Monthly Archives: December 2021

Long-range Reading downs Amesbury 59-33

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Jackie Malley (29 points including seven 3’s)
Avery Hallinan (18 points)

(Wilmington MA) “You can live by the three and you can die by the three.”

You usually hear that line when a team starts hot from long range but doesn’t know when to stop shooting from out there.

Fast forward to this afternoon’s girls’ basketball game between Amesbury and Reading.

There was no second part to the Rockets’ long-range game today.

Cali Catarius chases Ella Abreu

They not only lived by the three, but they thrived on it!

Reading connected from downtown thirteen times and overwhelmed Amesbury, 59-33.

This was a first-rounder in the Wilmington Holiday Tournament.  Both teams play again tomorrow.

Senior Jackie Malley (29 points) was amazing for Reading from the get-go.

McKenna Hallinan to the rim

Jackie had a sixteen-point first quarter that separated the Rockets from the Indians in a hurry.

“They couldn’t miss,” said Amesbury coach Gregg Dollas afterwards.  “I didn’t think that our defense was that bad.”

But on this afternoon, Reading (3-2) clicked consistently from beyond the arc.

Jackie Malley had seven of those three’s and her sister Jess had two others.

Jackie Malley looks to pass

“We have a lot of good shooters,” said Jackie afterwards, “and we found them really well today.  I just took shots as they came and felt confident.”

Jackie is committed to D3 basketball next year at St. Lawrence University in New York.  The Saints are located, as the name suggests, along the St. Lawrence River in northern New York.

“Jackie (Malley) had a great game today,” said Reading coach Kara Melillo post-game.  “She’s led us all year.  She definitely set the tone for us offensively and defensively.”

Ciara Keane scores

The Rockets started the first two minutes of the second quarter with a three from freshman Molly Trahan (16 points) followed by a three and a layup from Jackie Malley.  That burst of offense gave Reading a 29-9 advantage.

This one had long-afternoon written all over it for Amesbury.

The Indians (3-1) had limited their opponents to the 30’s but by halftime today the Rockets had a 32-19 lead.

An Amesbury optimist would have expected in the second half that the team from the Middlesex League would cool off while the team from the Cape Ann League would put some points together and make it a closer game.

Avery Hallinan to the rim

Not today.

In the third quarter, the Rockets made three more three’s, while holding Amesbury to only three points.

“We didn’t play together enough on offense,” said Coach Dollas.  “We need to fix that.”

The Indians settled too often for drives through traffic and the first open look that showed up.

Avery Hallinan (18 points) was the most successful of the Indians in getting to the basket.  She drew contact and ended up taking fourteen free throws.

Jackie Malley in close

The Rockets put a 19-1 run together in the second half to expand their lead to, 54-22, 2 ½ minutes into the final quarter.

“When you’re hitting 3’s, two or three feet outside the line with consistency it’s pretty hard to defend,” said Coach Dollas.

“Every game I’ve watched them play they didn’t hit like this,” he added.  “It was something I’ve never seen.”

“We worked really hard in practice this week,” said Jackie Malley. “We tried hard to move the ball around and everyone contributed.  We trusted each other.”

Gabby Redford

It was one of those games in which even when the Rockets missed a long shot, they were often able to find the rebound.

Coach Melillo: “We had one of our better practices yesterday.  The kids played with a lot of energy today.  The shots were falling today and that certainly helped us.”

Coach Dollas: “I doubt that we’ll see anyone as hot as this team in the Cape Ann League.”

I was impressed with the Wilmington facility.  It had plenty of seating as well as open space around the outside of the court.  The lighting was also very good.

Reading   21   11   15   12   =   59

Amesbury    9   10   3   11   =   33

(All of the pictures will enlarge if you click on them.)

Ella Abreu passes
Avery Hallinan guards Emily Bass
Eyeing a rebound
Molly Trahan (1) challenges a shot
Avery Hallinan sees an open lane
Tight Reading defense
McKenna Hallinan
Sami Kimball
Liv DeLong
Reading box
Amesbury box

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Strong second half separates Newburyport from Triton 54-31

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Emma Foley (19 points) had a strong second half for Newburyport
Olivia McDonald (4) and Reese Renda (45)

(Newburyport MA) Key player Deirdre McElhinney was missing (Covid).

