By Alex Lippa
Twice is just as nice for the Haverhill boys eighth-grade travel basketball team, as they took home their second consecutive Central Division championship.
Led by Saul Phiri and Jack Pettis, the Haverhill team defeated Methuen 71-62 at the Infinity Sports Center in Plaistow. The game was March 11.
"So many of the kids contributed this year," said head coach Darryl Ruffen. "I couldn't be prouder."
The title for the team comes just two years after they did not win a single game during their sixth-grade season.
The other Haverhill travel teams were not as successful as the eighth-grade group, but several teams still had strong seasons. After winning the 2011 Central Division title as sixth graders, the seventh-grade travel team struggled in the tougher East Division, bowing out in the quarterfinals of the playoffs. Brett Robart, Joey Fenderson, Owen Bourdon and Stephon Allen will all be back next year to compete as eighth graders.
This year's sixth graders came up just short, falling to Dracut 51-47 in the West Division championship game. The team was paced by Ronnie Comtois, Spencer Pacy and Johnny Vets.
The grade-five team finished with a 13-4 record, while reaching the finals of the North Andover tournament. The grade-four team reached the championship game of the Our Lady of Good Counsel tournament.
"We finished again with upwards of 70 athletes wearing the Haverhill name on their chest, representing the city and playing hoop at the top level," said Hector Longo, president of Haverhill Travel Basketball. "We are trying to teach the game to these kids and prepare them for what lies ahead, for hoop at the next rung up the ladder."