(Byfield MA) The smiles were nice to see.
The mask mandate was over so the smiles could actually be seen.
And there were plenty of smiles at Triton as the Vikings defeated Worcester Tech, 63-34, on Tuesday night in the preliminary round of Division 3.
The victory put a happy spin on season that had apparently ended poorly with seven straight losses.
The Vikings 8-12 record wouldn’t get them into the playoffs but under the MIAA power ranking system the top thirty-two teams in each division qualify.
“We were at thirty-one for a while but ended up twenty-seventh,” said Triton coach Bryan Shields.
“We found out literally a couple of days ago,” said Kendall Liebert afterwards. “We prepped for just a few days.”
To make the pleasant surprise even better was that the Vikings ended up with a home game to start the tournament. How? Despite Worcester Tech’s 10-10 record the power rankings placed them south of Triton.
So while the Vikings came out happy to even be there, the Eagles were a little tight.
“My girls came out a little nervous,” said WT coach Stephanie Leveillee afterwards. “I have a young team.” There is only one senior.
Separation was impossible for about 1 ½ quarters because of turnovers and missed shots by both squads.
But halfway through the second quarter, with the Vikings holding a slim, 14-13, lead, things changed drastically in Triton’s favor.
“Our game plan was to defend, defend, defend,” explained Coach Shields. “We knew the players we needed to cover.”
Defensive perfection it was over the next five minutes of playing time stretching into the first minute of the second half.
The visitors didn’t score a point while Triton put up sixteen straight points.
When that segment of terrific defense and offense ended the home team was sitting pretty with a, 30-13, lead.
Kendall Liebert (21 points) and Reese Renda (9 points) were keys in the breakaway. Both girls collected six points. Reese had two steals that turned into layups while Kendall had one, but also scored on an offensive rebound.
Two minutes later a Molly Kimball (13 points) three-pointer boosted the Triton edge to twenty points, 37-17.
Worcester Tech did not go away. Led by Sanaii Diaz (15 points) the Eagles hung around and narrowed their deficit to 50-34.
The final 3+ minutes saw the Vikings go on another run of points (thirteen) to close out the game.
“It feels awesome to win a tournament game,” said Reese Renda afterwards.
This was a game in which the enthusiasm on both teams was high and the finesse was not so high. Plenty of contact and plenty of turnovers resulted.
“It was really rough out there,” said Molly Kimball.
“We were both pretty hard on each other,” added Kendall. “It was a nice win for our seniors in their last home game.”
“It was fun to play in front of our home crowd and get a win,” said Coach Shields.
Coach Leveillee: “This is my first year as head coach. To make it to the state tournament is a huge accomplishment for the team.”
The Vikings ended up 7-2 at home.
Triton hadn’t won a game since January 21st against Lynnfield so it’s not too hard to imagine how sweet this win was for the Vikings.
Worcester Tech plays in the Colonial Athletic League.
Triton 8 18 16 21 = 63
Worcester Tech 8 5 12 9 = 34
(The pictures will enlarge.)