BILLERICA — With a roster full of young players new to the varsity level as well as a new coach, the goal of the Shawsheen Tech Basketball team this season is to improve as the season goes on. The Rams will likely indeed do just that, but it’s also worth noting that while improvement is on the horizon, the present is pretty good as well, as the Rams are off to a 4-2 start to the season, including picking up one of the biggest wins in recent program history this past week.
That win came last Friday night when the Rams pulled out a thrilling 62-59 win over arch rival Greater Lowell at the Cook Street Pavilion. Not only was the win big in that it put the Rams over .500 for the first time on the season, making them 3-2 at the time, it was also the Rams first win over the Gryphons since 2012, dating back 13 meetings overall.
“It meant a lot to the kids to get a win over them,” Shawsheen coach Joe Gore said. “It has been one of those things that has just been out there and it was really a goal for us to beat them this season. Even after all of last year’s success, we still hadn’t beaten them, and we knew that if we wanted any chance at the league title, we would have to beat them.”
It was a battle throughout for the Rams to come away with the victory, as they led 31-28 at the half and trailed 44-43 at the end of three quarters.
“I don’t think either team led by more than seven points the entire game,” Gore said. “Fortunately, we were able to prevail at the end.”
And it was a nail biter right to the finish. The Rams led by five points with 1:30 left in the game when Greater Lowell came up with a steal and a three pointer to close the game to two points. The Rams still led by two points at 61-59 with about 30 seconds left when the Gryphons coach was hit with a technical foul, putting the Rams at the line for two free throws, of which they made one, to make if it 62-59. The Rams maintained possession, but missed a pair of free throws, giving the Gryphons on last chance, but their three point attempt fell short and the Rams held on for the win.
The Rams were led by outstanding performances from Jeremy Perez of Tewksbury, who had 11 points and 12 assists, along with Santino Garafalo of Tewksbury, who had 12 points and 11 rebounds.
“Jeremy has been outstanding for us,” Gore said of Perez. “He has taken total control of our offense and has put himself in a position where he is very difficult to take out of the game. He makes every player around him better when he is out there and that is what is special about him.”
Gore was equally impressed with Garafalo’s play, and he is looking for more of the same the rest of the way from the big forward.
“That was Santino’s best game of the season so far,” Gore said. “The effort and consistency he played with is what we are hoping to see from him all year long. He is really starting to do what we have been coaching him to do. He has looked a lot better with his footwork and he is making smart decisions around the basket.”
James Genetti led all scorers for the Rams, pouring in 15 points to go along with ten rebounds.
“James has really been our MVP so far because of his versatility,” Gore said. “He is 6’2 or 6’3 and we usually put him on the other team’s best guard. He can cover anyone from a point guard through a center. He is also one of the fastest kids on the court and he uses that to his advantage on defense.”
The Rams continued their winning ways on Tuesday night with an impressive 56-47 road win over CAC rival Essex Tech to improve to 4-2 on the season (3-1 CAC). Senior Jalen Massengill led the way with 15 points and fellow junior Jake Tyler contributed with 14 points.
The Rams will be back in action in Friday night when they host CAC rival Whittier Tech for a 7:00 pm tipoff.
There has been a familiar theme to the early part of the season for the Shawsheen Tech Boys Hockey team. The Rams have looked unbeatable in their Commonwealth Athletic Conference game thus far, posting a 4-0 league record, while outscoring their opponents by a margin of 29-7. On the other hand, they have struggled in non-league games to this point, posting an 0-3 record while being outscored 13-4 in those games.
It has all added up to a 4-3 overall record, leaving Shawsheen coach Baker hoping for a more consistent effort out of his team.
“I am happy with some of the play, but disappointed in other aspects. I feel if we can grab a big win vs a tough non-league opponent, we could be off and running,” Baker said. “Since our first game of the season, we have been battling for about 75 percent of a game. We need to be better. I schedule a very challenging non-league schedule and we need to step up for the challenge. We are definitely getting there.”
