By Matt Jenkins
---- — BEVERLY — The Beverly boys basketball team has developed an interesting rivalry with Boston Latin in the annual Panther Holiday Tournament. The two teams will add another chapter tomorrow.
Beverly defeated Chelsea, 54-39, in the second game of a doubleheader last night, setting up a showdown with Boston Latin in the final for the third straight year.
Boston Latin beat Bishop Fenwick, 59-42, in the opener. The Panthers will try for their second straight Panther Holiday Tournament championship tonight (7 p.m.) against Boston Latin, with Bishop Fenwick and Chelsea meeting in the consolation game (5:30 p.m.).
“It’s really important for us. It’s a big game. Anytime it’s a championship game, you want to win, and we’re battling for the third year in a row,” Beverly coach Scott Lewis said. “We’re going to have to play a lot better if we’re going to beat them.”
The Panthers, coming off a pair of tight losses to Northeastern Conference foes Salem and Lynn English, were looking for their first win last night. It certainly wasn’t smooth, but Beverly found a way to overcome some sloppy first-half play and a chippy, foul-plagued second half.
Beverly (1-2) led only 8-6 after the first quarter and 13-12 midway through the second quarter. The Panthers started to put things together with a mini, seven-point spurt before halftime. Beverly held a 10-point halftime advantage (25-15) and broke the game open with a 16-2 run to start the second half.
“We keep stressing about communicating on defense and getting into the passing lanes and rebounding,” Lewis said. “We got four or five stops in a row and when you do that we can get into our transition game, which is what we want to do. We were able to do that (in the third quarter) and got easy baskets.”
Josh Cairns had a breakout game for Beverly, dropping 17 points and earning the Panthers’ Player of the Game Award. Nick Cross scored 11 points despite battling foul trouble. Jon Berchoff and Zach Duguid added seven points apiece.
“In order for us to win ballgames we have to scrap and claw and we can’t afford to make mistakes, especially against a good team like that,” Chelsea (1-2) coach Jay Seigal said. “When you make mistakes, they’re going to make you pay and that’s what they did in the third quarter to break it open. You make a mistake, they make you pay for it and you can’t feel sorry for yourself. You gotta get back and continue to play hard, otherwise that 10-point lead becomes 20.”
Fenwick played Boston Latin tough through the first half and seemed to start fresh early in the second half, hitting its opponent with a 6-2 run to pull within five points (30-25). Boston Latin scored the next 10 points, however, and led 46-31 heading into the fourth quarter.
Matt Costello was named Fenwick’s Player of the Game after scoring 13 points, and Dom Luoni joined Costello in double figures with 11. Travis Maxner added eight.
“They have a little size on us, but I think we might have a little bit of a quickness advantage. We’ll see how it plays out,” Seigal said about his team’s consolation matchup with Fenwick.
As for the final, Lewis is hoping the Panthers can build off last night’s victory, but he knows it won’t be easy.
“They played really good defense. They talk and communicate and don’t take bad shots down the other end,” Lewis said. “They play good, disciplined basketball. It should be a good matchup.”