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Pioneers basketball team subdued by Watertown again

Eliminated in the North quarterfinals by same team that knocked them out in the North semis last year

By Joe Mitchell 

The postseason had a fine beginning for the Lynnfield High School boys’ basketball team (18-4, second seed). They easily took care of Swampscott (3-18, 15th seed) in a Division 3 North first round game, 84-60, and as an added feature senior captain Billy Arseneault became the first Lynnfield player in 10 years to eclipse 1,000 career points. The dynamic guard was able to accomplish the milestone in just three varsity seasons.

But then Lynnfield’s nemesis, Watertown (17-6, seventh seed), returned after eliminating the football team in the playoffs this past fall. This time it was the Raiders’ basketball team that sent the fans home shaking their heads after witnessing the upset, 62-44, in a North quarterfinal-round game last Saturday night, March 3. The Lynnfield fans remembered a similar scenario last year in a North semifinal game, when the rivalry was just starting to heat up.

Watertown then defeated Pentucket (16-7, sixth seed) in the North semifinals, and awaited the winner of the St. Mary’s of Lynn game against Bedford on March 8 (after press deadline) while preparing for the North title game at Lowell’s Tsongas Center on Saturday night.

The Raiders were able to limit Arseneault, Lynnfield’s top gun once again, to just 19 points. Jason Ndansi chipped in with nine. Watertown’s physical presence once again disrupted Lynnfield’s trademark of speed and quickness. The local offense simply had trouble moving the ball, something that hasn’t happened to them very often in the last four years. Sometimes you just have to blame it on match-ups for a perennially top team’s undoing.

But at least the tournament opener against Swampscott gave the home fans a chance to savor a victory while celebrating the accomplishments of Arseneault, the two-time Cape Ann League Kinney Division Player of the Year. Senior captain Zach Shone paced the attack with 22 points. Matt Mortellite netted 18, while Arseneault ended up with 15.

As the game wore on, Lynnfield coach Scott MacKenzie was able to get some of his younger players into the game, while the starters had a chance to rest. The youngsters took advantage of their playing time in a state tournament atmosphere. There were sophomore Clay Marengi’s slam-dunk and junior Jack Cleary’s three with help from freshman Jack Ford, who picked up an assist on the play. Their time will come next year, as this year’s seniors pass the torch off to them. It won’t be easy to follow in their shadows, but they gave the home fans a possible glimpse of more exciting basketball to come.

It’s difficult to end a season sooner than many thought it would end. A team wins 18 games and only loses four, but still comes up short in the postseason. Chalk it up to the vagaries of the state tournament, where the single elimination format often breeds heartbreaking finishes.

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