(Topsfield) The Masconomet Lady Chieftains never trailed but had to hold off the late-charging North Andover Scarlet Knights to win, 52-41, on Sunday afternoon in non-league play.
Masco (10-2) was smooth as silk on offense for 3 ½ quarters. They ran plays that turned up many great scoring opportunities and built a commanding, 48-32, lead with 3:48 left in regulation.
I imagined a Masco coast-in from there but North Andover had other ideas. After spending most of the game trying to find someone/anyone to pass to, the Knights began to use their pressure defense to create offense.
Led by Pam Coufos (two steals leading to two layups), the Division 2 visitors put together nine straight points in two minutes. Five straight Masco miscues certainly helped, as NA closed to 48-41 with 1 ½ minutes left in the game.
But that was where the late run came to an end for the Knights. Leah Chittick (eight points) missed the front end of a one-and-one that could have cut the lead to five. Then the Chieftains put a lengthy possession together (finally) and Nicole Femino (12 points) drove the lane to the left to squelch NA’s rally plans.
North Andover (9-3) struggled against the Masconomet pressure defense from beginning to end. The Knights are trying to get used to life without Division 1 (Hartford) signee Morgan Lumb and it is clearly a work in progress.
When healthy, Morgan was able to make plays for herself ( I saw her get fifteen points in one quarter in a state tournament game last year against Tewksbury) and she could also set up teammates.
Megan Collins (17 points) supplied points for the Knights but there were very few assisted baskets for NA.
However, despite registering seventeen turnovers during the first half, NA trailed only 26-19 at halftime.
However, Masco’s last basket in the first half (Claudia Marsh layup) started ten straight unanswered points for the Division 1 home team. Hannah Kiernan contributed two layups while Nicole Femino and Meghan Collins each added a pair of free throws in the ten-point surge that boosted the Chieftain advantage to 34-19 in the third quarter.
Masco started another run of unanswered scoring (seven) late in the third quarter that stretched their margin to 45-26 two minutes into the final quarter.
That lead would extend to 48-32 before NA made the late charge.
The very idea that North Andover had Masconomet on the ropes in this game is truly remarkable considering: (1) they played without Morgan Lumb, (2) they turned the ball over thirty times, and (3) they committed eighteen fouls and forced Coach Sue Breen to employ all sorts of unusual on-floor combinations. Perhaps the biggest problem was point guard Pam Coufos getting limited first-half minutes because of three fouls.
Hannah Kiernan (15 points) took the ball to the basket on every opportunity for Masco and was rewarded numerous times with baskets or free throws. She had an end-to-end drive in the fourth quarter.
Coach John McNamara (Pentucket) was an interested spectator. His team faces Masco at Masco on February 1st. The Lady Chieftains will certainly have to cut down on their turnovers (twenty-three) if they hope to avenge an early-season loss to the Division 3 Sachems.
North Andover, formerly in the Cape Ann League, brought flowers for the Masconomet seniors.
The best part of the afternoon at Masconomet was the singing of the National Anthem by three little ladies. I won’t try to guess their ages but their pitch and their diction was unbelievable.
It was a long afternoon for some of the North Andover faithful. They had plenty of comments for the two officials about the frequent whistles, the eighteen fouls called against their Knights, and finally the eleven-point loss. And then they had to go home and watch what the Ravens did to our Patriots!
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