---- — WEST ANDOVER — Early-season basketball often isn’t pretty. The bottom line of winning, though, overrides the kind of artistry that will be much more prevalent in another month.
Yesterday, Whittier escaped with the kind of victory that puts up another mark in the win column but still leaves a coach with plenty to harp on.
The Wildcats overcame horrific shooting and a three-point third-quarter deficit by forcing 34 turnovers and ran away from Greater Lawrence 56-36.
“We still have to get together and play better as a team,” said senior Ryan Grant, who scored nine of his 15 points after intermission. “Our offense is going to come around eventually, but defensively I think we can be the best defensive team in the state. In a humble way.”
A lineup built around upperclassmen who have played big roles the past three years, has the Wildcats excited for a deep playoff run.
“This is the deal: I’ve got four senior starters that came in with me when I (took over the program),” Whittier coach Tom Sipsey said. “We’ve been through so much as a program and as a group, and I expect so much from them.
“I think we have talent, we have multi-sport athletes, and we have a great JV and freshman deal going. But we can’t waste any more time, because this is it (for the seniors). I try to tell them how special they can be. I want them to get what they deserve, and they deserve to have a lot of success.”
Success was difficult to come by early as Whittier shot a paltry 29.6 percent (21-71) from the floor. And Greater Lawrence (1-1) appeared ready to make the Wildcats pay early in the third period when a three-point play by Javier Franjul and a driving bucket from Frankelly Estrella provide the Reggies a 28-25 advantage.
But Justin Reyes (24 points including a vicious slam dunk) and Grant combined to score 11 of Whittier’s next 13 points to reestablish control. The Wildcats also forced turnovers on eight of Greater Lawrence’s first 11 fourth-quarter possessions to secure the victory.
“Whittier is picked to win the (Commonwealth) league,” Greater Lawrence coach Dan Habib said. “They have (some) really talented players and they have some role players that do the job.
“But I think our kids put up a challenge especially in the first half. The second half we weren’t getting any shots. We were turning the ball over so much. We didn’t handle the pressure very well. Our inexperience really showed.”
Whittier 56, Greater Lawrence 36
Whittier (56): Ryan Grant 6 3-4 15, Nate Frongillo 2 2-4 6, Andrew Wells 4 0-0 11, Justin Reyes 9 6-7 24, Jaylin Deveau 0 0-0 0, Scottie Curcio 0 0-0 0, Andres Hernandez 0 0-0 0. Totals 21 11-15 56.
Greater Lawrence (36): Bryan Centeno 2 0-0 4, Oscar Reynoso 3 0-0 7, Cristian Rivera 2 0-0 4, Frankelly Estrella 5 0-0 10, Javier Franjul 5 1-3 11, Anthony Fabian 0 0-0 0, Maikel Guerrero 0 0-0 0, Stanley Martinez 0 0-0 0. Totals 17 1-3 36
3-pointers: W — Wells 3; GL — Reynoso
Whittier (2-0): 11 14 12 19 — 56
Greater Lawrence (1-1): 8 15 9 4 — 36