(Newburyport MA) The Clippers (19-2) advance after defeating Shepherd Hill, 57-43, in the Round of 32 on Saturday afternoon.
The #21 Rams (15-7) trailed the entire game but impressed Newburyport coach Karen Grutchfield.
“We had seen them on film,” she said, “but they were much better than we thought.”
The Rams handled the ball well and knew where to concentrate their defense. The issue was scoring.
“We’ve had an issue scoring all year,” said Shepherd Hill coach Maura Hackenson afterwards.
Neither team shot very well although there were plenty of attempts. There was only one three made the entire game. The Clippers scored only five points in the final quarter, yet the Rams were only able to take three points off their deficit at the start of the quarter.
“If we don’t play good defense in the backcourt, it’s a close game at the end,” said Coach Grutchfield.
But the good non-stop pressure sent the Rams into several scoring droughts that opened opportunities for the Clippers to establish separation.
SH went through a two-point, three-minute segment in the second period. Newburyport took advantage. The Clippers recorded twelve points and turned a 19-18 one-possession game into, 31-20, with two minutes left in the quarter.
Makenna Ward (15 pts) and Deirdre McElhinney each had four points during this successful segment. Olivia McDonald and Emma Foley had a basket each.
The Rams did not go away. They made the first two baskets of the second half (Emery Mullen and Heidi Jarosz), and the visitors were quickly within seven (33-26) as things got interesting.
But then the Newburyport defense kicked in again and shut down the Rams completely for the next three minutes.
While the visitors struggled, the Clippers went on a 9-0 run and their lead rose to, 42-26, and back into something of a comfort zone.
The highlight makers for Newburyport in this good section were Olivia McDonald, Makenna Ward, and Emma Foley. Olivia hit a jump shot and the only three of the game. Makenna broke full-court for a layup while Emma spun into the lane for two points.
Emma (21 points) ended up with a ten-point quarter dashing Shepherd Hill’s hopes for getting closer to Newburyport. The Clippers had a seventeen-point lead after three quarters.
“Emma (Foley) has great moves down there,” said SH coach Maura Hackenson. “She keeps the ball really high, and we didn’t have the height to match up. We tried to front her.”
Emma often had 2-3 defenders whenever she had the ball but still found ways to supply badly needed scoring.
“Emma thrives on offense,” said Coach Grutchfield. “She needs a lot of touches. She also did a good job of rebounding.”
The Rams from the Mid-Wach League were tough on the glass scoring on six offensive rebounds.
Newburyport’s next game will be on the road against Whitman-Hanson.
Quiet crowd at Newburyport this afternoon.
Newburyport 15 19 18 5 = 57
Shepherd Hill 12 10 13 8 = 43
(The pictures will enlarge.)
The MIAA this year has arranged the tournament based on power rankings. The North, South, Central, and West are history. And with the new arrangement, regional games are gone. Who around here even knew where Shepherd Hill was located? But they were seeded #21 and the matchup was against #12 Newburyport.
What has been interesting (to me) has been that so far the higher seeds almost always win. This suggests that the rankings have been accurate.
I do, however, wonder about the excessive travel the new arrangement necessitates. The Amesbury boys had to travel to western Massachusetts to play South Hadley this week on a school night. The Frontier girls’ team (Deerfield) will be traveling to Amesbury for a 5:30PM game on a school night.