DRACUT EIGHTH-GRADE GIRLS TRAVEL BASKETBALL TEAM: In front from left are Sarah Wilson, Meghan Cox, Andrea Guerrero, Jaxy Marquez, Lilly King and Julia Otoski. At rear from lefft are Coach Peter Otoski, Erin Ceriman, Lindsey Emond, Melissa Iannuzzo, Meghan Carney, Fatta Scott, Ashley Armano, Head Coach Jeff Marquez and Coach Russ Carney. (Courtesy photo)
Mitchell Monette knocks down his jump shot. (Russ Carney)
The Dracut girls eighth-grade travel basketball team finished the regular season as the undefeated champions of the River Valley League.
The Lady Middies had a 16-0 record in conference play and will move up a division to play a tough 22-0 North Andover powerhouse, the Scarlet Knights, who not lost a game since the fifth grade. But if anyone can knock off the 2013 title winners from North Andover, it will be this year's Lady Middies.
The season started with many questions as the Lady Middies lost the services of two key members due to devastating knee injuries and two other key reserves departed. On top of that, Dracut's starting point guard was coming back from a broken wrist and the starting center would miss the first third of the season due to a broken foot.
Launching a 3-pointer against Lowell is Jaden Yylton. (Russ Carney)
The team also welcomed four new players to the roster who promptly embraced and learned Dracut's ferocious defensive sets. These new arrivals bonded quickly with their established teammates. Faced with all these obstacles, Dracut's head coach, Jeff Marquez, turned in the best coaching performance of his career as the girls finished with an overall record of 19-1.
"I am so proud of these outstanding young women," Marquez said. "They overcame adversity and strove together as a team focused on excellence. Their hard work, dedication and attention to detail are second to none and the camaraderie they share is infectious. They cheer one another on and applaud each others' efforts and really believe in the team concept. They have been an absolute joy to coach. They will be successful at the high school level."
The Dracut seventh-grade boys travel team ended the regular season with a sound 24-9 record as they prepare for the upcoming Merrimack Valley League playoffs. The Middies dropped a lethargic 57-47 decision to Lowell; Dracut never seemed to match the Red Raiders' intensity in this highly anticipated match-up. Lowell stormed ahead by 9 at the half and never looked back as they dominated the boards.
Cam McCullough (11), Aise Pream (9) and Mitchell Monette (7) led the offense for Dracut. William Peters (3) and Trevor Usher (1) grabbed rebounds and Matt Rossetti made an incredible block in this defeat. The boys bounced back with a commanding 64-55 victory over Methuen. Jeremy Gray and Jaeden Yylton sparked the win with 6 points each as nine players tallied for the Middies including Michael Patterson, Colby Manzueta and Kevin Carney. Dracut's fourth-place finish allows the team a first round playoff bye and time to prepare for the winner of the game between arch-rival Billerica and Stoneham.