Inside presence Abigail Gillingham had graduated.

But neither of those things kept Newburyport from defeating Triton, 54-31, on Tuesday night.

The win advances the undefeated Clippers (4-0) to the title game of the Institution for Savings Girls Holiday Basketball Tournament tomorrow night against Hamilton-Wenham.

Sophomore Olivia McDonald filled in nicely for Deirdre while Emma Foley feasted on the inside of the Triton zone defense.

However, don’t be fooled by the final score.  The Vikings (3-2) were very much in this one (25-23) with only three minutes left in the third quarter. 

Kendall Liebert (16 points)

However, the two-point deficit at that time was a distant memory by the time the game ended.

“We just ran out of steam,” surmised Triton coach Bryan Shields afterwards. “Newburyport is a great team.”

The Clippers man-to-man pressure and foul trouble for high scoring Kendall Liebert (16 points) combined to limit Triton points severely.

Battle on the floor

The Vikings suddenly couldn’t match baskets with the Clippers.

Newburyport ran six straight points before Caitlin Frary (8 points) put in a layup.

The Clippers followed with ten unanswered points before a free throw from Lia Hatheway.

Then came eight straight Newburyport points and this game was out-of-hand, 49-26, with five minutes left.

Newburyport coach Karen Grutchfield

Key performer for the Clippers during their productive second-half possessions was junior Emma Foley.  Emma had ten points during the breakaway segments and finished with nineteen points.

“We lost a lot of forwards from last year,” explained Emma post-game.  “I realized that I had to step up.  I’m working hard to do that this season. It’s really fun to play inside.”

Emma went out with an injury in the second quarter but returned to have a sixteen-point second half.

Emma Foley was injured in the second quarter on this play

“I have been playing on a sprained ankle for a couple of weeks now,” she said.  “A girl landed on it tonight.”

Molly Kimball looks to pass

The Vikings used a zone defense for most of the night.

“We wanted to slow them down and keep them out of the paint,” said Coach Shields.  “We were keying on “10” (Makenna Ward).  She’s a great player for sure.  We wanted to focus on her and make the rest of the team beat us.”

Makenna was limited to six points, but the rest of the team caught fire in the second half led by Emma Foley to get the victory.

Caitlin Frary on a drive

The Newburyport defense created twenty-four Triton turnovers.  Most of the Vikings’ miscues were in the halfcourt and didn’t lead to many breakaway layups.

Triton put its best basketball on display in the second quarter.  Trailing 17-9, the Vikings doubled their score while shutting out the Clippers during a three-minute segment.  Kendall Liebert had a fullcourt layup and two assists to spark the visitors to an 18-17 lead.

One thing that both teams had in common was poor foul shooting.  The Clippers missed ten while the Vikings missed eight.  Several were the front ends of one-and-one’s. 

Triton’s Molly Kimball was the only player to make a 3-point shot.

Free throw shooting was a problem for both teams

The Clippers came up with five rebound baskets.  “We pride ourselves in our rebounding, but we didn’t do quite enough of that tonight,” said Coach Shields.

Asked about the Institution for Savings tournament, Emma said, “We love this tournament.  It’s fun.  They have T-shirts and trophies.”

(The pictures will enlarge if you click on them.)

Triton box
Newburyport box
Lizzie Metsker chased by Vikings
Anna Seidel lines up a free throw
Emma Foley in for two points
Olivia McDonald (4) jump shot
Sydney Turner in close
Lilly Papatola (7 points)
Liv Kiricoples on a break
Emma Foley defends Liv Kiricoples

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Rockland holds off Masco 48-45

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Julia Elie (23 points for Rockland)
Taylor Bovardi (15 points for Masco)

(Peabody MA) Great start by Rockland.

Great finish by Masconomet.

Neither team’s coach, however, was thrilled with the way things went the rest of the time.

Rockland held on and defeated Masco, 48-45, on Monday night in the opening round of the Bishop Fenwick Holiday Tournament.

Maggie Elie chased by Masco defenders

The Bulldogs (4-1) face host Bishop Fenwick in the title game on Wednesday night.

Masco (3-2) takes on Haverhill in the consolation game.

Senior Julia Elie (23 points) overwhelmed the Chieftains on the inside for the first half.

