Boston High School: Lawrence

Player of the Week: Natick's Troy Flutie

October, 29, 2013
NATICK, Mass. -- Call it a touch of Flutie Magic.

Like his uncle (and father) before him, Natick quarterback and BC commit Troy Flutie has a penchant for the dramatic, and Friday's thrilling 56-55, overtime win over Bay State Herget rival Walpole was no exception.

Flutie threw for 370 yards, while adding 191 on the ground, and accounting for seven touchdowns (4 passing, 3 rushing) in the victory over the Rebels. For that, he was named our Player of the Week for Week 8.

Editor Brendan Hall caught up with Flutie before Monday's practice:

In addition to Flutie, here are this week's Top 5 performers:
  • Troy Flutie, Sr. QB, Natick - Totaled 561 yards of offense (370 passing, 191 rushing) and seven touchdowns in overtime win vs. Walpole.
  • Drew Jacobs, Sr. RB/LB Milton Academy - Totaled 4 scores (3 rushing, 1 INT) with 194 yards rushing while helping to end Governor's Academy's ISL-best 23-game winning streak.
  • Mike Panepinto, Sr. RB, Needham - Ran for 301 yards, along with a school-record 6 TD in 42-28 win vs. Weymouth.
  • Xavier Santiago, Sr. DE, Lawrence - While notching a season-high 14 tackles, credited with 7 sacks in a win vs. Billerica.
  • Ju'an Williams, Sr. WR, Springfield Central - Hauled in 2 TD catches in his five receptions, averaging more than 32 yards per catch in a win vs. West Springfield.

MVC baseball All-Stars announced

May, 31, 2013
Per Tewksbury head coach Ron Drouin, here are the baseball All-Stars for the Merrimack Valley Conference.

League All-Stars can be sent to either Brendan Hall ( or Scott Barboza (


Andrew Deloury, 3B, Andover
Colin Flynn, P/2B, Andover
Cam Farnham, CF, Andover
Jack Cox, INF/OF, Andover
Sam Bennet, P, Andover
Anthony Licari, 2B, Central Catholic
Andrew Hamel, P, Central Catholic
Cameron Devaney, SS, Central Catholic
Brady Abraham, OF/3B, Central Catholic
Nick Gorski, 1B/P, Central Catholic
Cam Cyr, P, Methuen
Evan Lacroix, OF/P, Methuen
Gary Carbenneau, INF, Methuen
Tyler Schermahorn, P, Lowell
Cam Latta, P, Lowell
Keagan Latta, OF, Lowell
Conor Callery, P/1B, Lowell
Brock Riley, P/3B, Lowell
Matt Rabbito, C, Chelmsford
Michael DeDonato, 2B, Chelmsford
Russ Olive, P/OF, Chelmsford
Quinn Cooney, P/OF, Chelmsford
Jake Kelly, P/OF, Chelmsford

Player of the Year - Cam Devaney, Central Catholic
Coach of the Year - Mike O'Keefe, Chelmsford



Cameron Oliveria, C, Tewksbury
Mike Casey, OF, Tewksbury
Zak DiRocco, P/1B, Tewksbury
Joan Vargas, P, Lawrence
Elvis Peralta, INF, Lawrence
Jose Cedano, C, Lawrence
Jose Abreu, OF, Lawrence
Elvis Batista, INF, Lawrence
Dan Zabbo, P/OF, Dracut
Jack McKenna, 2B/P, Dracut
Ben Gacek, C, Dracut
Tyler Whitley, 1B, North Andover
Dan Rivet, SS, North Andover
Max Frawley, 1B/P, Billerica
Matt Clifford, OF, Billerica
Dylan Lavery, P/3B, Billerica
Rob Gambale, P/2B, Billerica
Drew Salk, OF, Billerica
Nick Comei, P/INF, Haverhill
J.T. Ruth, OF, Haverhill
Sean Wrenn, C/P, Haverhill
Patrick Yale, C/OF, Haverhill

Player of the Year - Joan Vargas, Lawrence
Coach of the Year - Brendan Neilon, Lawrence

Recap: No. 1 Central Catholic 77, Lawrence 59

December, 30, 2012
LAWRENCE, Mass. -- Three games, three days, no problem.

After being narrowly edged out by national power St. Anthony (N.J.) on Friday, and surviving a furious Andover squad on Thursday, Central Catholic won the Greater Lawrence Christmas Tournament Final Saturday in convincing fashion with a 77-59 victory over Lawrence, at Lawrence High School.

While some wondered whether Central (6-1) would have its legs under them after playing two highly physical and emotional games, it exploded with 27 points in the first quarter and immediately put Lawrence back on its heels.

What lethargy?

“I said to them, ‘Tonight’s not a physical challenge tonight, it’s not an emotional challenge, it’s a mental challenge,” said Central coach Rick Nault. “Can you get over the mindset of being tired, being emotionally drained, and they came out right from the start and they scored 27 points in the first quarter. They were ready to go.”

Central was paced by the ever-energetic Doug Gemmell (17 points, eight rebounds) down low. If there was a Raider player who you could understand would be gassed, after having to deal with Andover’s Sam Dowden and the workhorses of St. Anthony’s, it would be Gemmell. But there he was, challenging for every rebound and contesting shots against Lawrence’s (5-1) Roberto Speing (14 points, nine rebounds) and Tre’von Farley (11 points, six rebounds).

“I just want to make sure that we come out every night ready, and we’re ready to get a win,” said Gemmell. “Every night we just have to come out and play as hard as we can. I don’t think the games effected us really. Practice is harder than the games for me.”

Central started the second quarter on an 8-0 run and there was no looking back from there. Its lead was never less than double digits for the rest of the game.

Brief downshift: For the first half of the third quarter, it appeared that Central lost its energy. Lawrence’s ball pressure and transition game picked up and it slowly chipped away at the lead. Was this the point when Central’s schedule would catch up with them? Would the change in momentum, the extra energy of the cross-town rivalry, and hostility in the building be too much for Central to hold back?

It was not. The team closed out the third quarter back up 20 points, but that didn’t mean that Nault wasn’t concerned.

“I absolutely thought we lost our legs,” he said. “Until the end of the third quarter, we outscored them by one. I said to my assistant, ‘We played terrible that quarter, and we won the quarter by one. I felt the game was slipping away and then I look up when the quarter sounds and the lead went from 19 to 20 and I thought, ‘Well okay, we’re in pretty good shape right now.”

Defensive woes: Lawrence’s biggest obstacle is not a lack of talent, but a lack of defensive consistency. Saturday, the team would show up in spurts, like in that early charge in the third quarter, where it could create havoc for the opponent.

Then, there were other times where the defense would be so concerned with stopping the ball that it would over-rotate and allow a Central player to cut to the weak side low block for an easy basket. Also, the ball handler consistently drove to the basket, then kicked it back out to a wide open shooter in the corner.

If Central has an abundance of anything, it is an abundance of quality jump shooters. With those types of defensive breakdowns, Lawrence will have a difficult time beating tough competition.

Nelson on his mark: Tyler Nelson, one of Central’s dangerous jump shooters, went off for 22 points Saturday, including four three-pointers. After going 4-for-11 from the field against St. Anthony and underperforming (by his standards) the last few games, he came into Saturday with a chip on his shoulder and something to prove.

“I struggled against Andover, struggled early on in this tournament, shots weren’t falling,” he said. “I was kind of in a mini-slump. Last night (against St. Anthony) I played a lot better and tonight I really stepped up so hopefully I’ll be back to normal.”

