Sports

Hingham seeks first Patriot League title

Hingham’s boys’ basketball team is in the exact position it wants to be in.

With just six games left on the schedule, the Harbormen are looking to win their first league championship ever. Controlling its own destiny to the Patriot League title, Hingham is solely focused on taking it one game at a time. But for the Harbormen, the obstacles early in the season are what got them to this point and that’s something that they haven’t taken for granted.

After starting the year losing two games, Hingham bounced back with a four-game winning streak. Two of those wins were part of a a holiday tournament in which the Harbormen outscored their opponents, 106-70.

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From that point on coach, Bob Kniffen knew he had something special brewing.

“Hingham hadn’t won one of those tournaments in 10 years,” he explained. “We knew we had a good team and we played well against Randolph. We felt like that would be a good measuring stick to where we were. To get a win like that and then beat a team like Stoughton gave us a ton of confidence going forward.”

A few days later the Harbormen traveled to Quincy to take on their divisional rivals, losing 69-62. Despite it being a close game, the Presidents held leading scorer Eddie Bowler to just six points, handing Hingham its third loss of the season.

What happened to that confidence they gained in the tournament? Perhaps it was just a minor speed bump in the road for the Harbormen as they bounced back with two league wins, beating Hanover and Duxbury. Yet once again, the trend continued and Hingham dropped another couple, losing each game by a single point.

Senior guard Pat Kelly had a chance to change the outcome of those two games in the last seconds but his shots didn’t fall. Hingham’s confident was not lost despite back-to-back difficult losses.

“I talked to [Kelly] after the Scituate game and told him ‘If we need a shot at the buzzer you’re going to get it,’ ” said Kniffen. “After losing at Norwell I told him the same thing. One thing is for me to say it as a coach, but the type of team we have, the other 11 guys wanted him to have the ball in that position as well.”

The third time was a charm.

Down by three late in the fourth quarter at North Quincy, Kelly sunk the buzzer-beating shot to send the game to overtime, where the Harbormen would eventually win, 75-70. The senior guard led Hingham that night with 22 points and 10 rebounds.

At that point the 8-5 Harbormen were in the middle of a three-way tie for first place in the league, and their next two opponents were Whitman-Hanson and Quincy, the teams they were deadlocked with.

Although they were trailing by nine at the half against the Panthers, Hingham persevered and battled back for the win. As for the Quincy game, the loss earlier in the season was all the motivation the Harbormen needed to win the rematch, 75-62.

“The significance of the game was huge since we were tied for first with them,” Kniffen admitted. “These guys set goals at the beginning of the year to win a league championship and that game had a lot of importance when it comes to that goal.”

When asked about his team’s success, Kniffen used a simple word — togetherness. The bond between the Harbormen’s seniors — Eddie Bowler, Ricky Sullivan, Pat Kelly, Eugene Tyburski, John Wehner, and John O’Connell — started back in grade school and is one that has inspired the team this season.

Hingham could’ve easily been depleted after suffering those back-to-back one-point losses in the middle of the season, but instead the seniors showed their leadership and helped the team learn from those early mistakes.

“Those guys have made my job easy,” Kniffen said. “We took our lumps early on but that gave us an opportunity to recognize our mistakes and focus on details. This group has taken the opportunity to grow through losses.

“When a team is down, going through challenging times like that, the younger guys look at the seniors,” he added. “They didn’t hang their heads. Those were two tough road-game losses but we were right in both of those games. We learned the we could compete with just about anybody.”

Games to Watch

Central Catholic will look to get back on the winning track this week as it takes on Merrimack Valley foe Lawrence on Tuesday and Lowell on Friday . . . North Andover will travel to Lowell on Tuesday before hosting Andover on Friday. The Knights are 0-2 against the Golden Warriors this season . . . In the Hockomock League, Mansfield hosts Taunton on Friday.

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