“We were aware of how good she is,” said Masco coach Shannon Kirwan afterwards.  “We threw everything we had at her.  Kudos to her for getting through doubles and triples.”

Battle on the floor
Rockland coach Diana Newcomb

Julia (Bentley commit) tallied Rockland’s first eight points.  Her third basket four minutes into the first quarter gave the Bulldogs a 6-4 lead.  They never relinquished that lead the rest of the way.

But as Rockland coach Diana Newcomb described it, “we made it interesting.”

Credit Masco.  They just refused to go away.

Their offense, however, disappeared from time to time.

Masco closed to 12-11 after a well-run inbounds play netted junior Kaleigh Monagle (9 points) a layup.

That happened 2 ½ minutes into the second quarter.  The final 5 ½ minutes of that quarter the team from Boxford didn’t score a single point.

Block or charge?

“Offensively is where we’re struggling the most right now,” said Coach Kirwan.

The Bulldogs had a nine-point lead at halftime (20-11) and ran that lead up to fifteen points (31-16) after reeling off eleven unanswered points.

With 3 ½ minutes left in the third quarter, you had to like Rockland’s chances.

However, what Masco was unable to do in set offenses earlier, they were able to do off of their tenacious full-court defense over the final 1 ½ quarters. 

Mia Theberge (5) gets a rebound

Turnovers turned into points and thirty seconds into the final quarter a Kylie DuMont drive capped a 13-1 run for Masco.  The Chieftains were one possession away, 32-29.

But that was as close as Masco would get.

Every time Masco scored down the stretch, Rockland had an answer.  An old-fashioned three by Julia Elie one time, beyond-the-arc three’s by Charlie Kelleher and Sydney Blaney two other times, kept the Bulldogs in front.

Sarah Green defends

Every Masco basket brought a fresh dose of full-court pressure and Rockland often made their reaction to pressure more “interesting” than their coach would have liked.

“We could not execute down the stretch to save our lives,” explained Coach Newcomb.  “We showed awful discipline.  Our poor decision making led to bad passes and bad angles with no one wanting to take over.”

“Credit Masco for playing it up for the full thirty-two minutes,” added Coach Newcomb.

“We had trouble finding the offensive flow but our defense definitely helped at the end,” said Coach Kirwan.  “Taylor Bovardi (15 points, 4 steals, 5 assists) was a key in getting us back into it.   The team showed a lot of grit coming back and I’m proud of that.”

Free throw shooting was an adventure for both teams
Kylie DuMont (8 points)

Free throw shooting turned into an adventure for both teams.  Masco was 3-for-10.

Rockland’s free throw shooting nearly cost them the game in the final forty-five seconds. 

Masco started fouling on each Rockland possession and the Bulldogs missed five-of-eight free throw attempts, including the front end of two one-and-one’s, in those final 45 seconds.  Those Rockland misses allowed Masco to get within three points (48-45) and have a possession to tie it.

“We need to take better care of the ball (nineteen turnovers) and we need to practice our free throw shooting,” suggested Coach Kirwan.

Masco pressure defense

“Hopefully we can learn from this one and not make the same awful mistakes,” said Coach Newcomb.  “We’ve got to do the little things, like make free throws.”

The aggressive Masco defense led to turnovers (Rockland had twenty-four).

 The Chieftains’ disruptive defense lessened Julia Elie’s touches near the basket in the second half. Julia had eight second-half points.

“Julia has to finish more consistently,” said Coach Newcomb.  “She stops herself more than other teams stop her.”

Rockland   12   8   12   16   =  48

Masco         7    4   16   18   =  45

Terrific lighting at Fenwick for picture taking.

(The pictures will enlarge if you click on them.)

Rockland box
Masconomet box
Sydney Blaney and Kylie DuMont chase a loose ball
Maddie Murphy surrounded by Chieftains
Julia Elie
Krystal Zepaj guarded by Maddie Hermenau
Reaching for a rebound
Carissa Scannell (4) chased by Jordan Stec (15) and Emma Cameron (14)

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Manchester-Essex holds off Amesbury 53-51

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Action under the Amesbury basket
Brennan Twombly (18 points) surrounded by Amesbury defenders

(Amesbury MA) “It was hard to defend them early,” said Manchester-Essex junior Brennan Twombly afterwards.