For Central to accomplish what it wants to this season, having a locked-in Nelson will be crucial.

“Tyler felt like he had something to prove tonight,” said Nault. “He played OK last night, terrible against Andover two nights ago, and then really struggled against Haverhill last week. He had a chip on his shoulder tonight. He wanted to play real well, and he came out playing real strong.”

Recap: No. 4 Central Catholic 53, Lowell 28

December, 22, 2012
NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. -- Central Catholic made some critical halftime adjustments and held Lowell to just 12 second half points as they defeated their Merrimack Valley Conference counterpart, 53-28, in the first round of the 2012 Greater Lawrence Christmas Tournament.

Central Catholic (4-0) led 23-16 at the half in a first half that was dominated by the inside presence of Central Catholic senior Casey McLaughlin and Lowell freshman Alexi Schecter.

[+] EnlargeCasey McLaughin
Ryan Kilian for Central Catholic and Casey McLaughlin downed an upstart Lowell and freshman Alexi Schecter with a 53-28 win in the first round of the Greater Lawrence Christmas Tournament.
Schecter imposed her 6-foot-3 inch frame in the key and created problems for Central Catholic on the defensive end of the floor. She finished the first half with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

“We knew we did not play the way we wanted to play in the first half,” Central Catholic head coach Susan Downer said. “That was the first time we played against Schecter and she is very good. We focused on fronting her and helping from behind and I think we did a lot better job in the second half.”

McLaughlin and Central Catholic came out and turned up the defensive intensity in the second half as they extended their defense and caused numerous turnovers in the third quarter resulting in a 12-point Central lead after three quarters.

“We knew we had to pick it up in the second half,” McLauglin said after the game. “We just breathed and focused in the locker room and came out and turned up the defensive effort.”

McLaughlin, who walks off the bus with a double-double, led Central Catholic on the evening with 18 points and 20 rebounds. Her relentless effort on the offensive glass and on the defensive end of the floor proved to be too much for Lowell (3-1) to handle down the stretch.

The fourth quarter would prove to be the most dominant for Central as they outscored Lowell 16-3 in the final frame to earn their fourth victory of the season.

Central Catholic also received strong games from junior forward Amanda Williams (11 rebounds) and junior point guard Courtney Walsh (nine points, four assists).

Veteran team: Despite just having three seniors on their roster Central Catholic returns their starting lineup and a very experienced veteran group.

“Our intensity has been great at practices and we have worked very hard all pre-season,” Downer said of her veteran team.

The Stonehill-bound McLaughlin, one of two seniors and four-year varsity veteran, echoed her coaches thoughts.

“We have a very strong team this year,” McLauglin said. “I think we have a very fast team and we are always looking to push the ball. We want to win every game, starting with this tournament, as we have never won this one.”

Lowell’s fab frosh: Schecter was very impressive for Lowell in the loss. Reminding many in the gym of former Central Catholic standout Katie Zenevitch (Boston College) Schecter showed a mature post-game to go with an aggressive defensive mentality.

Battling double teams and fighting through physical defenders all night Schecter showed why she will be one of the most talked about players in Massachusetts for years to come.

“She made a huge difference in our game plan,” Downer said. “You have to be very smart when you play against someone like her. She is agile and has a good knack for the basketball.

Schecter finished the game with a stat line of 15 points, 16 rebounds and seven blocked shots.

In other tournament action: In earlier action Andover defeated Lawrence 60-40. Andover’s win sets up a semi-final match-up with rival Central Catholic. Senior guard Devon Caveney led Andover with 17 points.

North Andover and Hartford-bound senior Morgan Lumb defeated Methuen 52-32 in another semifinal contest. Lumb, who is one of the most explosive guards in Massachusetts, led the Scarlet Knights with 20 points.

Pinkerton Academy (N.H.) and Salem (N.H.) play in the nightcap and make up the final two teams in the annual eight-team tournament.

Recap: Lawrence 69, Methuen 58

December, 21, 2012
LAWRENCE, Mass. -- It took three quarters, but Lawrence found the right mix of effort and execution needed to put away Methuen tonight, 69-58, in the opening round of the Greater Lawrence Christmas Tournament.

For the first three quarters, no Lawrence (4-0) lead was greater than six points. Going into the fourth up 46-42, the team ratcheted up its defensive pressure and overall tenacity to outscore Methuen (0-4) 23-16 to pull away and show what it is capable of when clicking on all cylinders.

“I thought the kids were playing hard, and that’s one of the things I’m stressing to the team, that we need to be the hardest working team when we go out there,” said Lawrence coach Raymond Nunez. “In regards to executing, we have a long way to go, especially on the defensive end.”

Methuen was kept in the game in large part because of its outside shooting. When Lawrence went up by four or six points early and appeared to be set to pull away, someone would hit a three-pointer to cut the deficit back down.

Lawrence did most of its damage around the basket, where Tre’von Farley and Roberto Speing each had a double-double. Speing was more active on the boards (16 points, 14 rebounds) while Farley (14 points, 10 rebounds) filled up his stat line in the latter half of the game.

“We really didn’t play together as a team,” said Farley. “We didn’t really play as one. This is a team that we should really be up against and if we play defense, that we should be able to put away. We were really slacking on the defensive end. We have to get better defensively.”

Lawrence will play in the semi-finals of the Greater Lawrence Christmas Tournament on Dec. 27 against the winner of the Pinkerton Academy-Greater Lawrence game, which will take place Friday.

Double Trouble: Not to say that any player is more important than another, but Lawrence’s success will depend on how Speing and Farley perform in games. When they are being fed the ball in the post or attacking the rim off the dribble, that is when the team has its most success. As the season rolls on, and with the team lacking a consistent long-range shooting threat, their consistency in the paint will be imperative if the team wants to make noise in the Merrimack Valley Conference.

That creates open space for teammates elsewhere if the defense collapses on them, they can draw fouls on the opposing big men, or they can make the most of second chance opportunities on the offensive glass.

“I think we need to do a better job of getting it to them in the post,” said Nunez. “We work our big guys day in and day out and the way you reward them is feed them in the post. I think we had an advantage down low, but we just struggled feeding them in the post. It’s going to come with time though.”

Putting either on the free throw line is also not a winning strategy for the opposition. Both Speing and Farley are above average free throw shooters for players their size. Tonight, they went a combined 8-of-11 from the line.

“We work off each other,” said Farley. “If Roberto’s on one side, we know just to box out and if the ball is going up, we just try to get hungry and go for the rebound. That’s just our main goal: to rebound. That’s our job.”

Trying to Find a Balance: Like most teams early in the season, Lawrence has had difficulty finding consistency on both ends of the floor. That was most evident Thursday, when coaches were yelling for the players to communicate on defense. For three quarters, there were breakdowns in the interior, which allowed players like Tim Galloway-Burke (14 points, 6 rebounds) and Jamal Rene (4 points, 8 rebounds) to occasionally muscle and maneuver their way around the paint.

That changed in the fourth, when the Lawrence players started showing up in hustle plays, where they were not in the first three quarters. Players were diving for balls on the ground, chasing balls and preventing them from going out of bounds, and attacking defensively, whereas earlier in the game, players were shying away from those.

Putting it all together: When a team’s biggest issue is effort, how can it become less of a problem? Is it something that can be taken care of in practice? Does the coaching staff have to pick up its demands on its players? Or is it just a matter of a team growing together and developing chemistry to make it easier to play together?

