NORTON — With four underclassmen in its starting lineup and seven of Norton High's top eight players from last season having graduated, Norton High boys' basketball coach Marc Liberatore knows that there will be a few bad bounces on the hardwood for his Lancers this season.
Case in point, Norton's season-opening 64-41 loss to Dover-Sherborn Regional High Sunday in a Tri-Valley League matchup at the Larry Larocque Gymnasium.
The Lancers trailed by as many as nine points in the first half, cut the gap to 23-21 on a 3-point field goal by senior guard Josh Coffey, but misfired on nine of their first 10 shots in the third quarter The Lancers faced a 34-30 deficit at the five-minute mark after Andrew McGillivray hit a pair of free throws.
“They have four of their five starters back, that was the difference,” Liberatore said of Dover-Sherborn's varsity experience. “They shot the heck out of the ball. I wasn’t pleased with our defense.”
Junior guard Justin Marando delivered 15 points, hitting three 3-pointers with six rebounds in leading Norton, while Coffey produced 12 points, four rebounds and a blocked shot.
Sophomore guard Luke Rinaldi scored 14 of his 19 points during the second half to pace Dover-Sherborn. The Raiders hit on seven of 10 shots from the floor in the first quarter, being 16-for-29 during the second half.
The Raiders reeled off 11 straight points over the final three minutes of the third quarter, with Rinaldi having six of those as D-S took a 45-30 lead into the fourth quarter.
The Raiders then reeled off 13 straight points, eight by Rinaldi, early in the fourth quarter to assume a 58-33 advantage with just over three minutes to go.
Norton went scoreless for the final four minutes of the first quarter and hit on just one shot from the floor — a three-point play by Marquise Pina — over the middle eight minutes of the first half.
Six points by Coffey and five from Marando in the second quarter kept Norton within range.
After Marando scored in the first minute of the second half for Norton, the Lancers didn’t make another shot over the final seven minutes. Norton then hit on just one of its first nine field goal attempts over the first five minutes-plus of the fourth quarter.
“We didn’t close out (defensively), our hands were down here and the ball is going through the net,” Liberatore said of the Lancers not contesting Dover-Sherborn's shots with aggression. “In the first half, we battled well. They (D-S) play good tough defense too and they’re longer than us. We’ll be a lot better in a week or two.”
The Lancers resume TVL action Tuesday against Bellingham.