AYER - When a team controls the glass, it increase its chances to win dramatically. Ayer Shirley (1-0 Mid-Wach D, 3-4) did just that in its, 65-61, Mid-Wach D opening victory over neighboring Bromfield (0-1 Mid-Wach D, 1-4).
The Panthers held a 33-24 rebound advantage, due in part to the hard work of senior captains Ryan Richard (nine points, 12 rebounds) and Anthony Burwell (15 points, 14 rebounds).
Burwell picked up his first double-double of the season to help lead guide the Panthers past Bromfield Tuesday night at Ayer Shirley Regional High School.
Kyle Levensailor, however, was the Panthers' leading scorer with 19 points. Levensailor has fine-tuned his mid-range shot as the season has progressed.
The Panthers are riding a two-game winning streak coming off a victory over Innovation Academy on Monday. Head coach Justin Carlson is happy with the direction his team is heading in, seven games into the season.
"I thought the rebounds were a big part of the game," Carlson said. "We knew when we were able to limit them to one shot and score in transition that it would really help us out.
Their full-court trap got us a couple of times, but I thought it was a pretty balanced game. The win the other night and this one gets us to 3-4. It gives us a little bit of momentum to go into the season. Like I told the guys, playing these tight games is only going to make you better in the course of the season.
Bromfield cut the deficit to three points with under a minute remaining on two quick buckets by senior sixth-man and captain, Ryan O'Leary. O'Leary finished the night with 10 points, eight of which came in the final two minutes of the game.
"O'Leary came off the bench and gave us what we needed," First-year Bromfield head coach Ryan Kilian said. "We talk all the time about how we need kids to be ready to come off the bench and transition into the game. O'Leary has proven that he is going to earn his minutes."
Sophomore point guard Jake Frackiewicz was feeling it from the outside sinking six-of-eight from three-point range. Frackiewicz finished with a game-high 25 points for the Trojans in 32 minutes.
Bromfield closed the first half on an 8-3 run behind the steady play of Frackiewicz and O'Leary who netted clutch shots in the waning seconds. Kevin McCauley netted a jumper before the buzzer to cut the Panthers' lead to 28-24 at the intermission.
In the third quarter, Bromfield continued to peck away at the Ayer Shirley lead. Burwell, Levensailor and Christopher Patano (15 points) all scored in the sequence to muzzle the Bromfield run.
Frackiewicz hit a deep three late in the third from the right elbow to bring the Trojans within six, 47-41.
Back-to-back points from senior captain Ryan Kennedy (13 points, eight rebounds) and Ryan Bollman snipped Ayer Shirley's lead to two, 47-45.
Levensailor netted a three-pointer 40 seconds later to push the Panthers' back out to five, 50-45. Bromfield would not back down - O'Leary and Kennedy helped to cut the Panthers' lead, 62-61.
The Trojans were forced to foul, and Patano netted both free throws to move the spread to three, 64-61. Senior Joey Holmes netted one more free throw with four seconds left to ice the game.
"We have a bunch of young guys," Kilian said. "It's been fun - we're getting better. I was really proud of them not giving up at the end. I am really excited about them (Ayer Shirley) coming back to our place next time."
Ayer Shirley and Bromfield will meet again on Jan. 31 at 7 p.m., in Harvard.