EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 22, 2014

Lawrence holds off Hillies

Neal leads all scorers with 18 in win

By Hector Longo

---- — LAWRENCE — Desperation is a good thing for the Lawrence High basketball team. Junior Dantae Neal just wishes he and his mates would channel it more consistently.

“When we attack and play, we can be a very good basketball team,” said Neal, after he and the Lancers turned it on just enough in a 59-49 win over Haverhill. “The problem is we just get too comfortable and we ease off.”

The Lancers were up to their old tricks last night, easing off and allowing the Hillies to creep back into it, time and time again.

But each time, Lawrence had an answer, be it the dynamic Neal, who led all scorers with 18 points, sharpshooter Kevin “Weezie” Fabian (16 points) or even the 6-foot-9 man/mountain Franziel Reyes (7 points, 16 rebounds, 11 blocks).

“Look, we were below .500 (4-5) coming in, so every game matters now,” said Neal.

“We can’t take any game lightly. We need to win 10 games. Not making the tournament is not an option.”

The Hillies, who fell to 1-9 overall and 1-4 in the conference, wouldn’t go away.

Down eight in the fourth with the ball, the Hillies were stymied by Neal, who grabbed a steal and layin to bump the lead back to 54-44.

Haverhill junior Gage Alicea (14 points) answered with a pullup jumper of his own but there was Neal again, taking matters into his own hands with a soft no-look feed to Reyes in the paint for an easy deuce, ending any comeback chances.

“I’m proud of the way our guys are fighting right now,” said Haverhill coach Mike Trovato.

“We’re playing at a hard and fast pace. It’s the way we like things. We just have to find a way to make a few more shots and protect the basketball.”

Sparkplug Piero Garcia matched Alicea’s 14, but the Hillies struggled to find a consistent third option all night.

Lawrence, meanwhile, got some energy from a couple of unexpected spots.

After not playing in the first half, Anthony Henriquez came off the pine to score 8 points and grabs 7 rebounds. Carlos Acevedo (6 points, 5 boards) added some impressive work in the paint as well.

Friday night, Lawrence hosts large division-leading Central Catholic.

The Hillies host Dracut on Friday.

Lawrence 59, Haverhill 49

Haverhill (59): Piero Garcia 6 0-0 14, Matt Jameson 1 0-0 2, Matt Burns 3 0-0 6, Matt Fenderson 1 0-0 3, Mike Attah 0 5-7 5, Stephane Bristol 1 0-0 2, Jack Pettis 0 1-2 1, Damien Gaetano 1 0-0 2, Gage Alicea 6 0-0 14, Totals 19 6-9 49

Lawrence (49): Luis Torres 1 0-0 2, Kevin Fabian 6 2-3 16, Bryan Morales 1 0-0 2, Dantae Neal 7 4-4 18, Carlos Acevedo 3 0-1 6, Julio Vicente 0 0-1 0, Franziel Reyes 3 1-3 7, Andy Henriquez 4 0-0 8, Totals 25 7-12 59

3-pointers: H — Garcia 2, Fenderson, Alicea 2; L — Fabian 2

Haverhill (1-9):  5 20 13 11 — 49

Lawrence (5-5): 12 18 19 10 — 59