Tag Archives: Ali Grasso

Newburyport holds off North Reading 38-36 in defensive struggle

Newburyport celebrates their fifth win

Deirdre McElhinney scores in the last minute

Julia Howse left with an injury in the second half

(Newburyport MA) Freshman Deirdre McElhinney turned a last-minute North Reading miscue into an old-fashioned 3-point play to give Newburyport the cushion needed to hold off the Hornets, 38-36, on Wednesday night.

Both D2 teams had scoring strengths, but tenacious defense minimized those strengths.

The Clippers (5-1) wanted to take advantage of their height inside, while North Reading (3-3) wanted their long-range shooting to spark them.

“It was a battle,” said NR coach Bob Romeo afterwards.  “We told the team before the game that this would be a one-or-two possession game, and it was.”

After a missed free throw (Sami Cavanaugh), the Hornets had twelve seconds to either tie the game or win it.  They got two shots off but under heavy pressure and couldn’t connect.

Ali Grasso led all scorers with twelve points

“I’m thrilled with how tough our kids were down the stretch against a good team,” explained NHS coach Karen Grutchfield.

The half-court man-to-man defenses kept either team from gaining significant separation.

North Reading had a six-point lead (10-4) after a Lauren Sullivan (9 points) breakaway in the opening period.

Abby Gillingham looks for her shot

Newburyport had a six-point lead of its own in the third quarter (24-18) after an Abby Gillingham layin.

The rest of the time it was close between the two Cape Ann League opponents.  There were six ties and five lead changes.

The visitors had a 3-point edge (32-29) five minutes into the final quarter after an Ali Grasso (12 points) long one.

The Clippers answered with their best collection of consecutive offense (six straight) over the next minute.  In the crucial run, senior Sami Cavanaugh started it by setting up junior Leah Metsker for a layup and then added a jump shot.  The other two points came on a perfectly executed inbounds play: Abby Gillingham set a screen for teammate Sadie Vandenberg along the foul line.  Sadie used the screen and rolled wide open into the lane for an uncontested layup.

Perfectly executed in-bounds play gave NHS a layup

That run of points put NHS ahead by three.

Makenna Ward has a shot blocked by Lauren Sullivan

The Hornets cut that lead to one (Lauren Sullivan rebound basket) and had the ball back in the last minute with a chance to do even better.  But the Clippers forced a turnover on the NR perimeter and Sami sent Deirdre off for the outcome-sealing layup + one.

“I felt that Anna Affolter (9 points) and Deirdre (7 points) really stepped up,” said Coach Grutchfield.  “Sami led us.  She’s the heart of the team.”

North Reading had five three’s.  Four of them came in the second half.

“We hit some big shots in that stretch when we got back into the game in the second half,” said Coach Romeo.

“North Reading is a good team with great shooters,” said Coach Grutchfield.  “We did a good job defending Ali Grasso.  She’s a very good player.”

Several of the Clippers had turns guarding Ali including Anna Affolter and Deirdre McElhinney.

Ali had twenty-three points the last time the Hornets visited Newburyport.

Leah Metsker looks for a pass

NR’s top inside presence (Julia Howse) injured herself diving for a ball going out-of-bounds early in the third quarter and didn’t return.

“We were a little short-handed when Julia (8 points) went out,” admitted Coach Romeo.

The Clippers (8-12 last year) are off to a nice start with their 5-1 record.  They have yet to face Pentucket, Masconomet, and Amesbury.  North Reading (3-3) has losses to Pentucket and Amesbury.

“We’ll be okay,” said Coach Romeo.  “We’re getting better.”

Pentucket coach John McNamara was in the house.

Coach Romeo on wearing green after all those years wearing Masco red: “I was due for some new clothes.”

