Getting off the bus and stepping into a hostile gym has to be the toughest part.
When the 0 never leaves the win column and the losses pile up, you don’t have much of an arsenal to fire back at your foes.
Three different Owls coaches in three years, and all the tumult and confusion that accompany that situation have made life on the hardwood close to impossible.
Never once has Timberlane senior Pat Mahoney buckled or even slowed down.
He just keeps fighting.
“It’s definitely been a challenge,” said Mahoney, who leads the Owls at 8.8 points a game this winter. “You have to keep trying and working your hardest every day. It’s not easy, but my teammates are counting on me. We have to give it our best, for now and for the kids who aren’t graduating and their future.”
Timberlane basketball finds itself in the heart of an hellacious boys hoop losing streak of 62 straight divisional games, dating back to Jan. 29, 2010. There have been a pair of Christmas tourney wins in 2010 and 2011 to Traip Academy of Maine, but that’s it.
“We can’t really think about the past,” said Mahoney. “We can’t change what has happened the last three years. All we can do is try to make the future here better.”
His third coach in as many seasons, Jeff Baumann says that Mahoney has played the exact leadership role he expect of the senior, even if it doesn’t show in the win total.
“His attitude and work ethic have been all positive despite the struggles,” said Baumann. “I can certainly vouch for him character wise as I was fortunate enough to coach him at the JV level his sophomore year in both basketball and baseball and now again with the varsity this year.
“Pat’s had some big nights for us in some games offensively this year, and I know he really would like most is to see the program in a better place and that’s been part of his focus this year. It’s certainly not easy for any of our guys, but I can definitely say Pat handles the adversity well.”
Mahoney never really expected this when he began playing basketball in the 8th grade. Both his junior high and freshmen teams had success for the Owls.
But none of that has translated to the varsity.
In Mahoney’s eyes, the positives surrounding boys hoop are starting to outweigh the negatives. He says the fan support has been spectacular, even in school where students can at times be a bit ruthless.
“Our fans have been great, very supportive,” said Mahoney. “They want us to get one win. I think even more we’d like to get one for them.”
With all the changes in such a short time, Mahoney thinks the fact that the Owls brought in Baumann made the transition this year a bit more palatable.
“I had never met (Paul Cardone or Dave Kirsch) before playing for them, but (Baumann) coached me as a sophomore in baseball, and I’ve had a good relationship with him since,” said the Owls’ tri-captain.
Despite the fact that Timberlane is running out of time and opportunities, Mahoney and the Owls don’t want to be counted out.
“I’d like to believe we can still get one,” said Mahoney, whose season will end after games with 4-10 Londonderry, 8-6 Bedford and 11-1 Trinity. We keep working together, day and day out. And it’s still fun, a great opportunity to hang out with some of my best friends.”
If not, there’s always baseball, where Mahoney and Timberlane went 14-6 and reached the Division 1 quarterfinals last year.
“Last year, was a good year,” he said. “And this one, I think we’re going to be even better.”
WRENN NO. 1 ON TWO FRONTS
The Merrimack Valley Conference Division 2 championship was pretty sweet, but one Haverhill High hoop senior still has his sights set on a title at another level ... valedictorian.
Sean Wrenn has been No. 1 in his Haverhill High class since the first set of rankings came out in his sophomore year. But that championship won’t come easily as Hillie distance runner Jackie Solimine is right behind at No. 2.
And as is the case on track, Solimine will pack a heck of a closing kick.
“I hope I can hold on,” said Wrenn, who has applied to a handful of national academic powers like Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth and MIT. “Finishing No. 1 would be very special to me.”
Wrenn has been a consummate role player, banging in the paint for coach Mike Trovato, averaging 2.1 points and four rebounds a game.
“He’s a big body, but more importantly, he’s been a great team kid for us,” said Trovato. “Anything you ask, he’s there for you. And nobody’s working harder.”
The Hillies have had a couple of days to enjoy their title, after gritting out the title and spoiling Chelmsford’s Senior Night on Tuesday.
“We are extremely proud, especially as seniors, helping to turn this thing around athletically at Haverhill,” said Wrenn. “The future in sports looks pretty good there. We had three MVC titles in the fall, and the football team went 8-3, one of the best seasons in a long, long time. It’s great to know as a class the part we have played in it.”
HAMMEL ON HAMMEL CRIME?
We’re tough in these parts, at least in our sports department, when it comes to Merrimack College and its recruitment of the local boys basketballers.
When Central legend Dan O’Shea wasn’t offered, we threatened a boycott of the Volpe (kidding), but you get my point.
But if Bert Hammel doesn’t land his son, Lucas Hammel, he might have some explaining to do.
The Central Catholic senior point guard has kept all options open, with some solid Division 3 programs on the chase.
“Honestly, I’d like to go somewhere I could play right away, and that wouldn’t happen at Merrimack,” said Lucas this week, before turning to North Andover’s Steve Boudreau, now an assistant at Keene State, and listening to his recruiting pitch.
Let it be known across route 114, Coach Hammel, the pressure is officially on.
ODDS AND ENDS
Remember, the Merrimack Valley Conference meetings are this morning, where the divisional MVPs, all-conference choice and all-stars will be voted on.
Good luck on the vote in the MVC large. Talk about a mixed field. ...
The heavy pressure is now on Lawrence to win a pair of games this week with Mansfield and Dighton-Rehoboth on the schedule. Lawrence has no rumor for error, needing the sweep, or it will miss the tourney for the first time since 2008. ...
You North Andover High fans, who looked at your newspaper yesterday and gasped when you didn’t see Derek Collins’ name in the box score, can stop with the panic. Collins, the senior guard and heart of the Knights, tweaked his hamstring and sat out the win over Methuen basically due as a precaution. “I’ll be back this week,” said Collins. “It’s fine. It just bothered my back a touch, so we thought it would be better to sit it out.” Collins and the Knights finish with Westford and Newburyport this week before the Division 2 North tourney commences. ...
Talk about a huge one at the Tarbox Gym. The 9-10 Greater Lawrence Tech Reggies host Lynn Tech at 10:30 a.m. A tourney berth is indeed on the line for Greater Lawrence, now 9-10.