Amesbury jumped out to a 9-0 lead, and it looked like a long night for the Hornets.

But the Indians cooled off and ME took the lead for good three minutes into the fourth quarter.

The final was Manchester-Essex 53, Amesbury 51.

This was a one-possession game for the last three minutes, but Amesbury couldn’t put a stop together with points.

Matt Welch (22 points)

“It was our first game,” said Amesbury coach Tom Comeau post-game.  “We’ll get better. 

Matt Welch (22 points) led all scorers.

The Indians raced out with scores from four different starters (Cam Keliher, Rocco Kokinacis, Max LaPointe, Matt Welch) and had their student section roaring with each possession.

“Amesbury stuck it to us a little bit in the beginning,” said ME coach Tim St. Laurent afterwards.

“We had a lot of success against Newburyport in the zone,” added Coach St. Laurent, “but tonight we made a good adjustment to man-to-man and rebounded.”

Patrick Cronin guarded by Jake Hallinan

The Indians kept on putting up points, however, and led, 26-13, 3+ minutes into the second quarter.

Key moment was Matt Welch getting his third foul at that point and sitting out the remainder of the second quarter.

While Matt sat, the Hornets reeled off nine straight points.  The contributors were; Patrick Cronin, Brennan Twombly, Cade Furse, and Sam Athanas.

The Amesbury lead was reduced to 28-24 at halftime.

Rocco Kokinacis surrounded by Hornets defenders

Both teams had plenty to get excited about in the third quarter.  There were five lead changes.  Matt Welch and Cam Keliher (17 points) carried the Indians.

“They (Amesbury) have two guys who can really score,” said Coach St. Laurent.

The Hornets were led by Brennan Twombly (18 points) and Cade Furse (15 points).

Cam Keliher (17 points) had three 3’s

Amesbury took a, 38-35, lead into the final two minutes of the third quarter.

Manchester-Essex took over from there running nine unanswered points.  A Sam Athanas triple ended the streak of consecutive offense with the Hornets now ahead, 44-38, three minutes into the final quarter.

Amesbury was unable to recover.

“I think we got a little tired in the second half,” said AHS coach Tom Comeau.  “We didn’t rebound as well.”

Brennan Twombly guards Matt Welch

“It was great team defense that won this game for us,” said ME coach Tim St. Laurent.  “We defended the ball.”

“We came out with more energy after those first couple of minutes,” recalled Brennan Twombly. 

Patrick Cronin (10 points) was the third Hornet in double figures.

Endicott commit Cam Keliher made a three to start the game and closed a game with a fall-away three that put him into the Amesbury student section.

Cam had Sam Athanas on him most of the game and found very little open space.

Ball in the lane

“Cam knows that the teams we face will try to find ways to stop him,” said Coach Comeau.

Returning Hornets starter AJ Pallazola was not in uniform.  He told me pre-game that he was injured playing football and that it would be several weeks before he would be playing basketball.  He also told me that he hadn’t made a college choice yet.

That the Hornets could defeat both Newburyport and Amesbury without AJ in their lineup suggests that they should have a very good season.

Manchester-Essex  10  14  15  14  = 53

Amesbury  18  10  10  13  =  51

(The pictures above and below will enlarge if you click on them.)

Brennan Twombly (18 points) at the line late in the game
Vaughn O’Leary
Matt Heidt
Battle under the basket
Matt Welch (22 points) gets off a shot near the basket
Keegan Collins
Max LaPointe
Matt Welch
Manchester-Essex box
Amesbury box

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Triton recovers to defeat Saugus 43-39

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Maeve Heffernan chases Peyton DiBiasio
Kendall Liebert (11 points)

(Byfield MA) Two nights ago Triton started out, 13-0, against Swampscott on the road and ended up losing, 40-39, in overtime.

No resemblance to that game tonight against Saugus.

The Vikings were the ones doing the early trailing tonight (by as many as twelve in the second quarter) but at the end they had a satisfying, 43-39, win in their home opener.

“Basketball is a game of runs,” said Triton coach Bryan Shields afterwards.  “They made one early and we made a run late.”

Lia Hatheway

The Vikings (1-1) pulled ahead of Saugus, 29-27, early in the final quarter on a rebound basket by Lia Hatheway.