In their most recent CAC game, the Rams showed just how dominant they can be, rolling to a 10-2 victory over Minuteman last Thursday night at the Hallenborg Arena. The Rams were led by senior forward JJ Thibert of Wilmington, who had three goals and two assists, while senior forward Nate Silva of Tewksbury added two goals and two assists for Shawsheen.
Baker was obviously happy with the final score, but he still felt like his team could have put together more of a complete game effort.
“We were not a very good team through the first period which is something we talk about constantly,” Baker said. “We need to come out of the gates flying no matter who we are playing. We struggled to snap out of it, but we did and did a good job through the final two periods.”
There were several other stars on the night for the Rams, including freshman Brady Darcey who had a hat trick, while junior Sean Murphy of Tewksbury dished out four assists. Kyle Brouillette and Jack Shreenan of Tewksbury each scored their first varsity goal, while junior forward. Anthony Papa had three assists.
Although just a freshman, Darcey has proven he belongs at the varsity level.
“Brady has to work hard for everything he gets. He is a freshman, but a tough one. It was awesome seeing him get the hatty last Thursday,” Baker said. “Hopefully that made him more comfortable stepping into varsity play. Brady is not afraid to take the body and play hard-nosed in the offensive end low. I am happy with his progression so far.”
One of the keys to the Rams success in league game so far this season has been the play of the Rams top line of Thibert, Silva and sophomore Dylan Timmons of Wilmington, all of whom have been lighting the lamp with multiple goals assists in the CAC contests.
“As far as the two seniors (Silva and Thibert), I expect that for sure. It’s their last season,” Baker said, “I hope that it continues. As far as Timmons, he is only going to get better as he is already playing a leader type role like a senior.”
One of the best aspects of the blowout wins in league games for the Rams has been that there has been plenty of opportunity for playing time, and several Rams are taking full advantage of that opportunity by scoring their first varsity goals. In addition to Shreenan and Brouillette against Minuteman, several other players, including sophomore Aydan Churchill of Wilmington, junior Conor Preble of Tewksbury and sophomore Tom Sampson all scored their first varsity goals in earlier CAC games.
“It is one of the better young groups we have had in recent years,” Baker said. “I just want to get them to buy into out working the opponent for success.”
With two more league games this week, at the Hallenborg against Nashoba Tech on Thursday night at 7:10 and on the road against Rockport at 6:00 pm on Saturday, the Rams will be looking to keep their roll going. As good as they have been in league games so far, Baker is taking nothing for granted.
“We need to take it one game at a time and play at the same speed with the same efforts as they have shown against Lynn, Billerica and Sandwich,” Baker said. “If they do so, league wins will definitely come.”
Facing tough competition has never been a problem for the Shawsheen Tech Wrestling, and this past weekend was the perfect example of that, as the Rams traveled to Minnechaug Regional High School in Wilbraham to compete in the Minnechaug High School Duals against a talented field of teams. Overall it was a very good day for the Rams, who went 3-1 in their meets to improve to 12- 1 overall on the season.
Shawsheen defeated Taconic Regional by a score of 46-25, Mansfield by a score of 55-18 and Trumbull, Connecticut 46-28, while their lone loss off the day came against Essex, Vermont by a score of 43-32.
There were three pools of teams at the meet Pool A, Pool B, and Pool C, with Shawsheen competing in Pool B with Taconic Regional High and Essex Vermont. The winner of each group advances to the semifinals, while a team who loses drops to the consolation bracket as Shawsheen did after defeating Taconic in their first meet and losing to Essex in their second meet.
Once in the consolation round, the Rams beat Mansfield High, and beat Trumbull to cap their 3-1 day.
“I was happy with the way we fought back after losing our first meet of the season,” Shawsheen coach Mark Donovan said.
Several Rams had outstanding performances, starting with Austin Dube (120 pounds), Frank Foti (126 pounds) and Diondre Turner (145 pounds) of Wilmington, each of whom went 4-0 on the day.
