Published December 18, 2019

By JAMES CRANNEY

LYNNFIELD – Last Friday night the Lynnfield faithful took shelter from the torrential downpour inside the basketball gymnasium for the boys’ season opener. The Pioneers hoped to turn the page on last year’s disappointing 8-13 season, but it would not be a simple task welcoming an always tough Pentucket team which only lost three games in 2018.

Season openers can be tricky. A new season bring new players, new formations, and new expectations. Opening day jitters can definitely play a role on player performance in the early stages of the game. This was certainly the case for both teams as the game’s first point did not come until Lynnfield senior captain Maxmilian Boustris (5 points) hit a free throw shot with 6:19 left in the opening quarter.

The remainder of the first quarter was a blunder of fundamental mistakes on both sides from turnovers to travels. With just under two minutes to play in the opening quarter, the Sachems started their charge. A Pentucket 5-0 run would force Lynnfield head coach Scott MacKenzie to use his first timeout. After regrouping, the Pioneers finished the quarter strong. A Khad Connell (6 points) block, his first of four, would lead to a quick score under the basket from junior Luke Martinho (2 points). Before the buzzer rang, Lynnfield guard Blake Peters (7 points) closed the quarter with a deep three from atop the arch making it a 9-8 Sachem lead after one.

THE LHS boys’ basketball team lines up before their season-opener against Pentucket on Friday Night. The Pioneers travel to Masco (1-0) this Friday night. (Kristine Marengi Photo)

In the first few minutes of the second quarter both teams would go back and forth, but with under 5 minutes to play before halftime, one team pulled away. Pentucket guard Owen Kamuda made a great steal before finding senior Jake Etter down the court for a breakaway basket. The quick transition score made it a two-possession game and would open the flood gates. A Sachem 12-0 run ensued and Lynnfield could not find any points against the stingy Pentucket defense.

“As an opposing coach, I liked the way they [Pentucket] play zone,” commented coach MacKenzie. “It’s not man but they still put pressure on our ball handlers.”

At 2:13, senior captain Clayton Marengi (9 points) finally stopped the bleeding with the Pioneers first points in over three minutes. Lynnfield eventually made it a single-digit game going into the locker room following a late basket beneath the rim from Connell.

The Pioneers entered the second half trailing 28-19 and made an early charge. Following a Pentucket 3-pointer to make it 31-21, Lynnfield would go on a 6-0 run. Peters got the first bucket followed by a great put back from Marengi. Peters also got the next one after a great pass from Boustris which finally forced Sachems head coach Ed Hickey to call a timeout.

Lynnfield only trailed by four with 5:21 left in the 3rd quarter, but Pentucket came out of the timeout swinging with a Peter Lopata 3. Marengi would respond with a tough earned basket down low, but so would the Sachems with yet another 3. At the end of the 3rd quarter, the Pioneers once again trailed by double digits 44-33.

A physical basket in the paint from Connell cut Lynnfield’s deficit to nine to start the 4th quarter. Unfortunately for the Pioneers, it would be all Pentucket for the remainder of the game. In the end, Lynnfield lost their season opening game 56-39.

“One of the things last year that was very disappointing was we’d be in the middle of a very tight game, the other team would make a 4-6 point run and when we’d call a timeout the kids were just defeated,” stated coach MacKenzie after the game. “I didn’t have any issue with our body language tonight. In fact, I thought it was almost a little too much where guys were trying to fight against their runs on their own individually, as opposed to trying to do it as a team.”

Going forward, the Pioneers still have an entire season ahead of them to steer the ship in the right direction. Lynnfield will have another shot at home Monday night against Rockport. Despite a tough season opening loss, coach MacKenzie could still hang his hat on his team’s fight.

“If I’m going to go home with something to be happy about, it’s that there was a will to win for the duration of the game even when we were down 12-13 points.”