Published December 19, 2018
By JAMES CRANNEY
WEST NEWBURY – Opening games are always tricky.
With a new year and a new cast of faces, no one truly knows what to expect during that first tipoff. Last Friday night, the 2018-2019 Lynnfield boys’ basketball team began their campaign on the road against an always challenging Pentucket program. With the Pioneers returning just a handful of players from last season’s varsity squad, many wondered how this young team would perform.
After Pentucket and Lynnfield began the game with two quick offensive turnovers, the Sachems began to find a groove. Led by junior forward Jake Etter, who finished the game with 18 points, Pentucket found great success scoring in the paint coming from great ball movement. Lynnfield sophomore Jack Ford was able to fairly stop the bleeding when he stole a Sachems pass and took it all the way down for an easy bucket. At the end of the first quarter the Pioneers found themselves trailing 14-6 and needed to start getting some production on offense.
Sophomore John Astrofsky gave Lynnfield the offensive boost they needed when he started the second quarter with a bang dropping a quick 3-pointer. Unfortunately for the Pioneers, their offense would stall from there. Lynnfield was able to grab several rebounds on offense but could not finish the drives with points. On the other end, the Sachems continued feeding Etter down low who kept putting up easy baskets. Proceeding another Etter score down low and now trailing 26-11, Pioneer head coach Scott MacKenzie had seen enough and called his first timeout.
“When you go down 15 early there’s not a whole lot to say x’s and o’s wise,” claimed coach MacKenzie after the game. MacKenzie challenged his players in that huddle to step up.
The coach’s message got through as the Pioneers quickly turned it around on the offensive side of the ball. Lynnfield started spreading it around with great ball movement and quickly began to light up the scoreboard. Just before halftime, the Pioneers cut the 15-point deficit to five when Astrofsky snagged a loose ball taking it all the way down for a layup.
On the first possession of the second half, Lynnfield made it a one possession game when Jack Ford took it to the hole and made a great contested layup beneath the basket. Despite the offensive turnaround, the Pioneers still struggled to slow down Etter down low.
With five minutes remaining in the 3rd quarter, Pentucket took a 10-point lead when senior Gus Flaherty hit a deep 3. Lynnfield would not back down though. The Pioneers cut the deficit to six after a Jack Cleary breakaway, and made it a one possession game after another breakaway from junior Khad Connell.
The 4th quarter was an exciting one as both teams increased the tempo racing up and down the court. With under a minute remaining in the game and trailing by five, Lynnfield desperately needed a basket to stay alive in the contest. Unfortunately, a late offensive turnover would end any shot of a Pioneer victory. Pentucket would get one more basket and run the clock out handing Lynnfield an opening night 58-51 loss.
Losing the first game is never an ideal way to start the season, however, there is still an entire season with plenty of basketball left for this young Pioneer program. No one knows that more than coach MacKenzie.
“Ultimately here’s the message: ‘the night is never as bad as you might think it is,’” said the coach. “We had issues executing, but our guys are going to compete. I’ll take our effort tonight any night of the week.”