By Dan Harrison
---- — DANVERS — The Hamilton-Wenham boys basketball team needed one of its best games of the season last night in the Division 4 North Semifinal against St. Mary’s.
With the exception of one minute, the Generals were phenomenal. But that minute came in the fourth quarter, and cost H-W a trip to the Div. 4 North finals as the third seeded Spartans took down the second seeded Generals, 60-51, in front of a standing room only crowd at St. John’s Prep.
“We played about one minute and 10 seconds of bad basketball,” said H-W (18-3) head coach Doug Hoak. “I know I’m biased, but I think the two best teams (in the Div. 4 North) played tonight. I’d be surprised if they (St. Mary’s) don’t win it.”
H-W actually held a five-point lead early in the fourth thanks to six quick points from junior Jimmy Campbell, but the Generals managed only two points in the final four minutes.
“The kids picked up the intensity,” explained St. Mary’s (18-4) head coach David Brown. “Hamilton-Wenham is well coached, they got in the seams for some easy baskets, but we were able to buckle down and get stops.”
Freshman point guard Marcus Zegarowski (nine points) ran into foul trouble in the fourth quarter and was subbed out with H-W clinging to a five-point lead. St. Mary’s then went on a 5-0 run to tie the game with the guy Zegarowski had been covering, Dennis Bailer, having all five points.
When Zegarowski was checked back into the game, he had to give a little cushion to Bailer and the St. Mary’s guard made the Generals pay with a couple of big, pull-up jumpers. Bailer scored nine of his 17 points in the final eight minutes.
“(Bailer) killed us, but Marcus was in foul trouble,” noted Hoak. “He was in foul trouble and they knew he had to play off of him (Bailer). They were smart and took it to him (Zegarowski).”
The Generals played exceptional defense as Hoak kept changing up his schemes to keep the Spartans off balanced. Jimmy Campbell was very active in forcing turnovers and the Generals generated some quick buckets in transition off of some St. Mary’s miscues.
“I thought we did a good job defensively. We switched it up and confused them and at least forced some turnovers,” said Hoak. “I’m proud of my kids.”
And there was a lot to be proud of for the Generals skipper. Senior captain Henry Eagar (nine points) and Campbell (20 points), the junior captain, played fearlessly against a tough Spartan front court. Eagar made a couple of really strong drives to the tin late in the fourth quarter but saw the ball rim out a few times.
St. Mary’s had its fair share of second opportunities as well, but Eagar more than held his own on the defensive glass.
Campbell meanwhile took it to the rim over and over fighting through some contact in doing so. In the press, Campbell forced a bunch of turnovers and showed great instincts in jumping passing lanes.
“I love all my kids,” said Hoak. “Jimmy’s a gamer and he does things every game that don’t show up on the box score like his help D and his rebounding. And Henry’s my man. I’m going to miss him.”
Nikos Lara had another fine playoff outing for the Generals. He had 10 points but also played some tough defense against St. Mary’s top player Anthony Silfa, who had 18 points but hit some very, deep three-pointers to do so. He only had four points in the fourth quarter.
H-W certainly hoped it would make a Div. 4 North Finals appearance but last night’s loss doesn’t diminish the spectacular year the Generals had. And considering Campbell and Lara are juniors and both Marcus and his brother Max Zegarowski (three points) are freshman, H-W is in good shape for the future.
“It’s been over two months since we lost a game,” said Hoak. “That’s pretty impressive.”
St. Mary’s 60, Hamilton-Wenham 51
at St. John’s Prep, Danvers
St. Mary’s: Bailer 6-3-17, Silfa 7-1-18, Lockett 5-4-14, Louissaint 0-3-3, Zikianda 2-1-5, Amenta 1-0-2, Garraud 0-1-1. Totals 21-13-60.
H-W: Campbell 6-6-20, Mar. Zegarowski 4-0-9, Eagar 4-1-9, Lara 3-4-10, Max. Zegarowski 1-0-3, Loeper 0-0-0, Kotch 0-0-0, Bucco 0-0-0, Michel 0-0-0. Totals 18-9-51.
Halftime: SM, 29-27.
3-pointers: SM, Silfa 3, Bailer 2; HW, Campbell 2, Mar Zegarowski, Maz Zegarowski.
Records: SM, 18-4; HW, 18-3.