(Haverhill MA) There had been six lead changes and seven ties.
Then senior Flannery O’Connor took over in the third quarter.
The Cape Ann League All-Star engineered a run of nine unanswered points and a slim one-point lead (36-35) moved to a breathing-room 45-35 score.
The second-half surge of points was too much for foul-prone Lynnfield to overcome and they fell to (18-4) Amesbury 65-50 on Wednesday night at Whittier.
“We hung around for three quarters,” said Lynnfield coach Peter Bocchino afterwards. “We ran out of gas in the fourth quarter.”
The Pioneers (14-9) did get within eight (51-43) with 5 ½ minutes to go in the game.
But then junior Alli Napoli set up teammate Ciara Sullivan for consecutive three’s and Amesbury’s double-digit spread was restored for good.
Continuous fouling by both teams ruined any chance for patterned offense to be on display. There were plenty of one-on-one’s which turned up fouls or layups.
Alli Napoli (Amesbury) and Tori Morelli (Lynnfield) were both in early foul trouble and on their respective benches for much of the first half.
The missing twosome were usually steadying influences on their teams and without them, the play was often ragged in the first half.
“I liked the way that the girls stayed composed with Alli out most of the first half,” said Amesbury coach Gregg Dollos.
Amesbury had a six-point lead (23-17) with two minutes left in the half but a three by freshman Riley Hallahan and a layup by Grace Klonsky and Lynnfield was back tight, 23-22, at the half.
The Pioneers had a four-point lead (29-25) three minutes into the second half but two free throws by Alli Napoli and a layup by Flannery O’Connor, that Alli assisted on, and the teams were tied.
Three free throws by Melissa Morelli (14 points) had Lynnfield within one (36-35) with only three minutes remaining in the third quarter.
This was when Flannery took over and led AHS to separation. Part of the nine-point run was a triple (McKenna Hallinin) set up by Flannery.
Lynnfield played a zone defense and Amesbury struggled to get open looks.
“They were playing a zone,” said Flannery afterwards. “Moving the ball makes that defense work. I try to find cracks and dive into them.”
Faced with tight coverage whenever she touched the ball, Flannery was quick to find open teammates.
The Hallinan twins (Avery and McKenna) brought energy, points, and defense. The two freshmen helped carry the scoring load for the Indians in the first half.
Avery ended the game with twelve points while McKenna totaled nine.
Freshman Cate MacDonald tallied twelve points for LHS. “Our freshman (Cate) came to play tonight,” said Coach Bocchino. “She got a learning experience.”
I was impressed with the ball-handling of sophomore Grace Klonsky. Several times she took the ball the full length of the court for a score.
Amesbury will now face St. Mary’s (Lynn) at the Tsongas Arena on Saturday. The Spartans had a decisive win over Amesbury during the regular season.
Lynnfield had two easy tourney wins before facing Amesbury in the D3 North semifinals. The Pioneers downed Charlestown 53-9 and Greater Lawrence 69-43.
Peter Bocchino was the CAL coach-of-the-year.
Lynnfield had been 5-52 over the previous three seasons.
The Pioneers tourney win over Charlestown was their first since 2009.
Despite missing most of the first half, Alli Napoli finished with eleven points.
The Pioneers missed thirteen free throws.
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