Credit the Sachems (0-1), they stayed around on a clutch three by Ashleen Escobar and a layup by Fallon Millerick.

The teams were tied, 35-35, with 2 ½ minutes left.

The Vikings took the W by getting the next six points. 

Free throws were crucial in closing time.  Maeve Heffernan and Isabella Basile had one each and Caitlin Frary hit two.  Liv Kiricoples turned an offensive rebound into a basket.

Fallon Millerick and Liv Kiricoples

Meanwhile, things weren’t going as well for Saugus.  During those same two minutes, the Sachems missed the front end of three straight one-and-one’s.  Ouch!

Kendall Liebert and Caitlin Frary paced Triton with eleven points each. 

Eighth grader Peyton DiBiasio was the scoring leader for Saugus with twelve points including two 3’s.

Triton struggled mightily throughout most of the first half.  Saugus pressure led to plenty of traveling calls and bad passes.  The Vikings had sixteen turnovers (by my count) in just the first quarter! 

Caitlin Frary made seven free throws

“We started off a little shaky,” said Triton senior captain Maeve Heffernan post-game.

Saugus took advantage, riding three’s by April Aldred and Ashleen Escobar to run off twelve straight points and gain a, 12-2, lead with 2:20 to go in the first quarter.

Two free throws and a layin by Kendall Liebert followed but Triton’s struggles didn’t end.  For almost all of the next eight minutes of playing time, stretching well into the second quarter, the Vikings didn’t score a point and the turnovers continued.

Saugus had a great chance to gain some significant separation but didn’t.  The Vikings defense began to have an effect.  Triton’s zone forced Saugus to rely on outside shots and there were very few offensive rebounds for the visitors.

Ashleen Escobar

“Triton was tough,” said Saugus coach Mark Schruender afterwards.  “Their zone was good.  They have great length.”

“We like to play physical,” said Maeve Heffernan.  “There will be fouls because we’re pressing.”

Triton was a different team in the second half.

“We captured the momentum late in the second quarter,” recalled Coach Shields.  “It was about sticking in.  It was a team effort.”

Saugus coach Mark Schruender

The Vikings reduced their turnovers and used their size advantage to score on the inside or get to the foul line.

Triton had twenty-three turnovers in the first half but only six in the entire second half.

“As the game went on, we found ways to break through their defense,” said Caitlin Frary.  “We found the pockets and got our shots up.”

Ball on the floor

The Vikings put a five-point spurt together in the closing minute of the third quarter (Maeve Heffernan 3-pointer, and two Caitlin Frary free throws) to finally catch Saugus, 27-27.

The Sachems did regain the lead (30-29) on a Samantha Shea free throw and there were two ties after that.  But crunch time belonged to the home team.

“You try not to let the closeness of the game get into your head,” said Kendall Liebert regarding the closing minutes.  “I’m glad we pushed through it.  We’re a good team.  We work well together.”

“We had our seniors back in at the end and they closed the game,” said Coach Shields.  “Molly (Kimball) had a huge block for us.”

Molly Kimball

Eighth grader Peyton DiBiasio was the game’s top scorer.  “She’s a tough kid,” said Coach Schruender.  “Peyton said she wasn’t nervous.  She liked the moment.”

“You expect the fouls and turnovers in December,” added Coach Schruender.  “At this point, the kids are more athletes than basketball players.”

Coach Schruender got a technical called on him when he put the wrong number in the scorebook.  “That’s inexcusable,” he said.  What probably hurt more was that Triton’s Kendall Liebert made both free throws.

Liv Kiricoples

Coach Schruender’s brother Ted coaches the Triton boys’ basketball team and was at tonight’s game. “I’m sure my brother will have lots of notes for me,” said Coach Schruender laughing.

Triton  6  7  14  16  = 43

Saugus 12  9  6  12  = 39

(The pictures will enlarge if you click on them.)

Saugus box
Triton box
Caitlin Frary shoots a free throw late in the game
Isabella Basile chases a loose ball
Reaching for control
Three Vikings chase Peyton DiBiasio
Rebound battle
Vikings double team
Maeve Heffernan and Fallon Millerick
Samantha Shea

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Newburyport defeats Manchester-Essex 53-26

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Plenty of pressure applied by the Clippers
Emma Foley (14 points in 2nd half)

(Newburyport MA) Don’t let the final score fool you.

