LYNNFIELD — Head coach Scott MacKenzie spoke briefly with his Lynnfield High boys basketball assistant coaches before Hamilton-Wenham ultimately went on its game-winning run Tuesday night.
The hosts Pioneers had pulled to within to within three poins of their Cape Ann League rivals before the Generals broke it open.
Hamilton-Wenham swung a few passes inside-and-out to Ryan Hutchinson, who splashed back-to-back threes, and Ian Coffey added another moments later as the vistiors pulled away for their 12th straight victory, 61-54.
Now 12-5 on the season, Hamilton-Wenham went on a 10-0 run in that decisive fourth quarter as Lynnfield had considered switching from a 3-2 zone to man defense as the Generals unloaded threes repeatedly over their defense.
Hutchinson drilled four 3-pointers on the night and finished with 22 points while Coffey added 17. Hamilton-Wenham hit nine of its 21 field goals from 3-point land, overcoming a 59 percent showing at the free throw line and multiple Lynnfield (7-11) runs.
"Coach (Mike DiMarino) doesn't like that, but they had a good rim protector," Hutchinson said of the Pioneers. "When we had open looks we took them — and hopefully we make them. Tonight, we were making a good amount of them."
DiMarino entered Lynnfield High concerned about MacKenzie's zone. The Generals had only seen one all season and the Pioneers' was longer, more athletic and jumped passing lanes.
Hutchinson hit the center of it early, taking seven shots around the elbow and baseline to score nine points on the way to a 12-2 lead in the first. The Generals led by five after the first quarter — then the pace ramped up. Markus Nordin and Coffey hit three straight shots to open the second, only matching the two shots John Astrofsky converted for Lynnfield.
"That 3-2 zone gave us a little trouble early because they were overplaying the passing lanes," DiMarino said. "We were able to adjust in the second half and get some more clean looks. Turnovers plagued us, (though); we had seven first-half turnovers."
Jack Ford rolled to the interior for two straight finishes, then Max Boustris hit a corner three and layup to pull Lynnfield within 26-22 before halftime. Hutchinson's steal-and-finish in transition and 12 first-half points maintained the Generals' lead, but they lost it shortly after haltime. Clayton Marengi hit a layup through a foul, converted the free throw, then scored a put-back to extend the Pioneers' run to 10-0.
Dimarino pressed his team to clog the middle, cut off driving lanes and move the zone on the other end at half. He wanted to keep Lynnfield's shooters in front of his defense and halt their fast break. Hutchinson responded, hitting three straight shots capped by a three-pointer above the arc that bounced six times on the way down.
When Coffey's three the right wing hit off the backboard and in, Hamilton-Wenham led 42-36. MacKenzie thought 'That's what's going to happen right now?' Coffey entered the game a 24 percent 3-point shooter. He drilled five in the win.
"Those are those things teams that are on 11-game winning streaks (do)," MacKenzie said.
Blake Peters converted a three-point play before the third quarter ended, keeping Lynnfield within 42-39. They remained within one possession for the first three minutes of the fourth, when a flurry of softely-released shots off Hutchinson and Coffey's fingers fluttered through the net. Hamilton-Wenham had its own 11-0 run and 12th straight win.
DiMarino didn't feel safe until 22 seconds remained,with Lynnfield hitting 12-of-14 from the free throw line. By then, his team figured out the zone.
"We're lucky to get out of here tonight with a win," he said.