That is something a team like Lawrence will have to find out soon. There is no doubt the talent is there to be a dangerous team, but can it manifest that talent into a cohesive unit that can compete as it gets deeper into the season?

“It’s going to be a matter of us stressing it in practice,” said Nunez. “We have to get back into practice and just work at it. Then we have to rely on our three seniors coming back (Farley, Denny Gonzalez, and Esmelin Romero). I think those three guys can make a big impact on the defensive end, and also just in a leadership aspect. Just having that experience, I think they can help our young guys that are inexperienced with that.”

New England Roundup: Maine

October, 23, 2012
Christine DiPietro scored 10 goals for the Fryeburg Academy field hockey team this fall. Over the winter, she also placed sixth in the slalom and 15th in the giant slalom at the Class A state championships.

MaineDiPietro is also legally blind. She told the Portland Press Herald that she doesn't drive a car, that she was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa at age 4, and that her vision has gotten worse over the last few years.

DiPietro, a senior, recently played her last field hockey game for Fryeburg as the Raiders lost 1-0 to Leavitt in a Western B semifinal game. Fryeburg field hockey coach DeDe Frost said she made a point of not publicizing DiPietro's vision until this season.

"I wanted them to be so shocked when they found out that she's the one that kicked their butts around the block and scored the goals, and that's what Christina's always wanted," Frost told the Press Herald.

"I can honestly say I've accepted it," DiPietro said. "I always have. But when people feel bad for me, I'm just like, 'Why? You don't have to.'"

Class A East: If you follow football in Maine, every year you hear at least one person proclaim that Cony is his sleeper team. The ritual is as inevitable as Cony's disappointment against those expectations.

This year is different. The Rams are 6-2, and have one of the pest quarterback-receiver combinations in the game in Ben Lucas to Chandler Shostak. Lucas has thrown for over 2,000 yards, and 10 of his touchdown passes have gone to Shostak, who also has eight interceptions on defense.

Still, the best team in the league is Lawrence (8-0). The Bulldogs had tough tests over the last two weeks, but posted a 27-6 victory over Cony (intercepting Lucas five times) and a 34-7 victory over Brunswick. The Bulldogs have an excellent shot at playing in their fourth Class A title game in seven years.

Class A West: With a 21-0 victory over Deering, Cheverus (8-0) set a state record with 32 consecutive Class A victories. The Stags' toughest competition is Thornton (7-1), and the Golden Trojans gave Cheverus a game at home on Oct. 13, losing 28-14 before an announced crowd of 4,011.

Class B East: This could also be a two-horse race, although Hampden supporters would argue the notion that Mt. Blue (8-0) and Leavitt (7-1) are destined to meet in the regional final. Mt. Blue defeated Leavitt 20-12 at home earlier this month. If Leavitt has a weakness, it's probably pass defense, and Mt. Blue is well-known for its pass-happy spread offense. Hampden (7-1) lost 27-17 to Leavitt on opening night and did not face Mt. Blue this season.

Class B West: Maine uses a formula called Crabtree points to determine playoff seedings. The formula simply adds your winning percentage to the combined winning percentage of your opponents. When the regular season ended Saturday, Marshwood (7-1), Westbrook (6-2), and York (6-2) all had the same number of Crabtree points. Add in Greely at 7-1 and Wells at 6-2, and this could be a very interesting playoff bracket.

Class C East: Foxcroft has scored the most points in the state (371) and allowed the fewest (35). The catch is the Ponies are not undefeated. They dropped a 13-0 shocker to Bucksport (6-2). On the other hand, John Bapst (7-1) and Orono (6-2) both defeated Bucksport rather handily, but were no match for Foxcroft. The Ponies blasted Orono, 42-0, then went to Bapst and beat the Crusaders 40-0 the next week before falling to Bucksport.

Class C West: Winslow (7-1) has been the best team in the league since getting back over a dozen ineligible players. Oak Hill is also 7-1, and posted a dominating 33-0 victory over Dirigo (6-2) on Saturday. But when Winslow played Oak Hill, Winslow had too much strength up front and led 27-6 at halftime on the way to a 34-18 win. Maranacook (5-3) looked like a state title contender early in the year, but lost three straight to end the regular season and will have to play its first playoff game without quarterback Caleb Castonguay, who was ejected for fighting in a 27-8 loss to Poland in the season finale.

1. Cheverus - Last three games have been closest of season, but Stags have still beaten everyone by at least 14 points.
2. Thornton - Leads SMAA in scoring and looking forward to playoff rematch with Cheverus.
3. Lawrence - No one has come within three touchdowns of Bulldogs.
4. Scarborough - Red Storm returned 10 starters from a 3-6 team, but finished 6-2.
5. Mt. Blue - Only two teams have held Cougars and QB Jordan Whitney under 40 points.
6. Cony - Junior QB Ben Lucas has thrown 29 TD passes. Defense is also solid.
7. Brunswick - RB Jared Jensen has rushed for nearly 1,900 yards.
8. Leavitt - Hornets' defense has been sensational against the run.
9. Messalonskee - Eagles trying to bounce back from stunning 37-14 loss to Bangor.
10. Hampden - Broncos have reeled off seven straight wins, six by at least 28 points.

It has been a season for records in Maine high school field hockey. Entering this fall, the single-season record for goals in one season was 116, set by Dexter in 2003. Only one other team had scored over 100 goals in one year.

This year, both Skowhegan and Messalonskee have broken that record. Skowhegan has outscored its opponents, 142-1. Messalonskee holds a 121-8 edge on its opponents.

As you might imagine, the league is top-heavy. Skowhegan's only goal allowed was scored by Messalonskee, and the Indians have seven of the eight goals Messalonskee has allowed. Mt. Ararat was the No. 4 seed in Eastern A this year, and entered its playoff game against Skowhegan with an 11-4 record. Skowhegan led 7-0 at the half and went on to an 11-0 win.

The two teams also have two of the top scorers in the country, and those two are putting their own names on the records. Megan Fogarty scored 42 goals on that 2003 Dexter team to set the state mark. Heading into Tuesday's regional final between Messalonskee and Skowhegan, Messalonskee's Kristy Bernatchez has 43 goals, and Skowhegan's Makaela Michonski has 42.

If Skowhegan can win Tuesday, the Indians will have one more game afterward, and Michonski has an outside shot at Fogarty's career record of 109 goals. Michonski currently has 104 career goals.

Of course, that one game afterward would be the state championship, and it could be against Scarborough. The Red Storm has not allowed a goal through 16 games this season. Since the Maine Principals' Association began holding state tournaments, the only team to go through an entire season without allowing a goal was Winslow in 1998. That squad was later inducted into the Maine Field Hockey Hall of Fame as a team.

Two Maine girls’ soccer players recently reached 100 goals for their careers. Central's Max McHugh hit the century mark with her fourth goal in a 7-0 win over Lee Academy. Meaghan Cavanaugh of Calais also has 100 goals this season.

McHugh and Cavanaugh are believed to be the 11th and 12th Maine high school girls’ soccer players to score 100 goals.

The Kennebunk Zumba prostitution case is receiving national attention, and when local police recently released the names of 21 "Johns," one of them was 52-year-old Donald F. Hill, the boys’ ice hockey coach at Kennebunk High School the last 14 years.

Alexis Wright, 29, is accused of using her Zumba fitness studio for prostitution. A police affidavit claims Wright has a client list. Lawyers involved in the case have said the list has over 150 names.