The final was Newburyport 53, Manchester-Essex 26.

But the Hornets were more than holding their own into the second half. 

In fact, the visitors were ahead, 22-21, 2 ½ minutes into the second half.

But the one constant was the Newburyport pressure defense.  In the second half, that defense created points in bunches and ME couldn’t keep up.

Emma Fitzgerald (16 points)

“We had a great first half,” said ME coach Lauren Dubois afterwards, “and we handled their pressure better.”

“We struggled, however, against it in the second half,” she added.  “Newburyport picked up the intensity and we ran out of gas a little bit.”

MaKenna Ward stole the ball and went the full length of the court to give the Clippers the lead for good, 23-22, in the second half.

After that the non-stop pressure set up a steady flow of productive possessions for Newburyport.

“When we play our defense,” said MaKenna Ward, “we get steals and we run.”

Olivia Foley and MaKenna Ward turn up the defensive pressure

“We work on a lot of different defenses,” added MaKenna.

In the first half, the Clippers were primarily man-to-man and while they created twenty turnovers (by my count) those turnovers weren’t leading to a flow of points.

In the second half, the double-teams started.  Makenna Ward, Deirdre McElhinney, and Olivia McDonald swarmed the Hornets’ ballhandlers into miscues.  In the second half, the takeaways often turned into points.

MaKenna Ward (13 points)

“Our team is fast,” said MaKenna.  “When we push, we score the most.”

Newburyport’s Emma Foley (14 points) had all of those points in the second half.

“We held them to six points in the second half,” said Clippers coach Karen Grutchfield post-game.  “That was the difference.”

Coach Grutchfield couldn’t help but reflect on her team’s first half: “It was frustrating.  We missed a lot of layups and free throws.”

Contact in the lane

“But,” she added, “we overcame the first-half adversity and I think we can enjoy our play in the second half.”

One thing that both coaches could agree on was the impressive game that ME’s Emma Fitzgerald had.

Coach Dubois: “Emma brings intensity.  She’s a great leader.  She battles hard on every possession.”

Coach Grutchfield: “We had trouble with #3 (Emma Fitzgerald).  She’s a very good player.”

Emma led all scorers with sixteen points.  She tallied all of ME’s second-half points.

Deirdre McElhinney (13 points)

MaKenna Ward and Deirdre McElhinney both had thirteen points for Newburyport.

This was a game played almost entirely on the inside.  No three’s were made and very few were attempted.

When Newburyport went into organized offense, they were intent on getting the ball inside to Emma Foley.  That strategy was the key to Emma’s productive second half.

This was the season opener for both squads.

Parker Brooks under the basket

Free throw shooting was an adventure for both teams.  They combined to miss twenty-five freebies.  ME was 10/25 while Newburyport was 13/23.

Coach Dubois: “Newburyport is a great team with a lot of experienced players back.”

Coach Grutchfield: “The win was nice, but we all have a lot of improving to do.”

MaKenna Ward: “I think that we were a little bit scared in the first half and not playing our best defense.”

Newburyport 11 – 8 – 17 – 17 = 53

Manchester-Essex 9 – 11 – 4 – 2 = 26

The Clippers scored the last fifteen points of the game.

(All of the pictures will enlarge if you click on them.)

Manchester-Essex box
Newburyport box
Anna Seidel (12) gets off a shot
Pressure on the ball
Loose ball
Emma Fitzgerald (16 points) in the lane
Mercedes O’Neill
Amelia Donnellan makes a pass
Olivia McDonald
Paige Garlitz
MaKenna Ward and Kendall Newton

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Niya Morgen and Yirsy Queliz guide St. Mary’s past Pentucket 59-37

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Niya Morgen (27 points) in for a layup
Yirsy Queliz (18 points)

(West Newbury MA) St. Mary’s got better as the game went along defeating Pentucket, 59-37, on Friday night.

The Spartans junior guards (Yirsy Queliz and Niya Morgen) were a game-long problem for Pentucket in their season opener.

“They might have the best backcourt in the state,” said Pentucket coach John McNamara afterwards.

Niya had seven three’s in twenty-seven points while Yirsy added eighteen points.

Action in front of the Pentucket student section

The points were one thing, but the defense and court-sense of both players was noticeable.

