(Amesbury MA) “We didn’t deserve that one,” said HW coach Michael DiMarino after the season opener for both squads.
And who would disagree.
Amesbury, without a starter back, looked to be a mismatch against the Generals with several starters back off a 17-4 team last season.
What the Indians lacked in finesse, however, they made up for in hustle and aggressive man-to-man defense.
“You can’t ask for much more than the kids gave tonight,” explained AHS coach Tom Comeau. “They (HW) have been very good in recent years. They’re all seniors and they expect to win and go deep in the tournament. Yet we had a shot to tie them at the end in our first game with no returning starters.”
This game did come down to the closing seconds as Amesbury, trailing by three, had two chances in the closing seconds to reach overtime. Both of Chris Chabot’s hurried three-point attempts missed the mark.
There were eight lead changes and six ties along the way. Separation was impossible because every shot was challenged, and accuracy suffered big-time.
Amesbury had the lead (44-42) with three minutes left before foul trouble, and clutch HW shooting, did them in. Both of the Sydlowski twins (John and Billy) fouled out in the first minute of the final three minutes. They were Amesbury’s top scorers.
The fouls on the Sydlowski’s gave HW four free throws and seniors James Lustig and Jake Lanciani made three of them to give the visitors the lead for good, 45-44, with 2:03 remaining.
Plenty of time for Amesbury, but a steal by Cam Peach set up James Lustig for an accurate top-of-the-key three with 1:38 to go.
Later, a free throw by Jake Lanciani, after a controversial block/foul call, stretched the HW lead to 49-46. When Chris Chabot’s 3-point attempts misfired the win belonged to the Generals.
“James (Lustig) is a senior captain,” said Coach Dimarino. “He is a three-year starter. That 3-point shot late was huge.”
James finished with eleven points despite spending much of the game on the bench in foul trouble. His only field goal was the decisive three in crunch time.
If you had to list just one key to the HW victory, it was their trapping defense. “Their defense is stifling,” agreed Coach Comeau. “Their whole scheme is built around it.” Put five non-starters from a year ago on the floor against it in their first game and bad things can happen and they did for the Indians.
I keep track of turnovers because they often lead to easy baskets and wasted possessions. Amesbury, and this is not a typo, had THIRTY turnovers. HW had just thirteen. That’s why is was a marvel that Amesbury made such a good game of it.
“We made some adjustments in our trapping defense at halftime, “said Coach DiMarino. “We were having trouble scoring and hoped for some easy baskets.” Those adjustments were golden as the home team has possession miscues thirteen times in the third period alone and HW collected fifteen points while holding AHS to seven.
But even with the turnover disparity AHS hung in. How did they do it? If Amesbury had trouble taking care of the ball, Hamilton-Wenham had trouble at the foul line. HW missed THIRTEEN free throws including the front end of three one-and-one’s.
The Generals led 41-35 after three periods, and then missed seven of their next eight free throws. AHS said “Thank you” and ran seven straight unanswered points to take the lead.
Surprise play of the game? With less than two minutes left in the first half, Cam Grinnell (13 points) was at the line shooting one–and-one, BUT he was the only one who knew it was a one-and-one. Cam missed the first free throw and no one reacted so he picked the rebound off the floor and got a layup. Later in that same quarter the senior pulled in a rebound and nailed a fadeaway at the halftime buzzer.
The Boston Herald chose Hamilton-Wenham to finish 4th in Division 3 North. James Lustig and Billy Whelan were listed as players to watch.
Billy Whelan is still recovering from a collarbone injury suffered in a football playoff game.
I asked Coach Dimarino when Billy would be back: “Not soon enough,” he answered.
(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge if you click on them.)