By Matt Jenkins
---- — HAMILTON — The Pingree boys basketball team is capable of turning a close game into a wipeout in the blink of an eye.
The Highlanders needed less than two minutes to bust open their game with Concord Academy last night. Pingree had excellent timing with the run as well, scoring nine straight points just before halftime on its way to a 62-47 victory.
“It was 24-21 with 1:45 left and we had a 9-0 run with five straight steals,” Pingree (9-3) coach Steve Gibbs said. “The way we closed the first half changed the whole game.”
Pingree led 33-21 at the break and prevented its guests from drawing closer in the second half.
Junior forward Kyle Lentini had 17 points to lead the way for the Highlanders, and freshman Alonzo Jackson and Justin Assad each dropped 12.
“Our team plays to its level of competition and the kids knew Concord had a real good first half of the season, so they couldn’t wait for the game,” Gibbs said. “They circled this on the calender a long, long time ago.”
Adding some spice to the matchup was the fact that the Highlanders know Concord point guard Malin Segal so well.
Segal played quite a bit of basketball with the Highlanders over the summer.
“All of a sudden, you’ve got a little rivalry going,” Gibbs said. “They were talking a little smack back and forth all week.”
Defense — in particular, the on-ball defense of junior point guard Johnny Spears — helped the Highlanders change the pace of the game.
Pingree would rather not play the game in the halfcourt, so Gibbs dialed up the traps and pressure to take Concord out of its comfort zone.
“We’re very much a full-court type of team,” Gibbs said. “When we go halfcourt we somewhat struggle. We got a chance to press and trap and all of a sudden, we turned them over a few times and we’re able to get out in transition. Once we pick up the pace we’re dynamite.”
Spears, Nino Leone and Griffin Beal added six points apiece.