a stalemate in the 3rd before Shone and Arseneault took over again, as Shone finished with 10 in the 4th (18 total), and Billy had five, including plenty of nice set ups for his fellow captain, as he hesitated and found Shone at the top of the key for an open three and a 50-43 lead. Shone followed that up with another strong move to the cup with the right hand on the next possession.

It wasn’t all good for Lynnfield as Pentucket’s full court pressure got to the seniors and forced multiple turnovers. Pentucket’s Nathan McGrail had eight of his 25 points in the 4th, most of which coming in transition off of turnovers. The Sachems tied it and forced overtime and although Arseneault took it from there, Lynnfield has plenty it needs to work on in the young season.

“That game had no business going to overtime,” said Mackenzie. “We had five seniors on the floor turn the ball over three times. We lost our poise and we can’t have that happen.”

The coach gave Pentucket credit for capitalizing on their mistakes and playing a great game, but the focus will be on fixing those mistakes for the next one.

“What we need is our seniors to have poise and demonstrate leadership and I am confident that the next time we see it they will. It’s the first time these kids have been in a tight game in 12 months. A win’s a win.”