New England Roundup: Maine

September, 27, 2012
In summarizing Brunswick in its preseason football capsules, the Portland Press Herald ended with this note about the team's offense:

Maine"The Dragons run the wing-T and spread things out as much as possible."

That was indeed the plan in preseason. But before the first game against Bangor, the plan changed to, simply, give the ball to Jared Jensen, and make holes for him.

"That really wasn't the plan until the Bangor week," Brunswick coach Dan Cooper said. "I just thought, 'I don't think we could beat these guys unless you get the ball every time.' "

Since then, Cooper has stayed with that strategy, and Jensen is this year's breakout star in Maine high school football. Through four games, all Brunswick wins, he has 119 carries for 1,296 yards -- that's 10.9 yards per carry -- and 16 touchdowns.

"I figured I'd be getting the ball a lot because we had some people out at the beginning of the season," Jensen said. "But I didn't think I'd be getting the ball that much."

Jensen, a senior, has started at defensive back since he was a sophomore. He started a couple games at running back at the end of last season, but still finished with only 129 yards on 21 attempts.

"We knew he was good last year," Cooper said. "We didn't know he was going to be this good. It seems like as the game goes on, people start getting tired. He doesn't."

Jensen stands about 5-foot-11 and weighs around 180 lbs. Remarkably, he wrestled at 152 lbs. last winter, when he won his second consecutive state championship. The added weight hasn't affected Jensen's speed or endurance.

"He gets up in the holes so fast, and he can cut," Cooper said. "He cuts left and right, doesn't lose his balance. He just has a knack for knowing what to do."

"Really, our goal is to get a hole for me for five or seven yards," Jensen said. "If I can get that, I can go wherever."

Even while being the bulk of Brunswick's offense, Jensen is the defensive captain from his cornerback spot. Against Edward Little, he ran for 332 yards and four touchdowns, and also intercepted three passes, returning one 61 yards to set up the clinching score.

"I don't really come off the field that much," Jensen said.

Jensen has been contacted by the University of Maine and the University of New Hampshire about playing next season. So far, only one thing has slowed him down: Against Skowhegan, he missed part of the game with leg cramps. Otherwise, he's been ready to be the main guy, as long as the game is close.

"I think the week of practice really helps with that," Jensen said. "I'm a little sore the next morning, but I'm good to go the whole game."

Messalonskee football coach Wes Littlefield was suspended last week over an incident in practice. The school and local police began investigations, and Littlefield resigned within 24 hours. On Tuesday, Littlefield was charged with a misdemeanor simple assault in connection with the incident.

Littlefield was in his 10th season as Messalonskee coach and had a 43-40 record, including 3-0 this fall. He told the Morning Sentinel what happened in practice was "a little incident with a kid that was blown out of proportion."

Assistant coaches Rob Rodrigue and Chapin LaBelle led the Eagles in their first game without Littlefield, a 41-0 victory over Oxford Hills. LaBelle was named interim head coach on Tuesday.

(Read full post)

What We Learned: Week 3

September, 25, 2012
At least, statistically speaking. In a blowout of Arlington Catholic last weekend, the Holy Name senior tailback needed just five carries to rack up 216 yards and three touchdowns. Two weekends ago in another blowout win, this one over Westborough, Wright carried six times for 160 yards and three scores. So after garnering a Yeoman's workload in a Week 1 shootout loss to parochial rival St. John's of Shrewsbury (28 carries, 282 yards, 4 TD), Wright's stat line looks like this: 39 carries, 658 yards, 10 touchdowns, for a ridiculous average of 16.5 yards a carry.

Forget the opponents. That, folks, is just insane. Especially considering the Lilliputian scatback's generously-listed size of 5-foot-7 and 165 pounds, and the Naps' brutal double wing scheme that predicates itself on an intense measure of physicality at the point of attack.

But sometimes, it's the little guys that are the most durable -- just ask Ray Rice or Darren Sproles. And perhaps even moreso, Wright has the benefit of a particularly huge offensive line. Basit Dennis (6-foot-2, 290 pounds) gets the most attention on account of being the lone senior, but from tackle to tackle this is a unit that moves people off the ball, aided by junior Joe Fitton (6-foot, 245 pounds), freshman Liam Perry (5-8, 235) and sophomores Antonio Paulino (6-0, 255) and Nick Geneva (6-4, 310). Throw in the one-inch splits and convoy-style sweeps, and you have a recipe for disaster.

Last year, we were spoiled with unheard-of performances by running backs, between Melquawn Pinkney's 2,900 rushing yards for Putnam, Jared Taylor's 308 yards at Gillette Stadium for Mashpee, and Armani Reeves averaging a touchdown almost every three touches for Catholic Memorial. It's still a bit premature to stack Wright up against any of these guys just yet, but none of them have averaged 16.5 yards a carry over a full season.

As it stands, Wright is on pace to break his school's record for career rushing yards, held by current Philadelphia Eagles fullback Emil Igwenagu. If Wright keeps it up at this clip, though, he could be in for a lot more accolades.

Through the first three weeks of the season, No. 6 Reading has kept its opponents' offenses pin-drop quiet. But allow Jaddiel Polanco to break the silence with some self-awareness.

"Hey @BHallESPN just want to say I think I'm the only person to score on Reading #4 #LawrenceHigh #JustSaying", the Lawrence High senior cornerback wrote to ESPN Boston High Schools Editor Brendan Hall in a tweet early Monday evening.

There has been some stout defense demonstrated by some of the state's top teams in the first month of the season. Nashoba, Beverly, and Everett come to mind so far, either locking up in crucial moments or -- in the case of the former two -- never letting the opponent get out of first gear. But nothing compares to what Reading is doing right now. Since Polanco's safety in the third quarter of Reading's 46-2 blowout of the aforementioned Lancers, the Rockets have pitched nine straight quarters of shutout football, outscoring the opposition 80-2 so far in 2012. That includes a very nice 12-0 shutout of Brockton on the Rockets' home turf.

We can credit a lot of things for the stifling start to Reading's season, as it looks to win a sixth straight outright Middlesex League title. But most importantly, it starts at the line of scrimmage, and few players in the state have been as dominant in the interior as senior Matt Comerford. The 6-foot-4, 290-pounder has surprising agility for a player his size (blame his skills in net as a lacrosse goalie, if you must), and that trait has been contagious.

Where does it go from here? The Rockets figure to have an interesting time slowing Burlington running back Marcus Odiah when they meet the Red Devils on October 5. Last year's 32-27 Reading win will surely be on Burlington's minds, as Odiah quietly crossed the 100-yard plateau but was held in check for good stretches of the game.

The injury woes that have beset BC High in the early season are on par with a Greek tragedy, or at least a comedy of errors on par with NFL replacement referees. A seemingly impossible string of seven starters missed BC High's Week 2 loss to North Attleborough.

While the Eagles were fortunate to get a few bodies back for Friday night's non-league matchup with Dartmouth, including run-stuffing defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson, they suffered yet another potential big blow. In the midst of running away with a 31-0 win over the Indians, BC High saw starting running back Brandon Owens go down with a high ankle injury. While the Eagles got into the win column on the season, the road doesn't get easier with a trip to New Jersey and St. Peter’s Prep.

But, as Eagles head coach Joe Gaff sees it, things are only getting better.

