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Globe North sports notebook

Westford’s Lynch key for Middlebury

By John Vellante
Globe Correspondent / December 18, 2011
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Peter Lynch didn’t waste any time seizing an opportunity with the Middlebury men’s basketball team this season.

In the season opener, making his second career start, the 6-foot-6 junior forward from Westford buried nine of his 10 attempts from the field on his way to a career-high 19 points in a 76-70 win over Gwynedd-Mercy (Pa.) in the Roadrunner Tip-Off Tournament in Mahwah, N.J.

Lynch followed up with 15 points in the title game against Ramapo, a 73-62 win.

With Lynch supplying a career-best 12.3 points and a team-high 5.7 rebounds in 31 minutes per game, the Panthers reeled off seven consecutive wins to earn the top ranking in Division 3, the first time atop the poll in the program’s history.

“We always thought he could score,’’ said Middlebury coach Jeff Brown.

“He had more than 1,200 points at Westford Academy and to us he seemed a natural. He came here and helped us a lot in a support role, but now he is someone who is very dependable. He’s shown a nose for the basket and we try to utilize him in the interior. He’s been very consistent inside and has improved in all facets of the game. I think a piece of it is being a junior, being more mature and having consistent minutes.’’

At the end of last season, Brown talked with Lynch about extending his minutes this season and playing harder.

“This season, he came back a good five to seven pounds lighter and in much better shape,’’ said the coach. “His defense has shown marked improvement and he’s been a very effective passer in the post when he finds himself double-teamed.’’

Lynch knew his role from the start.

He expected to be a spot player as a freshman, but he was sidelined the first 8 to 10 weeks of the season with a severely sprained ankle. Yet he doesn’t consider that year a loss; rather he sees it as a learning experience. He did play in 19 games, averaging 3.3 points and 2.3 rebounds per game.

“It was tough to sit and watch and see other freshmen getting playing time,’’ said Lynch.

“It was frustrating at times, but I watched and learned. As the season progressed, I got some chances and started to get my feet wet and get acclimated to the college game. My sophomore year (3.9 points, 2.3 rebounds per game) was more mental. I knew more about the school and the program and could focus more on what I was supposed to focus on.’’

Middlebury is working on another special season. A year ago, the Panthers were 28-2, won the NESCAC title and advanced to the Division 3 national semifinals before losing, 59-57, to St. Thomas (St. Paul, Minn.), the eventual national champion.

“That was tough, to get that far and then lose such a close game,’’ said Lynch. “I think we have the type of team that can advance that far again. We know what it will take to get back to that position, but it’s definitely a team goal.’’

Middlebury is off until Dec. 29, when it plays Curry in the Salem State Holiday Classic.

Stoneham to add 13 to hall of fame

Stoneham will induct 11 former athletes, a longtime coach, the 1950 Middlesex League baseball championship team, and a sports announcer into its Hall of Fame March 3 at the Montvale Plaza in Stoneham.

Honorees are Martin McHale (class of 1906, baseball); Robert Murphy (1945, football and hockey); Ralph Powers (1958, baseball, basketball, and football); Michael O’Toole (1970, hockey); Thomas Anderson (1971, soccer, hockey, and baseball); Richard Kwiatkowskic (1976, soccer, basketball, and baseball); Victor Pizzotti (1978, football); Margaret Gebhard Trant (1984, volleyball, basketball, and softball); Kevin Yianacopolus (1986, football, basketball, and baseball); Mary Ann Forbes Burridge (1987, field hockey, basketball, and softball); and Colleen Lacey (1999, soccer, basketball, and track).

Dick Burnham, who coached football, hockey, and softball and was part of 12 championship teams in a career spanning 33 years, will also be inducted, along with Paul White, a PA announcer for Stoneham athletics for 37 years. McHale, Murphy, and Pizzotti will be inducted posthumously.

Tickets, $50 each, will be available late next month through the athletic office.

Campus corner

The University of Massachusetts Lowell hockey team (10-5 overall, 7-4 Hockey East) entered the holiday break ranked 18th nationally. The River Hawks split their last two games before a two-week sojourn - beating Boston College, 3-2 and losing to Northeastern, 3-2. Among those playing for first-year coach Norm Bazin are sophomore Joe Pendenza (4-9-13) of Wilmington, sophomore Dan Furlong (1-2-3) of Stoneham, and freshman William Eiserman (0-1-1) of West Newbury. UMass-Lowell plays again Dec. 29, when it meets RPI in the University of Connecticut Holiday Classic. . . . For the third straight week, Fitchburg State sophomore Amy Fahey of Wilmington is the MASCAC women’s basketball Player of the Week. Fahey averaged 26 points and 7.5 rebounds. She bagged 30 points in one game, the third time this season she’s hit for 30 or more . . . Merrimack has named Michael Spring its first men’s and women’s swim coach. Spring has been an assistant coach at Harvard the past four years and since 1994 has owned Crimson Aquatics, a nationally recognized swim club. Merrimack will begin competition next year in the Northeast-10 Conference and its home pool will be the Andover YMCA. . . . Tufts senior goalie Scott Barchard of Reading became the school’s all-time leader in career saves after making 41 in a 3-2 loss to Middlebury earlier this month. He finished the game with 2,185 career saves to surpass the previous best of James Kalec (2,166) from 2004-08. At the holiday break, Tufts is 4-5 and Barchard is the goalie of record in each game. He sports a 2.68 goals against average and a .925 save percentage.

John Vellante can be reached at JohPVel@aol.com.

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