NORTH ADAMS, Mass. -- The McCann Tech boys basketball team on Monday used tough defense to build a big first half lead and mental toughness down the stretch to improve to 2-0 this season.
Ethan Sheldon scored 16 points and Jake Tower scored 10 points with 10 rebounds to lead the Hornets to a 48-42 win over Lenox in an independent game in the Hornets Nest.
McCann Tech took a 21-8 lead into the locker room but saw the Millionaires (0-1) rally back to go up by five, 39-34, with three minutes left in the fourth quarter.
But McCann made 11 of 14 free throws in the last two minutes to erase the deficit and secure the victory.
“Coach has us practice free throws every day after sprints,” said Tower, who hit eight foul shots in the fourth quarter. “At this point, it just kind of comes natural and easy. I’m expecting to make those.”
First-year coach Chris Bullett has a similar expectation.
“We work on that every day,” Bullett said. “They lost a few games last year on foul shooting, so we work on that every day. Every day after sprinting when we’re tired, and it works.”
In the first half, everything was working for McCann, which limited Lenox to just three field goals while the Hornets hit three first-quarter 3-pointers of their own. Logan Tower hit a pair of 3s in the first quarter to give McCann an early 8-4 lead.
“Lots of energy,” Jake Tower said of McCann’s first half performance. “We came into this season and into this game focused, and we think hard work wins game. We put it all on the floor every single day in practice, and it shows. It shows in games.”
It also showed on Monday that Jake Tower is one of five seniors for the Hornets, who ran into a young Lenox team looking to find itself in its opener.
“We lost seven seniors from last year and eight kids the year before, so we’re still relatively young,” Lenox coach Scott Sibley said. “We’re just trying to put our pieces together and figure out what everybody’s got to do and when they’ve do it. Because we’re a pretty young team. I think we’ve got a total of five or six freshmen and sophomores on the team.
“We’ll get better as the season progresses. They work pretty hard. They didn’t give up, which was nice.”
Tyler Shepard scored six of his team-high 13 points in a third quarter that saw Lenox outscore the hosts by a margin of 16-5 and get within two, 26-24.
A big difference in the comeback: rebounding.
“I just kept telling them to fight,” Bullett said of the huddle between the third and fourth quarters. “I think we got outrebounded by seven in the third quarter. And we picked it up a little in the fourth quarter.
“They motivated themselves on the bench. We’ve got five seniors on this team, and they want a new identity. From the third quarter to the fourth quarter, we were two different teams work ethic-wise, and I think that’s a big reason why we won.”
Lenox’s Michael Hurley hit a pair of triples on back-to-back trips wrapped around a Michael Downer defensive rebound to give Lenox a 39-34 lead with a little less than three minutes left on the clock.
But Sheldon responded with a 3 on McCann’s next possession. And after Lukas Zelazo ripped down a defensive rebound, Billy Galipeau went to the line and hit a pair to tie it for McCann, 39-39.
On Lenox’s next possession, Jake Tower grabbed a defensive rebound and was fouled. He hit both his free throws to give McCann a two-point lead.
Lenox responded with a bucket by Shepard to tie the game for the final time with just more than a minute left. On the Millionaires’ next possession, Zelazo grabbed another carrom, and he went to the line, hitting one of two to give McCann the lead for good, 42-41.
Free throws by Jake Tower and Zelazo on McCann’s next two possessions pushed the lead to 44-41, and after Jett Steinman’s free throw got Lenox’s deficit down to two points, Jake Tower went 4-for-4 in the final 14 seconds to ice the game.
McCann Tech will look for win No. 3 on Friday night when it travels to Mount Greylock for its first road game. Lenox is at Hoosac Valley on Wednesday.