Gaff cited last year’s game against St. Peter’s as a formative experience in the Eagles eventual run to a Division 1 Eastern Mass. Super Bowl title. After Friday’s win, Gaff had positive memory of last year’s encounter, despite a loss. Having to play against the speed of the New Jersey powerhouse (ask Xaverian about competition in the Garden State), Gaff said the Eagles were better prepared to take on their Catholic Conference and playoff schedule.

Plus, there’s another pot of gold coming in Week 5 for BC High – a bye.

“That will be an important week for us,” Gaff said, “it’ll give us a chance to get some bodies back hopefully and let us regroup a little bit.”

The Eagles have done their best plugging holes in the interim. Dan Collins has effectively taken the reins of the offense from Brendan Craven in his absence and Skyler Evans showed good instincts running the ball during the second half at Dartmouth, filling in for Owens.

For the Eagles now, it’s just a matter of time.

Bay State Games: July 10 recap

July, 10, 2012
Bay State Games communications coordinator Craig Kaufman sends along results from today's baseball action:

WALTHAM, Mass. -– The second day of the 2012 Bay State Games baseball tournament saw a pitcher’s duel and two convincing wins as the Northeast and West teams picked up their second wins of the tournament. Those two teams will try to stay undefeated tomorrow when they play in the first game of Day 3 at 9:00 pm at Bentley University.

Coastal 2, Central 0
The Coastal Region out-dueled Central and scored the only two runs in the game in the fourth inning to improve to 1-1 in the 2012 tournament. A sacrifice fly from shortstop James Marcello (Duxbury) and an RBI single from right fielder Joshua Cabucio (East Freetown) brought across Cody Younger (Middleboro) and Matthew Peterson (South Dennis). Coastal had loaded the bases on walks to Younger and Peterson and a hit batsman.

Mike Bruemmel (Bridgewater) was outstanding on the mound for Coastal, pitching three innings and scattering just two hits while striking out three.

Central had their best threat in the sixth inning, loading the bases on singles by Owen Shea (Northborough) and Mike Vaitkunas (Auburn) but Bruemmel, who struck out four, shut the door. Central was held to just three hits in the game.

Central starter Jack Riley (West Boylston) went the first two innings and struck out two, allowing just one hit.

West 11, Metro 1
West got on the board early and often and scored six unearned runs in their second win of the tournament. The damage started in the first on a bloop RBI single from catcher Phillip Jasak (Palmer). Andrew Noonan (Springfield) followed with a single through the left side to plate another run, and Mackenzie Hale (Florence) drew a bases loaded walk to give the West a 3-0 lead.

West tacked on another run in the third inning, two more in the fourth and five unearned runs in the fifth, capped by a two-run double by Kenny Potts (Southwick). Metro escaped further damage when center fielder Mark Fusco (Medford) made a spectacular diving catch to end the top of the third inning with West stranding two base-runners.

West got great production out of their four-spot as Evan Delaney (Hadley) walked, singled and hit an RBI double and scored three times. He crossed the plate after his run-producing hit on Jasak’s second RBI single of the day before giving way to Potts.

West second baseman Mike Paleologopoulos (South Hadley) was 3-5 in the game, scoring twice and driving in a run.

Metro grabbed their lone run in the fifth when Tom McDonald (Quincy) doubled to lead off the inning and crossed the plate on after singles by Nathan Spielvogel (Brookline) and Seth Coiley (Arlington).

John Lavoie (Medford) pitched a perfect final two innings of relief for Metro, striking out four.

Northeast 9, Southeast 3
Northeast broke open a tight game with five runs on five hits in the top of the seventh inning to squash a Southeast comeback attempt. The Southeast, down 4-1, had scored twice in the bottom of the sixth.

Rory McHarg (Wayland) smacked a two-run single in the seventh and Jordan Roper (Lynnfield), Colby Ingraham (Georgetown) and Nicholas Comei (Bradford) also drove in runs for Northeast.

The top of the order for the Northeast was on base four times. Leadoff starter Cam Farnham (Andover) singled in the first and fourth, the second time driving in two runs before bein replaced by Ingraham.

Dan Connors was 2-2 with two RBI singles for the Northeast, who got five innings of one-run ball from starter Ryan McAuliffe (North Reading).

Southeast tied the game at one run apiece in the second inning when Gino Larossa (Braintree) doubled and scored on a single by center fielder Jake Fishman (Sharon). They pulled within a run in the sixth when substitute catcher Connor Goetz (Cohasset) delivered a two run single to center, scoring Sean Roche (Rockland) and Mark Saulnier (Norwood).

Northeast leadoff man Cam Farnham (Andover) opened the game with a single and stole second before scoring on a two-out single by second baseman Dan Connors (Danvers).

Southeast could have grabbed a run in the fifth as well on a single by Steven Gilbert (Franklin), but a tremendous play and a great lead by Northeast catcher Jose Cedrano (Lawrence) gunned out Brandon Eccher (Franklin) who was trying to score from second base.

Nunez: 'My goal is to take it to the next level'

June, 1, 2012
Earlier this week, Paul Neal saw his tenure as head basketball coach at Lawrence High come to an end, after leading the Lancers through some of their most successful years in program history over the last decade and half. Neal has been promoted from assistant principal to principal.

Neal coached the Lancers to their first-ever Division 1 North title in 2005, and led them to another final in 2011 as a No. 15 seed. He was also named USA Today's Coach of the Year for his efforts in the community following the tragic shooting and paralysis of star point guard Hector Paniagua just two weeks after winning the North title in 2005.

A successor was quickly named in assistant coach Raymond Nunez, and the energetic new head coach has a lot on his mind. Nunez spoke to tonight about the new job and his plans for the program going forward.

How it went down: "Coach Neal had been talking for the last couple years about moving on. He had always mentioned that he'd like me to move into his position and continue the job he's done at lawrence. But I guess I was somewhat surprised that it all happened so quickly."

Reaction to being named head coach: "I was kind of surprised that I received the call from Mr. Riley, the overseer of the Lawrence school system. My reaction is that I'm gonna go ahead and try to fulfill the shoes of a person who dedicated 14-15 years of his life to helping so many kids in the city of Lawrence -- not just basketball wise, but as people, as students, and then thirdly as athletes. That's gonna require a lot of energy, time, pasison, hard work and commitment on my part."

What he's learned from Paul Neal: "If there's anything I've learned from Coach Neal, it's that passion he had for the youth of Lawrence. I learned a great deal from him regarding the ability to communnicate with kids when it came to being student-athletes with character, challenging them both as a student and on the basketball court. In every way possible he tried to give it the best, to bring out the best of the players, and I want to replicate that again. He gave so much of what he had to the kids."

What Neal meant to him as a mentor: "Definitely a lot. I learned so much from him as a mentor, and not just basketball wise. What I've learned from him, mostly helping out kids by looking for the solution, not just the problems. Players for whatever situation they may be in, there's always a solution for everyhting, whether on the basketball court, in the classroom, or in life. I'm just trying to enhance what he's brought to the city of Lawrence."

On how much of the Lawrence job involves being an ambassador:
"I think about 95 percent, that was his role. He's put the basketball progam on map for the city of Lawrence, and you don't need to be a fan of basketball to understand the work he's done for the youth of Lawrence. It trickles down to everyone in city. If you see kids coming on to the basketball court, that's gonna bring pride to the community.

