METHUEN — The Haverhill boys were obviously just waiting for a new year to turn around their season.
The Hillies continued the transformation last night, winning their fifth game in six outings with a convincing 80-66 victory over Methuen.
The win kept Haverhill atop the Merrimack Valley Conference Small standings at 4-4 — a position that looked unattainable at the end of December.
After averaging fewer than 44 points while losing each of its first five games, Haverhill has upped its production considerably while winning five of its past six. Despite outings of 34 and 48 points, the new-look Hillies have scored at a 67.2 points-per-game pace, compiling 78 or more four times.
“We’re just trying to get up and down the floor,” Haverhill coach Mike Trovato said.
“We have a lot of athletes on this team and we can play a lot of kids, so we’re trying to get up and down and make things easy on offense.”
They certainly lived up to the frenetic Paul Westhead kind of pace last night, as the teams combined for 86 possessions, an average of almost three per minute. They had 47 in the first half, during which Haverhill opened a 21-point lead.
“We’ve kind of wanted to do that since the beginning of the year,” said Trovato, whose squad features eight players who played football.
“But it’s tough when you don’t get (defensive) stops. I think a lot of guys are getting into their basketball shape. On offense, we’re starting to make basketball plays.”
Against Methuen (2-7 overall, 1-7 conference), the Hillies also showed off their depth as nine different players saw action during the first 4:27 of the game.
Before it was over, 10 players scored at least two points, including Piero Garcia, who had 11 despite being the fifth player off the bench.
Freshman Saul Phiri, who scored eight in the opening quarter, finished with a team-high 14 points while Anthony Dionne added 13 and Jordan Javier and Matt Jameson had 11 each.