A team that comes into your gym sporting a 14-1 record most likely has earned that lofty status.
The boys basketball team was well aware of the numbers visiting North Andover has attained, and how they did it.
But despite hanging with the Cape Ann League Div. 1 leaders for a little more than half of the game, the Scarlet Knights used their size and team mentality to wear down the Generals in a 71-58 victory for the visitors on Tuesday night.
“They’re a smart basketball team and when they play as a team with lots of ball movement it opens up (passing) lanes for them,” said senior guard Stephen Tam, who finished with 15 points. “I think we came out flat in the second half. It was tough to hang with them (for the entire game).”
The Generals (10-5) were able to find positives in the defeat. Senior center Ryan Beckett chipped in with 9 points off the bench for Shane Jenkins, who picked up his third foul early in the second half. And Jake Lindland, who has been out for most of the season with a broken kneecap, is starting to round out into form. He finished with a team-high 16 points, including a stretch of three consecutive 3-pointers midway through the third quarter to tie the game at 44. He also grabbed five rebounds.
But with Jenkins sitting on the bench for much of the second half, North Andover was able to get to the basket too often for easy buckets. Twenty-seven of its 41 second-half points came in the paint, many of the points on uncontested layups on fast breaks, picks opening a wide open lane to the basket, and offensive rebounds.
“(North Andover coach) Mike (McVeigh) is a smart coach. He pounded it inside after Shane got into foul trouble,” said Hamilton-Wenham coach Doug Hoak. “He took advantage like a good coach should.”
The Scarlet Knights regained the lead and had a five-point advantage, 51-46, heading into the fourth quarter. The lead was stretched to nine points over the next four minutes. That would be the closest the Generals would get.
“We knew coming in that Hamilton-Wenham was getting better,” said McVeigh. “We knew we had to play well. I think we played better in the second half than we did in the first. We changed (our defense) a little in the second half with a little pressure. I think that helped.”
North Andover had a seven-point lead twice in the first half, but each time Hamilton-Wenham clawed back. An 8-2 run at the end of the first half (three-pointers by senior Jenkins and Lindland keyed the run) brought the Generals to within one point, 31-30, at the break.
Freshmen James Foye had a team-high five assists. Tam recorded three.
North Andover had four players finish in double figures – Zach Karailis (14), Jim Warden (13), Isiah Nelson (11) and Mike Maroney (11).
Hamilton-Wenham is currently tied with Newburyport atop the Cape Ann League Div. 3 standings. Hoak feels his team needs to win its final three league games to guarantee , even though Newburyport, which fell to Hamilton-Wenham earlier this year, still needs to play North Andover.
Since the Generals have already qualified for the tournament, a league title would knock off two of his team’s three pre-season goals.
“We want to win out to assure first place,” he said. “At the beginning of the year goal number 1 is to qualify for the tournament, goal number 2 is to win the league and goal number 3 is to go as far in the tournament as possible.”
Hamilton-Wenham , then finishes the season with home contests and .
“I’ve been pleased with our season so far,” Hoak added. “We’ve dealt with some injures – Jake missing a lot of time with his knee injury, Luke Drieze had knee surgery, and Shane, who has battled some injuries. But we’ve done a nice job overall.”