"The other thing he brought in that I feel is important to me a coach as well, he put emphasis as well on taking the next step -- building more character players, as people basically. Having the student-athlete understand that being a great person should be their goal, not just in school or on the basketball court, but in general. Then once you do that, I feel that piece of the student in the classroom understands that part of the student is gonna be important helping them get to the next level -- college. I'd like to see more kids go on to college, and Coach Neal has had tutoring, study hours, he constantly communicated with teachers and assisted students. My goal is to take it to the next level. That'll be high expectations on my part.

"Lastly, the basketball piece. When you have great character, and you have the academics in your mind, it will translate on to the court. Again, most of the youth in Lawrence want to play basketball, utilize that as chance to understand being a good person and great student means everything.

"Coach Neal already said this, but for the next coming years to have success this whole thing isn't gonna be an 'I' thin. Not a 'We' thing. It's not gonna be just me, it's gonna be with great assistance from the community, and then also the student-athlete themself, then the community within the Lawrence Public Schools system. It's going to be a team effort from everyone. That's my vision going into this."

Coaching style: "I have a similar philosophy to what he [Neal] as taught me on basketball sense. We need to be workers, we need to have commitment, work ethic and determination. We have athletes, but not always basketball players, and I'm commited to improving our skill as basketball players. I'm not trying to change much of our style that Coach Neal has implemented on offense. Most of us have athletic ability, so we're looking for an up-and-down tempo offensively.

"I'm a defensive-minded person as well, I would say that's my coaching mentality, so we're looking to put pressure on the ball and go into a fast-paced offense from there. We're mostly man, again with the trap that Coach Neal has utilized over the years as well. And it's going to be a marathon playing our style, so we need to be well-conditioned."

On the talent coming back: "There was about 11 or 12 guys that are gonna be moving on this year, and about three returning players, so again we'll be inexperienced just as the past few years, so we'll def need to commit ourselves and have devoted work ethic, just be determined to improve.

"[Sophomore forward] Roberto [Speing], he's got big shoes to fil. We're not gonna have Tre'Von [Farley] or Franklin [Martinez], so offensively he's gonna have to take on a bigger role. It'll all depend on what he does in the offseason. We need him to go ahead and be able to knock down 15-footers, get to the free throw line and knock them down, get off the dribble, get offensive rebounds, and be a great defensive player. He has the potential to develop on the offensive end, but it's gonna be up to his commitment and work ethic on his part."

What the Lawrence program means to the city: "It just means...It brings great pride to the city of Lawrence when they see a successful group of guys on the basketball court. But again, what we hope to see as well is that they the see assets of their work ethic in the classrooom and their development as young gentlemen. Any positive story in the city of Lawrence means a great deal to the youth and to the general community. I give all the thanks in the world to to Coach Neal. He's been in it for the last 13-14 years, he's set that bar high. It'll be tough to match.

Div. 1 Boys: A-B 63, Lawrence 58

March, 4, 2012
ACTON, Mass. — At first glance, Acton-Boxborough may look like a lumbering, big team that will only play in the half court and lull you to sleep in the post with size at seemingly every position.

But once the Colonials get into the flow of a game and move the ball inside and out, you start to realize that the size also has a little hop to its step. The Colonials put that gitty-up on display last night in the Div. 1 North quarterfinals in a 63-58 win over lightning quick No. 7 Lawrence at Regan Gymnasium.

The Colonials had three players in double figures, as Kevin LaFrancis — who added 12 rebounds — and Jake Pilecki each scored 20 points. Joey Flannery contributed with 12 points, nine rebounds and four assists, as the No. 2 seed will now face Lexington in the semifinals.

“We are versatile,” said Flannery. “It was pretty much a contrast in style, so we had to pick our spots when we were running and everything. We had to try and take advantage inside against them and try to deal with their quick guards.”

Flannery himself is the ultimate measure of versatility for A-B. At 6-foot-4, Flannery is the de facto point guard and he had to deal with the quick hands of Yadoris Arias, Franklin Martinez and Leonny Burgos buzzing around trying to swipe the ball out of his mitts all night.

“When I was playing up top with the ball they were pressuring me hard,” said Flannery. “They took the ball from a couple times, but I just had to use my size to my advantage.”

There was a stretch in the third quarter when Flannery went out with foul trouble that really could have turned the tide in the Lancers (15-6) direction. Flannery went to the bench with his third personal at the 3:39 mark, and the Colonials had trouble breaking the extended pressure in the backcourt.

The Colonials played survival for that time period without much flow to the offense and held a 51-46 lead at the end of the quarter and averted a bit of disaster.

“That was a time, late in that third quarter, we give up a basket and suddenly the momentum could change,” said Colonials head coach Rick Kilpatrick. “I thought that was big.”

Pilecki Comes Up Big Again: Kilpatrick has talked over and over again about the spark that his senior captain brings to the team in the most dire of situations, and Pilecki came up big again.

With the shot clock dwindling down to two, Pilecki fired away a deep, straightaway 3-pointer and drained it to push the lead back up to 8 with a little over four minutes left to go in the game.

“I’m just going to pull it,” Pilecki said of his mindset. “It feels good. I practice shooting it deep and I’m always screwing around from deep before practice. I throw it up there and it goes in, so I guess it works.”

Lancers Cold From Outside: Lawrence relies heavily on its speed to create a nightmare matchup for anyone trying to guard it for 32 minutes. But the Lancers also use the deep ball to open up the lanes for Burgos, Martinez and Arias to play around and use their ballhandling skills to get to the rim.

The shots just weren’t falling like they were in the first round victory against St. John's Prep. The Lancers finished 1-of-17 from behind the 3-point line, eliminating a major weapon in Paul Neal’s arsenal.

“They took that away from us,” said Lawrence head coach Paul Neal. “They really took away what we were good at. We couldn’t get anything going.”

Kilpatrick switched to a zone defense in the first half and stuck with it most of the night after starting out in a man-to-man look.

“I didn’t think we were going to play a whole lot of 2-3 (zone),” said Kilpatrick. “I thought we were going to play more man. We threw it at them in the first quarter, late first quarter, and it seemed to work. We still played some man, but obviously we played a lot of 2-3 the rest of the way. I thought we did a great job in the zone of recognizing where the shooters (were).”

Div. 1 Boys: Lawrence 80, St. John's Prep 69

February, 28, 2012

LAWRENCE, Mass. -- Paul Neal slouched on a bench outside the Lawrence High gymnasium, the Lancers head coach exhaling deeply after a hard-fought Division 1 North First Round battle with St. John's Prep that took on a frenetic pace. Then his wide-eyed, unsung sophomore walked by, and Neal extended his left hand for a low-five.

"Great charge, brother," Neal said softly, but with authority. "That sealed the game."

Anyone who's watched Lawrence this year is familiar with the Lancers' affinity for the run-and-gun, and against set plays. So it shouldn't come as a whole heck of a surprise that the kid driving the stake into this 80-69 win over Prep was 6-foot-4 sophomore forward Roberto Speing's crunch-time work on the glass.

Speing had four defensive boards in the fourth quarter, all of them coming in the final two minutes as the Eagles (13-8) tried to rally with a number of attempts from deep. The icing on the cake, though, was taking his third charge of the game with 1:01 left and the Lancers (15-5) leading 75-65, sliding in front of Prep's Tyler Dooley as he crashed into the lane from his right.

"I had to take it," Speing laughed. "Coach Raymond [assistant Raymond Nunez] told me I had to take three charges today, and that's what I did. That was my third one."

Neal recalled a late-night conversation with Speing earlier this season, urging him to continue working hard on the glass -- continue to "dominate the last four or five minutes with rebounding," as he put it -- in spite of the lack of attention from the public. Eventually, Neal told him, people will take notice.

