(Newburyport MA) That’s what finishing strong looks like.
The Lynnfield Pioneers ended the regular season with a win and have a nine-game winning streak going.
They defeated Newburyport, 44-35, tonight.
“We usually shoot well in the first half,” said Lynnfield coach Peter Bocchino post-game.
They certainly did that tonight.
Caroline Waisnor (8 points) took the opening tip in for a layup and the Pioneers (13-6) were on their way.
It took the Clippers (10-7) four minutes to score (Deidre McElhinney free throw) and even with that point Newburyport trailed 10-1.
The Lynnfield defense (3-2 zone) eliminated open looks.
“The girls have really stepped up defensively,” said Coach Bocchino. “We’re long and some of our length is athletic.”
The Clippers were denied layups and faced contested shots from elsewhere. They only made one three all night.
Sophomore Riley Hallahan drained two 3’s early in the second period and by the end of that period the Pioneers led, 30-15.
Kate MacDonald led all scorers with sixteen points. The sophomore had ten of them in the breakaway first half.
The Clippers are a tall team.
“They have a good defense and a lot of tall girls to block shots,” explained Tori Morelli afterwards. “We moved the ball quickly and that is what got us our good shots.”
“We run a continuity offense,” said Coach Bocchino. “Everybody has a chance to touch the ball, use a screen, and make cuts. We ended up with some layups out of it.”
While Lynnfield had layups, the Clippers were relegated to tougher shooting opportunities.
Newburyport’s best moments were early in the second half. Down by fifteen (30-15) the Clippers dominated the first 2 ½ minutes putting together seven straight points. Freshman Makenna Ward made a layup and then set up senior Sami Cavanaugh for a three. Deidre McElhinney added a nice pass to set up senior Sadie Vandenberg in close.
The run of points closed Newburyport to 30-22 but they could only tally two points over the final 5 ½ minutes of the same quarter.
The Clippers didn’t go away in the second half, in fact they outscored Lynnfield 20-14, but it just wasn’t enough to overcome the disastrous first half.
“We work really hard on our offense and it has started to click the last few games,” said Melissa Morelli.
One word I would use to describe the Lynnfield approach to offense would be “patient.” They were content to pass the ball around the perimeter and wait for openings in closer to the basket. Their screens worked well against Newburyport’s man-to-man defenders.
I was impressed with Lynnfield point guard Grace Klonsky. She handled backcourt pressure efficiently. She also blocked several Clipper shots. “She’s pretty energetic and plays great defense,” said Coach Bocchino.
Abby Gillingham (13 points) led Newburyport in scoring.
Tori Morelli had ten points for Lynnfield while Caroline Waisnor and Riley Hallahan both added eight points.
The Clippers had twenty-two turnovers including thirteen in the first half. Many of the miscues were on attempts to pass either into the zone or over the zone.
The Pioneers last loss was on January 22nd to Arlington.
Lynnfield will have to wait a week + before they play again. Newburyport has games this week.
Newburyport seniors (Sadie Vandenberg, Sami Cavanaugh, Jess Rousseau) were honored pre-game.
In their first meeting (January 3rd) the Pioneers won, 53-44.
I talked to the Morelli twins post-game and they said that they had never won at Newburyport before tonight.
Cate MacDonald was a Cape Ann League first-team All-Star last year as a freshman.
Lynnfield is in Division 3. One-loss Amesbury and St. Mary’s (Lynn) are also in the D3 North. The Lynnfield I saw tonight might be able to upset either or both of them in the tournament.
The Pioneers finished 13-7 last year and now stand at 13-6 this year so far. The five years prior to those two fine seasons? 5-52! Talk about a program getting turned around!
(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)