, Newburyport, MA

February 15, 2013

Close, but no tournament

Triton shows heart in loss that seals postseason fate

By Jim Sullivan

---- — Goliath might have a few grey hairs after last night.

David met Goliath in Byfield, and unfortunately for the Triton boys basketball team, Goliath won, as undefeated North Reading (19-0) ended the Vikes’ chances of making the state tournament this year, handing the Vikes a heart-breaking 46-44 loss.

“We didn’t reach our goal,” said Vikings coach Dave Clay. “We didn’t do what we wanted to do. But I’m really proud of those guys. They gave it their all and I really couldn’t ask for anything more. They really set the tone for what the program is going to be.”

Triton (8-11) has improved mightily this season, crawling out from under last year’s 5-15 record. The Vikes have shown they can win when they need to, pulling off upsets against Hamilton-Wenham and Masconomet. They almost did the same against the Hornets last night.

Triton came out with the heat of a team with its back to the wall, playing right into the Hornets’ cool. North Reading’s Dan Fitzgerald had four points in the first three minutes, but Triton co-captain Sam McKenzie didn’t want to hear it, sinking four himself on a pair of steals and marshaling his team to an 8-8 tie to end the first period.

McKenzie’s co-captain, Paul Dacy, started the second period with a 3-pointer before the Hornets’ John Mastascusa did the same. The Vikes broke out some nice defense next before Dacy nailed another three and McKenzie grabbed one from the line. Evan Wade nailed a long shot for the Hornets next before Dacy had two from the line himself. McKenzie nailed a 3-pointer to give the Vikes a six-point lead, and did it again for a nine-point advantage as the Hornets’ cool began to look chilly. The Vikes then sailed into the half with a 28-19 lead.

Triton came out strong at the top of the second half, thanks to three from Dacy. But North Reading began inching back into things, shaving the Vikes’ lead to six, then three behind a suddenly much stronger defense. Dacy regained three points with one shot next before Hornet Chris Capozzoli grabbed a pair from the line. Wade shrank the Vikes’ lead to three again before Mike O’Brien shaved it to one to end the period at 36-35, Vikes.

Suddenly, Triton was a team with its back against the wall again as the Hornets were buzzing. Zak Alaoui gave the Vikes a little breathing room with two free throws before O’Brien tied it up. Ellsworth Rogers grabbed a bucket for the Vikes next before Fitzgerald hit one from the line followed by a bucket from Tom Hogan to give the Hornets their first lead of the second half.

With two minutes remaining to their tourney dreams, the Vikings jumped up one thanks to Connor Barry. But Hogan nailed a three with 41 seconds to go, and O’Brien finished the job with two from the line for the Hornets to remain undefeated .

“They really played their hearts out,” Clay said of his players. “I can’t give them enough credit. They really fought against a very good team.”

Two of Clay’s co-captains, Dacy and McKenzie, took a quick moment after the game to reflect on their final season.

“We gave it our all and that’s all that matters,” said Dacy. “We really didn’t do what we wanted to do this season, but you can’t say that we didn’t really try.”

“I put in all the work that I possibly could,” said McKenzie. “My team really put their hearts on the line the last three or four games. They worked as hard as they could. It’s (too bad) that we couldn’t come out with a win tonight. But it was a good season.”