North Reading box

Newburyport box

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

Makenna Ward tries to pass inside

Lauren Sullivan gets a timeout for North Reading

Sami Cavanaugh spots Deirdre McElhinney ahead and in the open

Sami Cavanaugh lofts a pass toward Leah Metsker

Sami Cavanaugh layup attempt with Ali Grasso over her shoulder

Senior Sami Cavanaugh

Freshman Makenna Ward

Freshman Emma Foley

Freshman Anna Affolter drives with Kiley McCarthy defending

Elle Doucette

Deirdre McElhinney adds the plus one in the closing minute

Ali Grasso pass in transition to teammate Lauren Sullivan

 

 

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Strong second half sends Newburyport to 65-49 win over North Reading

Sami Cavanaugh (15 points) keyed the Clippers second half comeback

Ali Grasso (23 points)

(Newburyport MA) It isn’t often that you go to one game and see two of them.

If all you saw was the first half of tonight’s Newburyport/North Reading game, you would have been very impressed with the Hornets.  They made shots in close and from long range (five 3’s).  The North Reading defense forced nine turnovers in the first half and Julia Howse had several blocks on layup attempts. Junior Ali Grasso had thirteen points and NR led, 35-27.

Fortunately for Newburyport there was a second half and it was their turn to dazzle.  The Clippers caught the Hornets in the third quarter and blew the visitors out in the final quarter to win, 65-49.

“That was us in the first half,” said North Reading coach Bob Melillo afterwards.  “We didn’t play defense in the second half.”

The high NHS point total was a big surprise to the NR coach.  “We gave up 65 points.  We never give up 65 points to anyone.”

Newburyport fast break

Junior Sami Cavanaugh (15 points) explained how things got turned around: “Coach (Grutchfield) told us at halftime, ‘No second shots.  Be smart on offense.  No turnovers.  Every possession counts.”

Newburyport (6-4) has now won six of their last seven games.  “We can compete with anyone when we play well,” explained NHS coach Karen Grutchfield.

One significant improvement was lessening the turnovers.  In this game the Clippers had nine TOs in the first quarter but had only ten more over the final three periods.

“When we attack offensively, we’re a different team,” added Coach Grutchfield. “Tonight, we had four players in double figures.”

Katie Hadden (11 points) battles for a rebound

Sami Cavanaugh (15) led the Clippers.  Anna Hickman (12), Katie Hadden (11), and Meg Winn (11) were also in double figures.

Junior Ali Grasso (23 points) led the Hornets.

A key to the Newburyport win?  Ali Grasso had only two points in the final quarter.

The teams were tied, 44-44, going into that final quarter.

The Clippers tight defense, with Sami Cavanaugh covering Ali Grasso, limited the visitors to one Ali drive in the first four minutes.  Meanwhile, the Clippers get-to-the-basket approach turned up three layups, and four free throws.  Meg Winn added a triple.  That’s a thirteen-point collection!

The burst of good everything separated the Clippers, 57-46, from NR and the Hornets couldn’t recover.

Coach Grutchfield: “The game was called so tight.  Our team seemed to adjust to it better than they did.”

The Clippers now 6-4 started the season with three straight losses. “The story of our season has been too many turnovers,” said Coach Grutchfield.  “We talk a lot about protecting the ball.”

North Reading (7-3) had won four straight games prior to tonight’s loss.

The Hornets defeated Newburyport, 53-45, in December at North Reading.  Casey McAuliffe had seventeen for NR in the win.  Tonight, Casey ended with seven points and none of them after the first minute of the second period.

North Reading box

Newburyport box

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

scramble

Anna Hickman (12 points) out front

Casey McAuliffe (10) in where shots get blocked

Maggie Pons (3) and Jessica Rosseau (44)

Maggie Pons in for two

Mia DeNofrio

Next generation

 

 

 

 

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North Reading holds off Amesbury 43-41

Last shot of the game

Lauren Sullivan (11 points) made two 3’s

(Amesbury MA) Amesbury rallied from thirteen down in the final quarter and had a shot to tie it at the buzzer.

But the shot missed, and North Reading escaped with a 43-41 win in Cape Ann League action on Tuesday night.

The ups and downs in this game were significant.

If you came early, the Indians were unstoppable and off to an 8-0 lead in the first 1 ½ minutes.

