Published in the March 16, 2016 edition

SENIOR CAPTAIN Jake McHugh scored six points, including two off this reverse lay-up, during the Pioneers’ 53-29 victory over Saugus in the Division 3 North semifinals March 9. (Dan Tomasello Photo)

SENIOR CAPTAIN Jake McHugh scored six points, including two off this reverse lay-up, during the Pioneers’ 53-29 victory over Saugus in the Division 3 North semifinals March 9. (Dan Tomasello Photo)


DANVERS — The second seeded boys’ basketball team pounded 11th seed Saugus 53-29 in the Division 3 North semifinals at Essex Agricultural and Technical High School March 9.

“I thought the first quarter was great, the second quarter was terrible and I thought the rest of the game went pretty well,” said Pioneers head coach Scott MacKenzie.

The Pioneers jumped to an early 8-0 lead over the Sachems. Junior Louis Ellis opened the first quarter drilling back-to-back three-pointers. Senior captain Brendan Sullivan followed Ellis’ two 3-pointers by converting two free throws.

After Saugus scored on the next possession, Ellis managed to score in the post. Ellis continued his hot start by adding another basket and a three-pointer, giving Lynnfield a 15-2 lead and prompting Saugus to call a timeout with 2:30 remaining in the first quarter.

Senior captain Jake McHugh drilled a three-pointer, giving the Pioneers an 18-2 lead. Saugus converted a late three-pointer, which made the game 18-5 at the end of the first quarter.

Lynnfield opened the second quarter with Sullivan drilling a three-pointer and senior Esaie Philantrope converting a lay-up.

The Sachems outplayed the Pioneers for the majority of the second quarter after Saugus started employing a box-and-one defense, which allowed the Sachems to outscore Lynnfield 14-8 and cut the Pioneers’ lead to six, 26-19, at halftime.

“I knew Saugus were going to have a box-and-one (defense) or a triangle, and the box-and-one came early,” said MacKenzie. “If I was a little more on the ball in the second quarter, we would have scored more than eight points. It took us a little while to figure out (the defense) because I was too focused on getting Louis continued looks.”

The Pioneers bounced back during the third quarter. MacKenzie told Sullivan and sophomore Billy Arsenault to attack the Sachems’ defense, and the two guards managed to pick it apart repeatedly.

“I talked to Brendan and Billy at halftime and told them we are going to have you two beat their box,” said MacKenzie. “And they did. Saugus left a major hole on the baseline and we were able to exploit in the second half.”

Junior Mike Carangelo, Sullivan and senior Tucker Torosian each scored key hoops during the third quarter, which enabled Lynnfield to take a 37-24 lead at the end of the third.

The Pioneers kept rolling during the fourth quarter. Torosian scored five points in the fourth quarter and Carangelo added a put-back.

Lynnfield had a late 50-29 lead in the fourth quarter when MacKenzie emptied his bench. The locals’ reserves stepped up down the stretch and held Saugus scoreless the final two minutes. Junior Bryant Dana drilled a late three-pointer to seal the Pioneers’ 53-29 victory.

“Bryant is just the happiest kid,” said MacKenzie. “He is always smiling and works his tail off and that is a big thing when you don’t get minutes.”

MacKenzie attributed the Pioneers’ 24-point victory over Saugus to the locals picking apart the Sachems’ defense.

“When you play a box, there are three different driving lanes where you can lose two different defenders,” explained MacKenzie. “We talked about penetrating between the two defenders and kicking out to the guards. Now what will happen is you are going to get single coverage action and there will be a guy-running baseline. We got a ton of lay-ups that way.”

Ellis led the Pioneers with a team-high 15 points.

“I didn’t want Lou to get out to such a hot start,” said MacKenzie. “I wanted him to be a slow burn. I think Saugus did the right thing going box-and-one. But the last couple of nights, Lou has just been ready. It’s remarkable.”

Torosian scored nine points off the bench for the Pioneers and grabbed several offensive rebounds.

“Tucker is a fantastic player,” said MacKenzie. “He does every last little thing for us. He’s a kid who comes off the bench and plays starters minutes. He had an offensive put back and made some defensive stops.”

Sullivan also finished with nine points.

“We attacked the box-and-one as opposed to being held hostage by it on the first couple of possessions of the second half,” said MacKenzie. “Brendan does a great job handling pressure because he’s a smart and savvy kid.”

Carangelo finished with six points for the Pioneers and also played a tremendous defensive game.

“Mike understands there are nights he gets points and there will be nights he won’t,” said MacKenzie. “But he carries the load for us defensively. If you watch him for 32 minutes, you will see he can switch on anyone and he can defend anybody. He’s a great luxury to have.”

McHugh scored six points. Arsenault scored three points and did a good job driving to the rim and finding open teammates.

Philantrope scored two points and played tough lockdown defense against Saugus.

“Esaie has been great the last four or five weeks,” said MacKenzie. “He understands his role and knows what he is supposed to do. He is so athletic. We have told him he has to make a difference defensively and he has to make hustle plays and he has been doing a great job while doing those two things.”

MacKenzie also commended the Pioneers’ bench for their performance against Saugus. He said the reserves’ commitment to the team, particularly in practice, is the main reason why the Pioneers defeated the Sachems and punched its ticket to the Division 3 North finals.

“Their attitude is fantastic and believe me, this is the honest to God truth, you cannot win games unless the end of your bench is just as committed as the guys who play,” said MacKenzie. “We are lucky to have those guys.”