The Haverhill High boys basketball team is off to a 1-win, 2-loss start, but head coach Mike Trovato is pleased with his team's progress and play in the first three games.
"So far, so good," Trovato said. "The effort has been fantastic. Both of our losses were to very good teams."
Haverhill has lost to Andover and Acton-Boxborough, which had a combined 7-1 record as of Tuesday. But sandwiched in between was the Hillies' tough road win against Billerica.
"The Billerica win was huge for us," Trovato said. "Road wins in the MVC (Merrimack Valley Conference) are tough to get, and I was proud of our boys after that game."
The Hillies have surprisingly been paced by two sophomores in the early going. Matt Jameson is averaging 14.7 points per game, including 20-point performances in his last two games. He has been lethal from behind the three-point arc, hitting 12 of those shots in the first three games.
Another sophomore, Anthony Dionne, has been the most consistent scoring threat for the Hillies. Dionne has scored in double digits in each game this year and is averaging 13 points a game through Tuesday's action.
The emergence of the two sophomores has helped offset the loss of sensation Noah Vonleh, who transferred to New Hampton Prep in New Hampshire this season. Although they have a big void to fill, the Hillies aren't focusing on what they don't have.
"We honestly don't even talk about it at all," Trovato said. "Of course it would be great to still have Noah, but we are more focused on the players we do have."
Trovato said the biggest problem Haverhill has had is replacing Vonleh's size and ability to rebound. The Hillies have had trouble rebounding this season, and have been trying to incorporate a transition offense to account for their rebounding troubles.
"Size is an ongoing issue for us," Trovato said. "We're working on drills in practice to try to be better rebounders."
The team has been plagued by long inconsistent stretches, which have proved costly in the long run. In their season opener against Andover, the Hillies were down by 19 after the first quarter. The team bounced back after the early deficit and played Andover evenly over the final three quarters.
Against Acton-Boxborough in the opener of the Lowell Spinners/IAABO 95 Holiday Tourney on Monday, the Hillies played the Colonials tough, and were down only five points with five minutes to go in the fourth quarter. But Acton-Boxborough ran away with the game in the final minutes, eventually winning by 20.
After the Hillies finish up the Lowell tournament this week, they will play a schedule primarily consisting of Merrimack Valley teams. The Hillies will play either Lowell or Dracut in their final tournament game, and then play four straight MVC opponents before traveling to Reading on Jan. 15. The Hillies will host Reading on Feb. 22, which will be their only other non-conference games this season.
"The MVC is a loaded conference," Trovato said. "We won't just be playing the top teams in the league, but the top teams in the state."
• • •
Join the discussion. To comment on stories and see what others are saying, log on to hgazette.com.