If you saw just the middle section it was all Hornets.  They drained three’s (8 of them) and took very good care of the ball.

If you looked in after NR sported a nice cushion (42-29) at the 6:41 mark of the final quarter, you saw Amesbury put pressure defense and thirteen straight points together and nearly catch the Hornets.

Flannery O’Connor (12 points) finds an opening

This certainly was a game where the good things and the things needing work were obvious for both squads.

“We needed to play that defense the whole game,” said AHS coach Gregg Dollas afterwards.

The visitors ran an excellent offense against single coverage.  They passed, they drove, they got to the basket, and drew fouls.  When the taller Amesbury defenders started to double-team in the final quarter, NR struggled and turned the ball over six times in four minutes and set up the Indians late-game run.

The Indians (1-1) got off to the electric start because scoring threat Flannery O’Connor was able to get the ball in close against light coverage.  That quickly changed and most of the rest of the game Flannery had at least two defenders and sometimes a third one nearby.

Ali Grasso (16 points) finds teammate Lauren Sullivan (4) closer to the basket

“Once we start hitting our shots, we’ll be tough to beat,” added Coach Dollas.  With Flannery so closely covered there were shots for teammates that didn’t fall this time.

North Reading (2-0) was good from long range.  The Hornets struck eight times from far out with Ali Grasso and Casey McAuliffe getting three each.

Ali paced NR with sixteen points while Casey added twelve.  Lauren Sullivan contributed eleven points.

Amesbury had twelve from Flannery and eleven from newcomer Avery Hallinan.

After the home team grabbed the quick 8-0 lead, North Reading followed with a 15-1 stretch that had them ahead, 15-9, early in the second period.

Later the Hornets put eight straight together in the third quarter when Lauren Sullivan’s full-court layup was followed by three’s from Ali Grasso and Lauren.

Mary Bullis over Kiley McCarthy (1)

But no sooner did that happen in the third quarter than Amesbury puts its own run of points together.  Mary Bullis hit a three from Alli Napoli and Flannery O’Connor drove the length of the court.  Mary Bullis finished the run by converting her own missed shot.

Typical of this game, however, NR came back with its own version of good offense and was sitting pretty (42-29) with 6:41 remaining.

It is hard to believe that the Hornets had only one point (Ali Grasso free throw) the rest of the way.

Ciara Sullivan hit a couple of jump shots and Avery Hallinan made six free throws to key Amesbury’s late-game rush.

The Indians were within a point (42-41) but came up empty in the final minute.  Ali Napoli got a shot off to the right of the lane in heavy coverage that missed to end the game.

Free throw shooting was a struggle for both teams.

The free throw shooting was not good in this one.  North Reading missed ten (11-for-21) and Amesbury eight (12-for-20).  The Indians had six misses within their thirteen-point rally in the final quarter.

Enthusiastic crowd on hand.

Alli Napoli took a heavy fall late in the game driving to the basket.  Somehow, she managed to play on.

North Reading box

Amesbury box

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

Ali Grasso dribbles into space

Amesbury defense collapses on Mia DeNofrio (23)

Avery Hallinan (11) tries to pass to Flannery O’Connor (12)

Flannery O’Connor with three Hornets

Floor tussle

Mia DeNofrio shoots a free throw

Mine!

Sadie Kermelewicz (4) stays with Ali Grasso (3)

Hustling Alli Napoli (21) caught Julie Howse (33) and blocked her shot

Lauren Sullivan (4) in for a layup

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Strong second half gets Pentucket girls past North Reading 50-35

Pentucket trap

Pentucket trap

(West Newbury MA) Pentucket had a rousing second half and defeated North Reading, 50-35, in Cape Ann League action on Tuesday night.

These teams shared the league title last year and split their games with each other during the season.

Graduation had put a serious dent into both teams and I was curious to see what they would be like this season.

The defenses on both sides were impressive.  There were very few direct routes to the basket.

One of the glaring stats in this game was the high number of turnovers.  By my count, each team committed twenty-five of them.  The traveling violations by both squads almost reached the epidemic level.  But that is what happens when defenses play well.

