Pioneers drop road game to Newburyport, beat Masco

Published in the January 10, 2018 edition


LYNNFIELD — The LHS boys’ basketball team went 2-1 last week to bring their record to 5-2 on the young season. The Pioneers tipped off a tough stretch of Cape Ann League bouts with a huge home victory against Hamilton-Wenham on Tuesday, Jan. 2. Lynnfield followed that up with a road loss to a Newburyport team who is currently 5-0 in CAL play, but bounced back with an impressive win at Masco, 78-72.

Conquer Generals

Against a 3-0 Hamilton-Wenham team, the Pioneers knew they would get the best shot from a top team coming off a Baker Division championship last year.

Both teams came out swinging in a fast-paced first quarter that the Generals would win, 18-16.

Lynnfield was quickly introduced to (or rather reacquainted with) Jake Lanciani, a confident shooter and athletic scorer who hit two threes on his way to a nine-point first quarter.

BILLY ARSENEAULT plans his attack against longtime CAL rival Jake Lanciani (23) and Hamilton-Wenham. Arseneault followed up a 17-point performance in the win against the Generals with 32 against Masco during the Pioneers 78-72 road victory. (Dan Pawlowski Photo)

Lynnfield’s senior co-captain Billy Arseneault countered with five first-quarter points and plenty of playmaking to create for his teammates. A slow start was alleviated after an Arseneault three from the right wing, and then the chess match started between the Generals’ Marty Binette and Lynnfield’s Scott MacKenzie as Binette employed a full court press that Lynnfield immediately broke down with some excellent passing, leading to a easy bucket for sophomore Clayton Marengi.

A deft, no-look pass from Arseneault to senior Jason Ndansi under the basket in the the waning seconds of the quarter made the score 18-16 after one. The momentum of that play carried completely into the second frame, as the Pioneers outscored the Generals 22-10, taking a 38-28 lead into the locker room.

The Generals clawed their way back into the game sparked by a 6-0 run to start the 3rd. The Pioneers lost a step to start the quarter but senior co-captain Zach Shone gave LHS a jump after a put-back bucket and a massive block on the other end. Marengi later pulled down a defensive board and started a well-executed fast break in which he zipped a pass to a running Shone who finished the layup to add to his great 3rd quarter in which he scored seven of his 15 total points.

“I thought that play showed vision and talent, but also a little bit of patience not to take it himself,” said MacKenzie of Marengi. “Clayton has earned himself minutes. He is going to develop into a phenomenal offensive player. He’s got great instincts and he’s fearless.”

The Pioneers were far from perfect in the 4th quarter as they continue to work on closing games, by more specifically cutting down on turnovers and working on rebounding.

“We went eight or nine minutes without a turnover but we decided to run the ball over the last three or four minutes of the game,” said MacKenzie. “We were floating passes against a team that’s well-coached and solid. We were fortunate that a couple of their shots rimmed out in the 4th quarter, but a win’s a win. We’ll take it, that’s a good team we beat.”

Arseneault will once again earn the credit of willing his team to a late victory, by continuing to make plays for his teammates. He strung three great assists together late, including a sensational drop-off pass in the lane to fellow captain Danny Jameson (10 points, 15 rebounds) who was terrific once again on the glass, and two pretty feeds to senior Matt Mortellite who had seven of his 11 points in the 4th.

“Nobody told him at that point to make a play, Billy knew he had to make a play. That’s a luxury to have,” said MacKenzie. “That’s what great players do, they make huge plays at the end.”

While it was a balanced team effort from the Pioneers, the two players that stood out the most were Mortellite and Ndansi, who might not get all the press on a team that features plenty of talented players, but who have earned their reputations as being the most invaluable assets on the court due to how they compete on both sides of the floor.

“Matt Mortellite and Jason Ndansi are the best,” said MacKenzie. During the game my assistant coach said ‘those two kids just battle.’ They make so many things happen. Matt makes so many things happen on the offensive end and Jay gave 23 (Lanciani) all he could handle. That kid’s a good player but Jay made him work. Those two don’t get enough credit. They are invaluable to a team. The best thing about them is they are not the kind of kids who just talk to hear the sound of their own voice. When they talk, it carries a ton of weight and it’s rare that you get to surround yourself with kids like that.”

Fall to Newburyport, 68-55

The Pioneers dropped a road game to Newburyport on Friday night against a Clippers team who is 6-1 and 5-0 in CAL play. The Pioneers had a hard time slowing down Newburyport’s three-headed monster: Casey McLaren (22 pts.), Ryan Archie (17) and George Coryell (16).

Shone led the Pioneers with 20 points including two threes and Arseneault added 18, but the Pioneers needed more balanced scoring to compete with the Clippers.

While it was a tough loss against a division rival, the Pioneers will get another shot at the Clippers on Friday, Feb. 16 at LHS. Circle the calendars.

Beat Masco, 78-72

Lynnfield responded to the loss with a big road win over a 3-1 Masco team on Sunday, Jan. 7. Arseneault finished with 32 points and refused to lose this one as he tallied 14 4th-quarter points. Arseneault was 8-for-8 from the stripe in the final quarter (12-12 in the game) as he relentlessly attacked the rim. Also chipping in on the offensive end was Shone (19 pts.), Jameson (12) and Mortellite (11).

That game continued a scheduling gauntlet for the Pioneers as they have now had four straight contests against really good teams (five when you include Tuesday’s matchup with an uber-athletic Amesbury team who is 3-1 in CAL play). It is a tough stretch that is welcomed by coach MacKenzie who sees no better way for his team to rapidly improve.

“This is a good thing for us right now. This program has won about 75 percent of its games the last six or seven years, and we’ve had years like the last couple when there was a boatload of talent and size and maybe you could roll the balls out, but this isn’t that group,” said MacKenzie. “They needed the Melrose loss to realize that our margin of error is incredibly thin this year. If we don’t execute and do the little things, we’re going to lose.”

Lynnfield travels to North Reading on Friday night, 7 p.m. before returning home on Monday at 1:30 p.m. to play Triton.