The A.A.U. Haverhill Panthers, based at the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Haverhill, played in the February Vacation Tournament of Champions organized by Eastern Basketball and held in Marblehead and Peabody.
The competition was intense, with several strong teams from across the northeast region participating.
Fifth-graders miss championship game
The grade-five division finished the tournament with a 2-1 record.
In the first game, the Haverhill Panthers beat North Shore 41-36. Phillip Cunningham scored 22 points in the victory for the Panthers. Enrique Alvarado played point guard and showed great ball control the entire game. Lysander Nunez played excellent defense, with five steals.
In the second game, the Panthers squeezed pass Beverly 54-46.
Phillip Cunningham scored a team-high 32 points in the showdown. Xavier Lopez hit a big three-pointer near the end of the game to secure the win for the Panthers. Enrique Ruiz scored nine points.
The win over Beverly took the Panthers to the semi-finals against VBC of Ward Hill.
Both teams played their hearts out, but VBC triumphed over the Panthers 50-57. It was neck-and-neck the entire game. Angel Rodriguez played great defense with an amazing nine steals for Haverhill in the showdown. Phillip Cunningham was unstoppable and scored 27 points, mostly from the paint for the Panthers. The game quickly changed when Phillip Cunningham, Enrique Alvarado, and Angel Rodriguez fouled out with 1:32 left on the clock. The Panthers played their hearts out, but VBC moved on to the championship finals.
Sixth-graders lose in semifinals
The grade-six division ended the tournament with a 2-1 record.
The Haverhill Panthers overwhelmed Tewksbury 57-27. Cristian Ovalles scored a team-high 22 points and showed great offensive rebounding. Nazair Dabreo scored 11 points, with two big three-pointers to keep the Panthers in the lead. The Panthers’ full court press gave them in the lead, as they capitalized on five turnovers in a row in the second half. Jason McKeon scored 10 points off the steals.