By Tim Lima
---- — NEWBURYPORT – It was one of those rare games in which a team dominates the lead but not the play. The Clippers boys basketball team won their season-opener 54-44 against North Reading in a very close game.
It had the feel that whoever had the ball at the end of the game would win. Offensively, both teams struggled. Ball control was sloppy at times with turnovers and missed shots keeping vital points off the scoreboard. In such a young season, nerves undoubtedly played a factor.
This allowed Newburyport senior Dillon Guthro to exhibit his interior presence both offensively, making the difficult layups and getting to the free-throw line, and defensively blocking shots and gathering rebounds. Guthro would finish with 14 points in the contest.
“(Guthro’s) a fantastic kid,” said Newburyport head coach Tom L’Italien. “People see how tough he plays, but he’s got tremendous character. He has great work ethic. He’s just a terrific young man who works hard and he’s very important to us. He stepped up tonight when we needed him.”
One of those critical times Guthro came up large for the Clippers came when North Reading went on a 6-0 run to tie the score with just three minutes remaining in the game. As North Reading forward John Fitzgerald tried to deliver an easy layup and his team their first lead since early in the second quarter, Guthro left his feet and delivered a block against the backboard that sent the crowd, and the Clippers team buzzing.
“One thing can change the tempo,” Guthro said. “I don’t know if that block was it, but it’s just about how we kept going and had one thing lead to the next.”
From there, Newburyport didn’t look back, scoring 12 of the game’s final 14 points and earning their first win of this year’s campaign.
“Our style is just to keep pushing,” Guthro said. “We controlled the ball. Everybody was getting good looks, and the entire team really came together.”
Along with Guthro, the play of sophomore Dan Baribeault was critical in his team’s success. Baribeault was able to find his offensive game when it mattered most, leading his team to a victory in the game’s final minutes.
“Last year I played with great leaders as a freshman who taught me how to lead,” Baribeault said. “I just took what I know and try to teach the other players on the team and teach them what I know.”
Overall, the Clippers showed their ability to win defensively when the offense just wasn’t there. When monster performances from interior players combine with leadership from young scorers, you’re likely going to find a very happy head coach.
“We have some battle-tested kids and some kids who have been around some really good basketball in the past couple of years,” L’Italien said. “We stepped up and made some plays when we had to. Overall I am very pleased. You are always nervous in your first game, but we are going to go back to our same philosophy that we have had since day one: go back to practice and work to get better.”