Just because the boys basketball team is accustomed to playing in the tournament, its first-round matchup
Tuesday night is not a forgone conclusion.
The Generals did capture the Cape Ann League Div. 2 title for the third straight season, but unlike the past two they do not enter the tourney
as the top seed, and thus are not afforded a first-round bye. And only two
players have any significant tournament experience.
Hamilton-Wenham coach Doug Hoak had mixed feelings about the possibly longer route to the Div. 3 North championship.
“It’s an advantage (to be the No. 1 seed) because you get to see your opponent,” he said, “but a disadvantage because we are on equal ground with our opponent.”
Hoak noted that in his career he has had three teams that earned the top seed but is only 1-2 .
Sixth-seeded Hamilton-Wenham hosts Shawsheen Regional Technical High School, seeded No. 11 and in the tourney for the first time since the 2007-08 season,
“Sometimes when you have a first-round bye you may not play for two weeks (after your last regular season game). And then it is hard to replicate game speed in practice,” Hoak said. “We scrimmage, but it is not the same as a tournament game, which is even faster (than the regular season).”
Despite finishing 12-6 and only senior guards Jake Lindland and Steve Tam seeing much time the past few playoffs, the Generals squad is quite deceiving. Lindland missed a good chunk of the season with a bum knee but is rounding into form, now close to 100 percent. And two freshmen – center/forward Jimmy Campbell and guard James Foye - are part of the rotation and play with more experience than first-year players.
The Generals also feature starting forward Shane Jenkins, who knows a thing or two about pressure. He was a captain on the football team that wnet all the way to the Div. 3A Super Bowl before losing to Bourne this past fall. Add in center Ryan Beckett, a hard-working player in the paint, and guard Ryan Willis, who Hoak says has the ability to light it up, and the Rams will have their hands full.
“We know we are playing a real good team,” said first-year Shawsheen coach Greg Bendel. “They are three-time defending league champions who move the ball well and shoot well. We’ll definitely have our hands full.
“We know they are tough with Lindland and Jenkins, and it is
well-documented what Steve Tam, the defending league MVP, can do.”
Shawsheen (10-10) features a balanced team. Senior captain Steve Reynolds, Zach Amidon and Jared Pinette have led the Rams in scoring many times this season, but fellow senior captains Bill Cower and Matt Costello can’t be overlooked.
Hoak said his squad needs to be aware of Shawsheen’s motion offense and patience with the ball.
“Shawsheen will try to control the tempo (of the game) but we want to play the tempo we want,” he said.
“Playing a team like Shawsheen could be a double-edged sword. They might be a program that is very excited to be playing in the tournament. A year ago, yeah, that would have worked to our advantage. Now we both have kids who are in the same boat (with little or no tournament experience).”