“Our guard play eventually took the game over,” explained Spartans coach Jeff Newhall post-game.

“They’re good friends,” added Coach Newhall.  “They play AAU together.  They are used to playing together.  There is no weakness in their games.”

The Pentucket student section was in place as was an ever-playing band.  There was a playoff-game atmosphere.

Gabby Bellacqua (11 points)

The Sachems started well, and even had a 6-2 lead, as St. Mary’s tried to settle in. 

But as time went on, it became apparent that Pentucket was going to have trouble scoring and that St. Mary’s wouldn’t. 

Yirsy Queliz created a turnover with seconds left in the first quarter and cashed it in to give the visitors their first lead, 9-7. They would build on that lead the rest of the game.

Audrey Conover defends Niya Morgen

Niya Morgen carried St. Mary’s in the second and third quarters.  The Swampscott transfer drained six three’s in those quarters.

One of Niya’s three-pointers was a step-back three.

“Niya made some big shots to keep us alive,” said Coach Newhall.

The Spartans extended a 24-18 halftime lead to 41-28 after three quarters.

The Pentucket problem wasn’t a lack of shots.  The issue was making some shots. 

Yirsy Queliz and Coach Newhall

“We had some good looks,” said Coach McNamara, “but against a good team you have to make shots.  The defense can only hold on for so long.”

Abby Dube paced Pentucket with fifteen points.  Gabby Bellacqua added eleven points mostly on free throws.

This game was an endowment game so it will have no effect on tournament standings.

“We haven’t played Pentucket in ten years,” said Coach Newhall.  “The last time was in 2011 when we beat them in the Division 3 North semi-finals and went on to win our first state championship. Before that, we used to play them all the time.”

Alyssa Thompson and Bella Owumi

“John (McNamara) and I planned to have this game last year but couldn’t,” said Coach Newhall.  “Any time we can play a quality opponent on the road that can challenge us we’re willing to do it.  Some teams aren’t willing to host us.”

“We had nothing to lose in scheduling them,” said Coach McNamara, “since it’s an endowment game.  We knew that they were loaded.  It was a learning experience for us.  We start our season next week against Georgetown.”

Yirsy Queliz and Brooke Moloney

It was easy to be impressed with Yirsy Queliz.  Coach Newhall summed her up this way: “Yirsy has been a starter since she was in eighth grade.  She does everything.  She may not score a ton but she’s a tremendous ballhandler.  She’s probably the best on-the-ball defender in the area.”

Yirsy’s teammate, Niya, is equally good at handling the ball and tonight showed the ability to hit outside shots and get to the basket.

Olivia Abbott and Lana Mickelson

“St. Mary’s is probably one of the top five teams in the state,” said Coach McNamara.  “They have four kids who can create their own offense.  There are probably three scholarship kids on that team.”

Coach Newhall was happy with the win and especially liked his team’s play at the end.  “I was impressed with our fourth quarter defensively and using the clock for good possessions,” he said.  “We had Yirsy with the ball, the court spread, and ran good sets.”

Yirsy said afterwards that “Pentucket was a tough team.”  Niya added that the “team had to chill out without fouling.”

Yirsy Queliz sets a pick for Niya Morgen

Both girls agreed that because they have played together so much, “they’ve built chemistry.”

Yirsy and Niya ran a perfect pick-and-roll in the fourth quarter.

This is the last season in the current Pentucket gymnasium.  Coach McNamara said afterwards that he was going to miss the place.

“One of my best memories of this place was beating a very good Masco team here my first year of coaching,” said Coach McNamara.  “They had been to the Tsongas the year before and had everyone back.  We were the new kids on the block.”

Kaylie Dalgar and Audrey Conover

Bob Romeo (former Masco coach and now North Reading coach) was in the house tonight.  I also saw Coach Dollas and some of his Amesbury players in attendance.

Graduated outside shooter Arielle Cleveland was also spotted afterwards.  Pentucket could have used her shooting tonight.

(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge if you click on them.)

Pentucket box
St. Mary’s box
Bella Owumi guarded by Bethany Cloutier
Yirsy Queliz gets deliberate late in the game
Yirsy Queliz makes a steal
Gabby Bellacqua pressures Yirsy Queliz
AJ Hyacinthe
Audrey Conover
Emma Lopata

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