NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

January 9, 2013

Strength in numbers

Amesbury boys basketball team has balanced scoring attack

By Dan Guttenplan
Sports Editor

---- — For 10 years, the Amesbury boys basketball team has been missing the one superstar player who can turn the program’s fortunes.

This year, the program’s fortunes have turned, but not because of one player. The Indians (5-2 overall, 4-1 CAL) appear primed to snap a 10-year streak of losing seasons thanks to a balanced scoring attack.

Through seven games, six different Amesbury players have led the team in scoring. From the start of the 2005-2006 season through last winter, the Indians posted a cumulative record of 26-126. The one common theme for the Indians throughout that stretch was a lack of offensive production. In most of the Amesbury losses, the team failed to eclipse 50 points.

This season, the Indians are averaging 54.6 points — and 59.8 points in their five wins. They have scored 60 points in three of their last four games.

Seniors Devlin Gobeil, Curran O’Connor, Tommy Connors, Kyle Arseneau, along with juniors Pat Halloran and Jack Fortin have each taken a turn as the team’s leading scorer through the first seven games. Gobeil and O’Connor do most of their damage on the boards and in the post, whereas the other four players typically score from the perimeter.

“Two years ago, we had Stephan Deas, and last year we had Matt Talbot,” Gobeil said. “So we relied on them to do the scoring. This year, a lot of guys can put the ball in the hoop. We share the ball more than in years past.”

Amesbury coach Thom Connors said this year’s team has been unselfish almost to a fault. While his film study has proved that solid ball movement often translates to open shots, he has found instances when an extra pass wasn’t necessarily needed.

“There are times when we make one pass too many,” Connors said. “It’s a good problem. We don’t have the old term, ‘a ball hog.’ One of the things we’re working on is if a guy has a good shot, he doesn’t need to pass it up. Shoot the ball. Now that we have a balanced scoring team, the other team can’t lay off somebody.”

On any given night, the Indians can have as many as five or six players in double-figures. However, no Amesbury player has broken out for a huge scoring night; Tommy Connors has the highest point total of the season with 16 points in the opener. Many other CAL teams rely on one player to score at least 20 points every night.

“If six guys score 10 points on a given night, that’s 60 points,” said coach Connors. “For the most part in this league, if you average 60 points, you’ll win the majority of the games. That’s the way it’s unraveled for us. The key is spreading out the scoring.”

Eight of the 11 players on this year’s team also played football under Connors in the fall. That team won a Cape Ann League Division 3 title before falling to Lynnfield in the playoffs. Many of the same players will look to lift the Amesbury basketball team to its first tournament appearance in more than 10 years. The Indians must win five of their final 13 games to clinch a berth.

“Anyone on our team can provide enough points to help us get a victory,” O’Connor said. “Even the guys on the bench are capable of scoring in double-figures. If someone’s hot on a particular night, we keep going to them. We try to see the other team’s weakness, and we have someone who can take advantage.”