By Matt Jenkins
---- — PEABODY — The team that Bishop Fenwick boys basketball coach Mike Kane expected to have this season was finally on the floor together yesterday afternoon.
The result — a 71-64 home victory over Peabody High — has to have Kane wondering about what could have been through the first 10 games of the campaign.
Junior guard Dom Luoni, who missed some time earlier due to injury, is back to 100 percent and played that way with a game-high 24 points. Classmate Matt Costello added 18 points and 11 rebounds, and senior forward Ben Maxner, who broke his wrist in the first game of the season, provided a spiritual boost in his limited minutes.
All was not lost for the Crusaders during their injury-plagued first 10 contests. They officially started the second half with a victory and now stand at 4-7 with a team playing at full strength for the first time all year.
“It was the first time we went 10 deep. It was Ben’s first game back, and he’s still a little rusty, but it was nice to get him in a little bit. Dom is finally feeling healthy again, too,” Kane said.
“We gotta build off this. This is two (wins) in a row, and hopefully we can keep moving toward our goal, which is to make the tournament.”
Peabody, on the other hand, has to feel the goal of reaching the tournament slipping through its fingers. The Tanners are now 3-8 with several tough Northeastern Conference Large games remaining on their schedule.
“Last year we had to win our last three games to get into the tournament, and I told the kids to take it one game at a time. That’s the same approach we’re going to take this year,” Peabody coach Thad Broughton said. “Every game is the most important game. Unfortunately, we haven’t played well the last three games. We’ve had a tough stretch and have to get back to playing good basketball.”
Peabody played a good stretch of basketball in the second quarter. After falling behind 20-10 in the first quarter, the Tanners outscored the hosts, 22-15, in the second quarter and only trailed by three (35-32) at the half.
That momentum carried over into the second half, and Peabody took a three-point lead after Jared McCarron finished a backdoor cut and Steve Leavitt converted a drive on back-to-back possessions. Luoni hit the last of his four threes and added a baseline jumper before the end of the third, however, to put Fenwick back on top for good.
The Crusaders took care of the basketball down the stretch against Peabody’s three-quarter court pressure and made 13 of 16 free throws in the final quarter to seal the win.
“Taking care of the ball (was the key) and that’s been a problem for us, especially early in the year. We’ve had trouble with turnovers and dealing with pressure,” Kane said. “I think we did a good job being patient. We were handling the pressure at the end of the game and not trying to force anything.”
Luoni’s hot shooting — he hit a couple deep threes — pulled Peabody out of its defense and forced the Tanners to go to a box-and-1, which opened things up for Fenwick inside.
Costello really hurt the Tanners on the offensive glass when they went to the box-and-1, giving Fenwick extra possessions and shot attempts.
“We didn’t do a great job rebounding,” Broughton said. “They’re a big team and do a really nice job on the glass. That definitely posed problems. We knew that coming in and weren’t able to control them down low.”
Brian Onessimo led Peabody with 16 points while three other Tanners players — Leavitt (13 points), Ben Martinez (11) and McCarron (10) — also hit double figures.
Fenwick senior Joe Buccheri also reached double digits for the Crusaders with 11.
“We have a lot of games left against teams we (previously) lost to that I feel like we can beat when play again,” Kane said about Fenwick’s stretch run. “With everyone healthy, I think we have a good chance.”