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(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.”
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.
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!
“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.
“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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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
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