SWAMPSCOTT — Once again, uncertainty is following the Swampscott High boys basketball program around.
The boys took the court Friday playing for their third coach in two years, as Justin Fucile — who had picked up the pieces last year after Dave Born resigned and was rewarded with the job full time — has had to step aside for the time being for medical reasons (undisclosed at this point). Taking over for the foreseeable future is former Lynn English girls varsity coach Fred Hogan, who was brought on as an assistant prior to the start of the season.
Friday was Hogan’s first-ever boys varsity game as a coach. As the girls coach at English, he turned the Bulldogs into one of the elite programs on the North Shore and in his final season, 2012, he coached the team to a Division 1 North title and an appearance at TD Garden.
A plucky Big Blue team lost Friday’s game, 50-36, but as Hogan said afterward, “we want to make sure that any team we play leaves the gym knowing that they played Swampscott.
“Every game we’ve played this year, we’ve gotten better,” said Hogan.
Neither team shot the ball very well Friday night — something Hogan freely admitted afterward.
“We’re having trouble scoring,” he said. “We’re getting the looks, and the defense is there, but the ball’s not going in.”
On the other hand, Hogan was happy to hold Salem to just 50 points.
“You hold a team like Salem to 50 points or less, you’re generally going to do OK,” said Hogan. “But as I said, we aren’t scoring.”
The last two days have been rather surreal, Hogan said.
“Justin brought me on during the off-season to be his assistant,” Hogan said. “We’ve coached together, I know his mom — he’s a real good guy and a real good coach.
“But our world got turned upside down (Thursday) when he came into the gym and told us he was going to have to take a medical leave.
“All we can do is support him as best we can,” said Hogan. “As far as I’m concerned, I’m just keeping the chair warm for him.”
Salem sprung out to a 14-5 lead after a quarter by virtue of an 11-3 run to start the game. The bulk of the damage was done by Nate Lebron (game-high 17 points) and Jhoan Vago.
However, the Big Blue crept back into the game during the second quarter, and when Mex Pegnato hit a 3-pointer and Jake McIntire (team-high 11 points) and Agusian added a basket each Swampscott was able to close Salem’s lead to five (20-15) at the midway break.
“I was happy with the way we played,” said Hogan. “We had it down to five at the half.”
The Big Blue actually got it down to one immediately at the beginning of the third quarter when Jackson Byrne drained a 3-pointer and Agusian hit a free throw.
But that was as close as Swampscott could get to the Witches. Salem went to town, with six straight points, four of them by a basket and two free throws by Lebron, plus a bucket by Isaiah Williamson (13 points) and it was 26-19.
Salem kept it going, and by the end of the third quarter the lead was up to nine (35-26).
The Witches then put the game away in the early stages of the fourth quarter with an 8-0 run, and it was 43-26. They coasted home from there.