Andre Comeau went 3-0 at 195 pounds, as did Lucien Trembly at 106, Walter Humphrey at 113, Justin Merrifield at 138 and Lucas Moreira of Tewksbury at 220.
Among Dube’s four wins on the day was his 100th career victory. Dube joined fellow junior Frank Foti at the century mark, as Foti had gotten his 100th win against Westford High two weeks ago
“I think both kids earned it especially as juniors,” Donovan said. “I am very happy for both of them as it is not easy in a Division One program to get 100 wins.”
As proud as Donovan is of Dube and Foti getting their 100th win, he is equally proud of the performance of his entire team this season.
“I am very proud of Shawsheen wrestling being 12-1 against very tough competition in the month of December, but it is only going to get tougher,” Donovan said. “I told the wrestlers that it is time to embrace the grind and build off the loss and build off the wins and take a positive note out of a negative situation. We need to learn from it and realize that everyone is looking to beat Shawsheen and that is a good reputation that has been built.”
The Shawsheen Tech Co-Ed Swimming team continued their strong start to the season last Friday afternoon, coming away with a 91-73 win over CAC rival Minuteman at the Shawsheen Pool
The win was the fourth in a row for the Rams and improved them to 4-1 on the season.
“We are off to an amazing start this season,” Shawsheen coach Rick Menard said. “We learned a lot in our pre-season scrimmage with the Wild Hornets of North Reading and Wilmington and put those lessons learned into some hard work. We have since gone undefeated in the league and took advantage of our depth to knock of an experienced Middlesex team in Melrose as well.”
The Rams had several outstanding performances on the day, but perhaps none better than in the relays, where the Rams grabbed pair of first place finishes in the mixed 400-yard freestyle relay as well as the mixed 200-yard freestyle relay. The Rams also took second in the 400.
The 400 relay team of Zach Morris of Wilmington, Damien Hadden of Tewksbury, Derek Costello of Wilmington and Aidan Singh took first place honors in a time of 4:01.46 while Costello, Morris and Hadden, along with Dan Archibald took the 200 relay in a time of 1:48.08.
The quartet of Evan Pinto of Wilmington, Connor Maguire, Tyler Newhouse of Wilmington and Tyler Kopacz of Tewksbury took second place in the 400-yard relay in a time of 4:43.28.
In addition to his relay exploits, Hadden was also outstanding as an individual, winning the mixed 100-yard freestyle in a time of 55.82, while also taking the mixed 100-yard breaststroke in a time of 1:21.06.
Costello, Kopacz and Singh also had big days outside of the relay, with Costello taking third in the mixed 100-yard breaststroke, Kopacz taking second in the mixed 200-yard freestyle and Singh taking second in 100-yard breaststroke, while also earning a second place finish in the mixed 100-yard freestyle.
Other top performers for the Rams included Andrew Farrell of Tewksbury, who was first overall in the mixed 100-yard backstroke and third in the mixed 50-yard freestyle, Vincent Lopez who was first in the mixed 200-yard Individual Medley, Ryan Johnson of Wilmington who was third in the mixed 100-yard butterfly and Jacqui Megna, who was third in the mixed 200-yard freestyle.
“Our boys have really come along and we look like we may have a shot at breaking the 400 free relay record and possibly having a sophomore in Aiden Singh take a run at Ram legend Ryan Phelan's 500-yard free distance record,” Menard said. “We gave a bunch of opportunities to the newer kids against a smaller Minuteman squad and they came through amazingly. Evan Pinto and Anthony Bastianelli, along with Nate Barnes are all progressing faster than we anticipated on the boys side.
“Our first-year seniors Dan Archibald and Andrew Farrell have both refined their sprint techniques and are earning relay spots that should make some noise at Vocational States this year. The girls have had some pleasant surprises too, Alyssa Wallace is working toward the promising start we saw in her first week of practice and kids like Leah Casey and Sharice Gagnon are coming along.”