By Hector Longo
---- — LYNN — Haverhill High learned mighty quick a lesson that St. John’s Prep absorbed in the IAABO Board 130 Classic final only days ago.
A basketball exposed to air or hardwood simply isn’t safe with Lynn English around.
The No. 5 Bulldogs swarmed all over the upset-minded Haverhill, ripping off a quick 16-0 run and hardly looking back in a 75-46 victory.
English now will face Everett in one of the two Division 1 semifinals, while the Merrimack Valley Conference Division 2 champion Hillies finish off with no regrets in coach Mike Trovato’s best season yet at 12-10.
“We knew we needed a good start, and we just didn’t have it tonight,” said Trovato. “They’re extremely quick to the basketball. We knew that, but you just can’t simulate that pressure experience in a day or two of practice.”
Haverhill, like the hosts, enjoys playing the game fast and a little bit loose.
“Nobody plays the game that fast,” admired Trovato, of Lynn Tech’s full-court swarm which made every Hillie decision a nail-biting thriller. “I mean, we got behind early, and there’s just no coming back against a team like that.”
Erick Rosario paced 17-5 English with 21 points, while Fred Hogan added a dozen and Stevie Collins 11. On the night, Anthony Dionne paced the Hillies with 13 points and the frosh, Saul Phiri, had 9.
Bye-bye to Big Four: As a class, they were the consummate role players, fitting in as leaders around a budding young nucleus of talent.
“It’s so fitting these guys go out as (conference) champions,” said Trovato of the senior quartet of Tommy Morgan, Sean Wrenn, Nick Comei and Shain Roche. “These four poured their hearts into this program. Nobody cared about winning and returning respect here to Haverhill like these guys. They should always be thought of as champions here.”
Some good news: The scrappy Comei missed the game on crutches, nursing a sprained ankle and a broken bone in his foot.
The injury might hold back the start of the baseball season for the all-league shortstop/pitcher, but Comei should be rehabbed completely by the heart of the Merrimack Valley Conference schedule.
“I’ll be back, and we’ll be ready to go,” said Comei. “It’s going to be a big year for us in baseball, too.”
Good news lies ahead: It can be so tough to judge a program’s future, but judging by the way Saul Phiri and Anthony Dionne, the Hillies’ top two scorers, picked things up down the stretch, you’d have to think the Hillies might be poised again for another title run in the MVC small, maybe even more.
Remember, Trovato returns sharpshooter Matt Jameson (10.0 ppg), bruiser on the block Michael Attah, another big board man in Sean Burns and lightning quick backcourter Piero Garcia.
“We have good groups coming up too,” said Trovato. “We’re going in a very good direction right now.”
His high school career came to an official end, probably one game shorter than he would have liked yesterday, as Haverhill’s Noah Vonleh and his New Hampton Prep team bowed out to St. Thomas More in the New England Prep semifinals, down the road in Beverly.
The Indiana-bound Vonleh hit 7 of 9 from the field and 3 of 4 from the line, totalling 19 points on the night with seven assists and nine rebounds in his New Hampton finale.
Next up for Vonleh will be some rest and some time at home before he heads out for the April 3 McDonald’s All-American Game in Chicago.
And after graduation from New Hampton, Vonleh will head right out to Bloomington for summer session to begin his collegiate academic career.
agateHed:Lynn English 76, Haverhill 47
agateText:Division 1 North Quarterfinals
agateText:Haverhill (47):@zzAgate:agateText: Garcia 2-0-4, Jameson 2-0-5, Burns 2-1-5, Roche 2-0-4, Wrenn 1-0-2, Attah 1-0-2, Dionne 6-1-13, Phiri 2-4-8, Annaloro 2-0-4. Totals 20-6-47
agateText:Lynn English (19-5):@zzAgate:agateText: 18 19 24 15 — 76
agateText:Haverhill (12-10):@zzAgate:agateText: 7 14 9 17 — 47