Tonight might have been an eye-opener for some. On the big stage, in front of an enthusiastic capacity home crowd, Speing finished with 10 rebounds -- six in the final frame.

"I think he's finally starting to understand that," Neal said. "He's starting to get recognized. I said, 'Listen, you're the Dennis Rodman of this team. You're the guy that can put a stop on people, and seal the defense'. Tonight, I think he was the man. He rebounded when we needed rebounds."

On the offensive end, meanwhile, it was senior guard Yadoris Arias (31 points, seven rebounds) leading the way with an explosive outburst, which included a 4-of-7 effort from three-point range.

But his most crucial possession was a heady one late in the game. Charging upcourt on a fast break off a long rebound, Arias drifted to the left corner, took a kick-out pass, hesitated for a moment and then pump-faked his defender. Arias drove baseline, took a foul on his way up to a reverse layup, and hit the free throw to complete a three-point play and go up 75-65 with 1:25 left.

"It gave us a lot of momentum, it felt great," Arias said. "Bunch of young guys on the court, they're hyped, they're bringing me up. So it's just a good play."

Stumbling, he continued, "I dunno, it just feels good right now, man. I'm speechless right now. It feels good."

Seniors Franklin Martinez (nine rebounds) and Leonny Burgos both added 14 points, and senior Tre'Von Farley 11, in the winning effort for Lawrence. Prep senior Steve Haladyna finished his stellar career on a good note, finishing with 21 points and 12 rebounds.

Need for Speed: Lawrence pushed up the tempo significantly in the second quarter, leading to an 11-2 run to open, and overall it yielded some pretty favorable results. Defenders up top began strafing upcourt as soon as Prep shot went up, leading to long outlet passes. After baskets, the ballcarrier either took a long outlet on the run or brought the ball over halfcourt quickly.

That led to a number of good looks from the perimeter. Lawrence was 5-for-5 from three-point range for the quarter, three of them coming from Arias. But when Neal motioned for the troops to slow it down a bit with under three to go in the first half, the Eagles quickly mounted themselves right back into the game. Haladyna took an entry pass from freshman Marcos Echevarria and kissed a hook shot off the glass; that was followed by a tip-in and backdoor layup from Owen Marchetti.

Prep cut the lead to 41-37 at the half, but Lawrence turned up the speed again in the second half, leading 61-54 after three and never relinquishing control.

"We're not an offensive set team," Neal said. "We've got athletes, and we want to make guys keep up with us. I think execution-wise, [in the] halfcourt St. John's Prep is a much better team -- and most teams we're going to play, you know what I mean? But if we can get guys that we know can run and jump and get the game up and down, I think it favors us."

Playin' Like Jaylen: Folks around Lawrence are still talking about the Lancers' run to last year's Division 1 North final at TD Garden, after entering the tournament a No. 15 seed. Fueling that run was Jaylen Alicea, who played his way into an ESPN Boston All-State nod after averaging 30 points in five tournament games.

Arias considers Alicea a close friend, and displays many of the same characteristics -- same haircut, same chin-strap beard that's long in the chin area, similar-looking tattoos. Arias wore No. 12 last season, but has switched to Alicea's number.

"He was like a brother to me," Arias said. "When we were younger, he always had 12 and I always had 15. He left last I just wanted to keep the number going and represent it well."

With 31 points tonight, Arias is off to a good start in following the momentum Alicea built in last year's tournament.

"He's playing on a mission, because I think he was in the shadows of Jaylen for years," Neal said. "They're different kinds of players, but some things are similar and they're good buddies. So I think it's his time to show he can play without those guys and still accomplish stuff as a team. There's some drive in him from that era, too."

Up Next: The No. 7 seed Lancers await the winner of Thursday night's contest between No. 2 Acton-Boxborough and No. 15 Methuen, with the game likely to be played over the weekend. A-B is the heavy favorite, but Neal said for preparation purposes "I spend a lot of time focusing on us, and then do a few simple changes."

"We want to run, and everybody knows that," Neal said. "And if you can stop that, well, good luck. We're going to try to come at you, no matter who we're playing."

Recap: No. 5 Central 57, No. 13 Lawrence 53

February, 7, 2012
LAWRENCE, Mass. — Central Catholic has won games in every kind of fashion this season. The Raiders have won on the road, at home, in different states and in holiday tournaments.

The only kind of win they haven’t had yet is a victory after a loss.

Mark that one off the list.

The Raiders followed up their first loss of the season with a 57-53 victory over host Lawrence — a team they have defeated three times this season — on Tuesday night, in a Merrimack Valley Conference matchup.

Raiders coach Rick Nault saw his team go through a couple of good practices leading up to Tuesday’s matchup, and was happy with the way his team responded from the first hiccup on the schedule.

“I think sitting in that locker room after that Lowell game, which Lowell really took it to us, each kid to a man said let’s not have this happen again,” said Nault, whose team moved to 16-1 on the season. “It’s a very determined group I’ve got. I’ve had a lot of good teams in the past, but I don’t think I’ve ever had as a hard working team as this group right here. They truly believe in each other.”

Cambio steps up: One thing that sets the Raiders apart from other teams in Eastern Mass. is the fact that they can roll out a handful of players and not miss a beat.

The latest player to step up was the 6-foot-5-inch, sophomore Nick Cambio. Cambio scored six points and finished with six rebounds (five in the second half and four of those on the offensive glass). It wasn’t all about the stats for Cambio, as he helped spark a 7-0 run to help the Raiders take a 40-30 lead in the third quarter.

Cambio fumbled a pass on the break, but hustled back on defense and blocked a Lancers’ lay-up attempt hard off the glass. He quickly got in on the play on the other end and dished off to Luis Puello for an easy bucket. Cambio also showed off his range with a corner 3-pointer, which was originally posted as two points, to cap off the run.

It’s becoming normal for Nault to see his young big man be a part of so many important victories this season.

“It seems like every big game he’s the difference,” said Nault. “Every time we beat a real, real strong team he’s the guy who kinds of shifts things for us. I thought he was the key.”

Offensive drought for Lancers: The Raiders switched to a press — something that Nault doesn’t usually deploy — in the second half for stretches and also took the Lancers top scorer in the first half, Franklin Martinez, out of his comfort zone in the first half.

Martinez, who scored two points after scoring a game-high nine in the first half, saw Puello and Lucas Hammel on him for most of the fourth quarter and the Lancers offense didn’t score a field goal for the first half of the period.

“We are going through stretches where we just aren’t getting any flow to the game,” said Lancers head coach Paul Neal, whose team is now 11-4. “They did a nice job of taking us out of the stuff we wanted to do. We are a team that has to play with rhythm, and we just couldn’t get it together.”

Recap: No. 17 Lawrence 54, Andover 38

January, 27, 2012
LAWRENCE, Mass. -- With just under six minutes to go and his team up by 8 points Friday against Andover, Lawrence’s Tre’von Farley stole the ball around the Andover three-point line and sent a long pass ahead to a sprinting Franklin Martinez.

Seeing no one in front of him, he already knew what he was going to do. He skied to the rim and threw down a one-handed drunk, bringing the home crowd to it’s feet. That put a charge into his team, which stretched its lead to double-digits in the remaining minutes, eventually leaving the gym with a 54-38 victory.

