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