LYNN — The Lynn English boys basketball team looked like it was on the brink of getting upset by No. 12 Peabody in the opening round of the MIAA Division 1 North tournament on Wednesday night, but the No. 5 Bulldogs regained their composure in the second half to beat the Tanners 55-47.
“It was a rough one out there for us, we really didn’t play our style of basketball,” said English coach Antonio Anderson. “Peabody really took it to us and played a great game tonight, and we should’ve expected that. Our guys came out a little flat, but we were able to make the plays we needed to down the stretch.”
Javaris Hill led the way for the Bulldogs, dropping 16 points and eight rebounds, including nailing some clutch free throws down the stretch to seal the win. Jordan Todd added 12 points on four three-pointers, while Alonzo Linton just missed a double-double (eight points, nine rebounds) and Mason Jean-Baptiste had eight points.
Peabody got 12 points and two rebounds from Jake Irvine, while Avian Hernandez had nine points and 10 rebounds. Jake Gustin added seven points and Mike Tansey had six points and three rebounds.
“I thought we came out with a great game plan and executed it really well,” said Peabody coach Thad Broughton. “I think what happened in the end is that we missed shots when we needed to make them. English is a fantastic team and they played really well, but I’m proud of the way our guys played out there tonight.”
The game started off as a defensive battle from both teams. Peabody needed to hit some tough shots as well as get some big plays from Gustin and Irvine in order to take a 15-9 lead into the second quarter.
The second quarter was where English’s problems really started to become magnified. The Bulldogs kept making small mistakes like not making the extra pass or not switching on defense, and Peabody was able to take advantage of every opportunity. But more than that, it was English’s poor free throw shooting that was the most glaring issue. The Bulldogs made just six of 20 attempts from the line in the first half.
Despite this, English was able to stay in the game behind some big shots from Todd, and the Bulldogs cut the deficit to 24-23 Peabody going into halftime.
Things started to change for English in the second half. Within the first minute, the Bulldogs took back their first lead since there were six minutes left in the first quarter. Most of it came behind the effort of Hill, who significantly ramped up his aggressiveness in the third quarter. Hill scored seven points in the quarter, converting two and-ones and grabbing a number of rebounds. Behind Hill and Todd, the Bulldogs took a 38-32 lead into the final quarter.
English opened up its biggest lead of the night early in the fourth, and it was at that point that Linton was able to come alive. Entering the fourth with just one point, Linton exploded for seven points and five rebounds in the quarter, also making some big defensive plays to keep English on top. After Hill, Linton and Jean-Baptiste all hit free throws, the Bulldogs were able to walk away with the win.
While it certainly wasn’t the way Peabody (12-9) wanted to end its season, Broughton can still look at the year as a whole in a positive light.
“It was a successful year, I think we’ll be able to look back at it and smile,” Broughton said. “Obviously it will be tough to lose some of our seniors who have meant so much to the program, but we still have things we can build on as well.”
As for English (17-4), it only gets tougher from here. The Bulldogs now have a date with No. 4 Lowell (17-4), a team English has seen a bit before, in the quarterfinal.
“That’s another tough team to go against, they’re very talented,” Anderson said. “We scrimmaged them during the year, and they’re fast, they can shoot and they play well together. We’re going to have to be at our best if we want to get a win this weekend.”
English and Lowell will tip off at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday night in Lowell.