“Once I saw Tre’ get the ball, I ran,” said Martinez, who finished with 11 points, seven rebounds, and three steals. “I wanted it. It was there. I didn’t see anybody on me but I did see someone out of the corner of my eye, but then I was like, ‘Who cares?’ and threw it down.”

With the crowd behind it and a new-found energy, the Lancers (10-3) went into attack mode. On the very next Andover (8-5) possession, Yadoris Arias took the ball away from an Andover player and passed it ahead to Roberto Speing in transition. As he brought the ball into his offensive zone, he passed it to a cutting Farley, who got fouled going up for a layup.

Martinez even kicked up his aggressiveness. For a player perhaps more known for his jump shooting, he started taking the ball strong to the hoop, sometimes taking on as many as three Andover defenders to do it.

“I started taking it to the basket to be aggressive, because I knew that they are too slow, so I started attacking more,” he said. “I was getting hit, and wasn’t always getting calls (from the referees) but it’s okay because at the end of the day, we won.”

It was a productive game for the senior, who is making the most of his playing time this year after failing to see the floor much last season.

“You know what he does well? Not only is he a good shooter, but he gets to the hole and he finishes,” said Lawrence coach Paul Neal. “He has a nice little mid-range game so it’s really hard to cover him. He’s smart enough to know when he’s not hitting those shots, that he can find other ways to score.”

Complete game effort still needed: Although they ended up winning by 16, there’s a feeling within the Lawrence team that it hasn’t put a full game together yet. It puts quarters of good play together, but there hasn’t been a full 32 minutes of quality basketball played yet this season.

For example, Friday it held Andover to 13 points in the entire first half. That was with one player, Sam Dowden, scoring 10 of those 13. He finished with 16 points and 6 rebounds. Then late in the third, its lead was cut to 6 points, only to have it go back over double-digits in the fourth.

As the season rolls along, there are positive signs, but still a lot of team growth necessary, especially as the season begins to wind down.

“We always have one good half, but we haven’t put together a full game yet,” said Martinez. “From the first quarter to the fourth quarter, we haven’t done it yet. But in the fourth quarter, we always seem to come together and we seem to end up good. In the third quarter every team comes back so in the fourth quarter we just push and play more defense. Tonight in the third quarter we didn’t really play defense. It’s like we get the lead so we just slack off. In the fourth quarter, we always end up picking it up.”

Even sheet: One of the encouraging signs for Lawrence is there was no one standout scorer. Multiple players contributed to what Neal felt was a team effort. Farley lead the way with 13 points, but Martinez was right behind him with 11, while Arias had 10, and Argenis Reinoso had 6.

“It was a balanced night offensively,” said Neal. “When you have a balanced team, people can’t scout and prepare for you. Who are you going to prepare for? Who’s the big scorer? Who are you going to stop? If they all have around the same amount of points, you can’t. I like that better. I like when we score with balance and no one guy dominates. We certainly have the potential for some guys to take over on any night, but I think tonight if we did that, we might not have won the game.”

Fueled by loss: Rarely ever will a coach admit that a loss is a good thing, but in Lawrence’s case, it might have just been one. Coming into it’s Sunday matchup against Boston Cathedral, Lawrence was 8-2 and riding high in the Merrimack Valley Conference Large behind only Central Catholic. The Lancers lost 73-69 that day, showing the team that their record may not have been indicative of where they were as a team.

“A loss is never good, but I think it really shifted their mindset,” said Neal. “I think they were starting to believe that we were really good, and we’re not good. We’re a team that has to work hard to be good. For us to win, we need hard work, and I couldn’t get them to practice hard. Even going into the Lowell game (a 62-57 win on Jan. 20) we went in really frustrated.”

“The practice after that Cathedral game was terrific. We played defense. In the game after that we held Tewksbury to 24 points (in a 63-24 victory). I don’t care who you’re playing against, if you can hold them to 24 points, you must have played well defensively.”

Recap: No. 20 Lawrence 62, No. 23 Lowell 57

January, 20, 2012
LOWELL, Mass. -- After Lowell pulled within 3 points of Lawrence after a Corey Brown steal and layup, the Lancers were set to inbound the ball with under half a minute to go Friday.

Coming out of a timeout, Lowell coach Scott Boyle wanted his team to disguise their press as man-to-man when it really was more of a trap zone.

As the ball was inbounded to Yadoris Arias, two Lowell defenders converged on him, trapping him in the corner. He made what some would call a risky decision and sent a cross-court pass to a teammate. The pass was successful, and it was quickly pushed ahead to Tre’von Farley, who was fouled under the basket.

With the entire gym anxiously watching, knowing the outcome of the game could potentially hinge on his ability to hit one of the two free throws, Farley converted them both. Lawrence left the gym with a 62-57 victory in a crucial Merrimack Valley Conference tilt.

“I’ve been in the gym shooting free throws since our last game (a 69-67 loss against Central Catholic),” said Farley. “I was just thinking about the free throw. I was thinking, ‘Nothing’s gonna stop me from hitting these free throws,’ so I was really confident and just focused on hitting those free throws.”

Farley had 28 points and eight rebounds to lead the Lancers. He was 8-of-10 on free throws. His presence underneath was important for Lawrence (8-2) since his frontcourt mate, Roberto Speing, picked up his 4th foul early in the third quarter, forcing him to the bench.

“He played well, he was one of the only guys that played well offensively,” said Lawrence coach Paul Neal. “He was also big rebounding. He was a guy that just did a lot. He scored when we needed a big score and he got his hands on the ball.”

Lowell had no answer down low for the 6-foot-3 senior, who played with a tenacity and aggressiveness of someone bigger than his size.

“For me, I look to score and be aggressive, if not I look to pass,” Farley said. “Being aggressive tonight was successful, so every chance I got I went to the hoop and looked to score. It ended up being a good game.”

Jonathan Perez was the leading scorer for Lowell (8-3) with 23 points, including 8-of-10 from the free throw line, and 5 rebounds.

“We didn’t play well, but I think it’s also a good sign for a team,” said Neal. “It’s a road game against a very scrappy team, so to be able to get a league win, you’ve got to feel good about it.”

Going Green: Earlier in the season, Neal referenced his team’s lack of game experience as a potential pitfall for his team as the season wore on. While there are eight seniors on the team, some of them are players that did not see the floor much last season, if at all.

Although they hung on for the victory, their youthful aggression was evident early in the contest. In the first quarter, his team was called for at least four charging fouls as they were driving to the basket. It became a point of emphasis for Lowell, believing it could get an offensive foul called on most Lawrence offensive possessions if players were in position.

For every mental lapse and youthful mistake his team can make at times, Neal still likes the direction his team is headed as the focus starts to shift towards the postseason.

“I like where the team is at because I think we can improve,” he said. “Even in this game, I don’t see anything that I can look at and say we did that well. We found a way to win, which is good, but as far as execution, even defensively, we had a lot of mistakes. This team has a lot of potential to get better, so hopefully we can get it out of them.”

Streak snapped: The win snapped a five-game winning streak for Lowell and put Lawrence in second place in the MVC Large, behind cross-town rival Central Catholic. The Lancers’ only two losses on the season have come at the hands of Central. There will be another meeting on February 7. That is not lost on Lawrence, who came into the game stinging from the 2-point loss from last weekend.

“I don’t think this was a statement win,” said Farley. “I think we just came in and did what we had to do. There’s bigger teams than them. We know they’re a good team, but we’re still looking to make our statement.”

When asked if he was referencing a particular team, he simply replied, “Central Catholic.”