TOWNSEND — One of the steps a young team must take to become successful is to learn how to win against an experienced group. That was the task at hand for the North Middlesex boys basketball team as they looked to move above the .500 mark on the season. Behind a balanced, team attack, the Patriots held on down the stretch to defeat Lunenburg, 75-70 in a frenzied, playoff-like atmosphere.
North Middlesex, which has only one senior on the 2009-10 roster was forced to go toe-to-toe with a veteran Blue Knight squad, which complements plenty of offensive firepower with veteran experience and leadership. The Patriots’ ability to do the things necessary to come out on top bodes well for the future of the program.
“All during the pre-season I stressed to this team that in order for us to win we are going to have to do the little things, and I felt we did those tonight,” said North Middlesex coach Erik Dellasanta. “Everyone contributed to this win and did their part. This was a great win in a great atmosphere and hopefully we can build off this and carry it into the league schedule.”
The first half consisted of a series of runs, with both teams building leads only to see the other climb right back.
After falling behind 7-2, the Patriots put together an 8-2 run to take their first lead of the night. Scott Cavanaugh was the catalyst, knocking down a three-pointer and adding a traditional three-point play that made it 10-9.
Over the next five minutes, the lead traded hands six times, the final coming on a Drew Dion 17-foot jumper off a Cavanaugh feed that made it 17-16. On the following possession, Dion knocked down a trey off another Cavanaugh look to put the lead out to four.
The Blue Knights came back with seven of the next nine points to regain the advantage. Dominic Marabello got things started with a three-pointer while David Guillette added a pair of lay-ups, the last one making it 23-22.
With the score 29-26, North Middlesex received a pair of great individual efforts to take their largest lead of the half. Dion started things with a great driving lay-up that led to a three-point play. Brian Magee followed with an offensive rebound and putback and he was fouled on the play. When the sophomore guard knocked down the free throw, the lead was nine at 35-26, en route to a 38-33 Patriots’ lead at intermission.
The Patriots appeared on the verge of taking control of the game midway through the third period. With the score 46-40, North Middlesex got back-to-back treys from Cavanaugh to extend the lead to 12 at 52-40, but Lunenburg responded in strong fashion.
A 15-3 run by the Blue Knights tied the game up with just over six minutes to play. Guillette was the key, knocking down a long three-pointer before adding consecutive lay-ups, the second tying the game at 55-55. Cavanaugh’s fifth three-pointer of the night gave the Patriots a 60-57 lead, but Marabello responded with a long distance trey of his own that knotted the game at 60-60.
That was the last time the game would be tied. Leading 65-64, North Middlesex got a Cavanaugh lay-up off a great assist by Dion, two freebies by Dion and another free throw to make it a six-point game at 70-64.
Lunenburg did not go away as Mike Xarras hit a pull-up trey with nine seconds left to make it 72-70, but it wouldn’t be enough. A key offensive rebound by Matt Foley led to a pair of second chance free throws by Kevin Marciano that iced the game as the Patriots improved to 2-1 on the season.
“I thought we did a great job of executing our game plan and I really thought we played good defense, but they hit some great shots,” said Dellasanta. “We got some big rebounds late from Matt Foley. I thought Drew Dion had a great all-around game. Scott Cavanaugh shot lights out, I mean it was a great team effort and that is what we need to have success.”
Cavanaugh paced North Middlesex with 21 points. Dion finished with 20 points, 11 rebounds and four assists. Magee added 10 points, while Marciano (nine points, four boards, three assists, six steals) and Foley (eight points, eight rebounds, three assists) each had solid games.
Guillette played a sensational game for the Blue Knights, finishing with 26 points and showing the ability to score in a variety of ways. Xarras also turned in a strong all-around effort, including a strong floor game from his point guard position.