, Salem, MA


January 22, 2013

In The Paint: Pingree pushing for respect, championships


“They overlook Pingree all the time; they don’t even know who Pingree is. We’re trying to put Pingree on the map.”

The lack of attention also fuels the Highlanders, who are off to an 11-3 start this winter.

“We just use that as motivation to get better, to get more fans, to build a bigger fan base and get more people to the games,” Reardon, a Salem resident, said. “We want to show people what we’re about.”

What Pingree is about is team basketball. The Highlanders are dedicated to playing tough defense and sharing the sugar on offense.

Spears is the engine, igniting the defense with tremendous on-ball pressure, then guiding the offense like an All-Pro quarterback. Lentini and Reardon are each 6-foot-5 forwards who possess inside-outside games. Pingree coach Steve Gibbs calls Lentini a “zone buster” because he has range out to 23 or 24-feet, and Gibbs praises Reardon for his team defense.

Spears, a Haverhill resident, started his high school career at Georgetown before coming to Pingree. Even though he’s a couple years older, his role is different with the Highlanders, mainly because of players like Lentini and Reardon.

“At Georgetown my job was to score,” Spears said. “Here I can just drive and kick to Kyle and Connor and they’re making plays. I just try to set them up to make the game easier for them and me.”

Along the way, this trio has helped to speed up the maturation process for freshmen Nino Leone, Alonzo Jackson, Justin Assad and Griffin Beal.

The Highlanders have won seven straight games and feel like they’re growing each day.

“I think we’ve grown tremendously through the first 14 games,” Lentini, who is from North Reading, said. “At the beginning of this season we had that culture shock because we had a lot of young kids, but as the season has progressed, through practice, we’re getting better every day.”

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