Tuesday night, the Haverhill High boys basketball bus will travel 27.2 miles to Westford Academy for the team’s first state tourney appearance since 2005.
Let’s just say Anthony Dionne’s trip has been well, just a bit longer and a lot more complicated.
Dionne, the junior captain and recently-name Merrimack Valley Conference Division 2 MVP, leads the 14th-seeded Hillies into their matchup at No. 3 Westford with a 7 p.m. start.
It’s a moment head coach Mike Trovato probably wouldn’t have attempted to fathom a couple years ago when he first met Dionne, through the student-athlete’s probation officer.
“I made some mistakes, some bad choices when I got to high school,” said Dionne. “School really didn’t matter to me at all. I didn’t care and I landed at St. James.”
“St. James” is the city’s alternative school where the troubled students go to try to put their lives together.
Dionne bought in, with Trovato playing a key role in the recovery.
“When I first met him, he seemed like an all right kid, and I had no idea if he was much of a player,” said Trovato. “But he liked the game, and I wanted to give him a chance.”
Dionne had issues at home and away from home. For a while, the only constant was his grandmother,.
Dionne wasted his freshman year. So much that he should be a senior this year.
“I just wasn’t focused,” he said. “But that changed very quick.”
The arrival at the alternative school was a bit shocking.
“It’s an experience I won’t forget,” he said. “But being there changed my perspective.”
Looking at a bleak future, Dionne’s only recourse was to listen and learn.
“I had to maintain my attendance and my grades,” he said. “My behavior was monitored, and there was no trouble.”