SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Sports

January 22, 2013

In The Paint: Pingree pushing for respect, championships

In the Paint

Matt Jenkins

They want you to know who they are.

They want your respect.

Most of all, they want to win championships.

They are the Pingree boys basketball team ... and they are the best kept secret on the North Shore.

The Highlanders toil in near anonymity around these parts because, well, they don’t often play in these parts. With an Eastern Independent League schedule that features games in Cambridge, Lexington, and Worcester as well as contests in Maine and Rhode Island, Pingree is an unknown commodity.

On a typical game night at the Hamilton school, the junior varsity game resembles any other on the North Shore — played at a frantic pace, sloppy at times, and featuring players that either haven’t hit a growth spurt yet or haven’t yet grown into their bodies. But one look at the varsity talent is the only clue you’ll need to know the highest level of basketball at Pingree features players who are capable of playing at the next level.

Pingree’s captains are a trio of juniors who provide talent and leadership to a young squad that is focused on taking the Highlanders to the top of New England.

Forwards Kyle Lentini and Connor Reardon and point guard Johnny Spears were each key players on last year’s team, and they still have a bitter taste in their mouths from a first round loss in the New England prep school tournament.

Their main focus now is to get back to New Englands and make amends for their early exit. Along the way, they’d like to grab the attention of basketball fans in Eastern Massachusetts.

“I definitely feel that way. We get in the newspaper and they spell my name wrong or put my brother’s name in. They don’t even get it right,” Spears, an electric guard who also excels on the gridiron for Pingree, said.

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