Taylor Moore (33) and Emily Riley (31) eye one of the many rebounds off of free throws.

Taylor Moore (33) and Emily Riley (31) eye one of the many rebounds off of free throws.

The other glaring stat was the free throw shooting.  It was atrocious.  The Sachems (3-0) missed twenty-three times while the Hornets (2-1) missed ten.

The visitors broke away from a 6-6 tie (2:41 of the first) and had a ten-point lead (22-12) with 2:12 to go in the second quarter.  The key to the NR breakaway was made 3’s by Taylor Moore, Victoria Grasso, and Ali Grasso.

Meanwhile, Pentucket struggled to make any kind of shot.

The second half was an entirely different story.  Pentucket put in two freshmen (Angelina Yacubacci and Casey Hunt) to start and off the Sachems went.  The home team made shots and that allowed their press to get set up.  NR did not react well and had eleven of their TO’s in the third quarter alone.

Angelina Yacubacci had nine points in Pentucket's third quarter

Angelina Yacubacci had nine points in Pentucket’s third quarter

Angelina Yacubacci led the Sachems with nine points and all of them came in the terrific Pentucket third quarter.

Pentucket put a 15-1 run together to get ahead for good, 27-23 with an Alyssa Demeule layup assisted by Bella Doyle at 2:30 of the 3rd quarter being the final points.

By the end of the 3rd, the Sachems led, 34-27, and looked to be pulling away for good.  Suddenly, however, in two straight possessions in the final quarter, the Hornets (Casey McAuliffe, Lauren Sullivan) drained 3-pointers.  Now within a point (34-33) with 6 ½ minutes left, it was once again anyone’s game.

That Pentucket defense that had been good turned to very good over the final 6 ½ minutes.  NR was limited to two points by a defense that would not allow penetration.  There was plenty of side-to-side stuff going on but getting to the basket ended for North Reading.

In the same final minutes, Pentucket started with nine unanswered points. They had two layups (Liv Cross, Emily Riley) on assists by freshman Casey Hunt.  An NR turnover led to a layup (Emily Riley) and then senior Colleen Jameson added a dagger-three to drive the Pentucket lead to ten (43-33) and this game was history.

Sophomore Casey McAuliffe led all scorers with ten points.

Casey Hunt (20) and Ali Grasso (3)

Casey Hunt (20) and Ali Grasso (3)

Key matchup, with plenty of future potential, was between freshman point guards Casey Hunt and Ali Grasso.

NR’s 6-5 Jess Lezon is now at Yale.  Jess had seventeen points and twenty rebounds in the Hornets win last February at Pentucket.

NR’s Kat Hassapis will be playing soccer at Bentley in the fall of 2017.

John McNamara’s coaching record at Pentucket is now at 217-35.  This year’s team is young but the defense is very good.  The offense?  They have size but taking advantage of it versus NR led to many turnovers.  I’m guessing that the foul shooting will become less “foul” as the season goes on.

The biggest surprise for me was the temperature in the gym.  What happened to the heat?  Anyone who has been there in the past knows how tropical it was.  Maybe a window was open?

North Reading was 20-3 last year and reached the D3 North finals.  Pentucket was 16-6 and lost in the first round to Triton.

Pentucket box

North Reading box

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

Casey Hunt breaks away

Casey Hunt breaks away

Bella Doyle (14) dribbles in traffic

Bella Doyle (14) dribbles in traffic

Colleen Jameson made two 3's for Pentucket

Colleen Jameson made two 3’s for Pentucket

Second half starters for Pentucket

Second half starters for Pentucket

loose ball

loose ball

Lauren Sullivan drives

Lauren Sullivan drives

Liv Cross (32) makes a layup

Liv Cross (32) makes a layup

Kat Hassapis fouls out

Kat Hassapis fouls out

Lauren Sullivan sets to shoot with Alyssa Demeule defending

Lauren Sullivan sets to shoot with Alyssa Demeule defending

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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