(Boston MA) Neither team had been playing well lately.
North Reading had lost three straight.
Amesbury had dropped three of their last four.
But that all changed for North Reading last night.
Under the bright lights of the Boston Garden the Hornets played, as Coach Joe Casey described it, “their best game of the season.”
Their defense was tight, and their offense flowed smoothly.
Along the way, senior Cody Cannalonga (28 points) crossed into the 1000-point club at North Reading.
The smooth senior needed fourteen points and he had those in the first half, getting the 1000th on a free throw.
No celebrating then but before the second half resumed the Garden announcer noted Cody’s accomplishment and he was duly recognized by the North Reading crowd, many of whom were there for this moment.
“Hollywood couldn’t have written a better script for us,” said Coach Casey afterwards. “It was a perfect night for us and one that our kids will remember the rest of their lives.”
The Hornets (6-6) took the lead early, 6-5, on an Andrew Boulas layup 4 ½ minutes into the game and never trailed after that.
North Reading broke out on Amesbury misses and made open shots.
“They had more energy than we did, and we didn’t make shots,” said Amesbury coach Tom Comeau post-game.
The keys to success against the Indians (8-7) are containing next-level talents Cam Keliher and Matt Welch. The Hornets were onto that tonight.
“The early lead gave us some confidence,” said Coach Casey. “We really focused in on (Cam) Keliher and (Matt) Welch and did a really good job with them.”
“They played Matty and Cam real tough defensively and we didn’t have answers for it,” said Coach Comeau.
That “tough” defense truly kicked in during the second quarter when both players were held scoreless, and the Indians were limited to only eight points.
Senior Cody Cannalonga chose that quarter to go off against Amesbury registering twelve points. His three-pointer in the last minute pushed the NR lead to double-figures (34-23).
Two free throws later, Cody joined the North Reading 1000-point club.
“Cody is a coach’s dream,” said Coach Casey. “He is selfless and a good student. He is an excellent leader and he comes from a terrific family. He’s also only the third player in school history to score 1000 points.”
Cody will be going to Villanova where Coach Casey told me that Cody would be, “an intramural All-Star unless Villanova basketball coach Jay Wright finds out about him.”
The Hornets carried the double-digit lead throughout the second half. Amesbury was able to get within ten points (62-52) late in the final quarter but no closer.
The score separation enabled both coaches to clear their benches and give all their players the Garden “experience.”
Coach Comeau reflected on the bigger picture: “It was a great experience for the kids and I’m glad we could give it to them. Everyone got on the floor. Everyone got to enjoy it. Twenty years from now they won’t care if they won or lost. It’ll be, ‘I played at the Garden.’”
Senior Quinn Riesenberg had eighteen points for North Reading including eight in the fast-start first quarter. “It was the best game he’s played,” said Coach Casey.
It was interesting to be covering a game at the Garden this time of year. Why? Usually, when I’m at the Garden it is for tournament games but this was just a regular-season Cape Ann League game…….. in a very special setting.
“The loss wasn’t the end of the line at all,” said Coach Comeau. “We do, however, have to get the ship right pretty quick.” Ten wins assures a team of a tournament berth. The Indians have eight wins with five games left.
The North Reading/Amesbury game was part of a ten-game, all-day event called the Andrew James Lawson Foundation Invitational.
Some of the features I noticed, and was impressed with were, (1) the halftimes in which kids from the participating teams were allowed supervised to play on the court, and (2) team photos taken afterwards at center court.
I am suspecting that there will be many schools wanting to return next year to this event and others, on the outside, looking into getting involved next year.
Special thanks, from me, to Coach Comeau for allowing me to ride on the team bus.
North Reading 21 15 15 17 = 68
Amesbury 17 8 12 18 = 55
(The pictures will enlarge.)