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North Reading upsets Pentucket 41-36 to take D2 North title

North Reading wins D2 North title

Game over

Ali Grasso and Coach Bob Romeo

(Lowell MA) “Oh my goodness!”

Those were the first words that came out of Coach Bob Romeo’s mouth immediately after the game.

The excitement was understandable.

North Reading had just defeated Pentucket, last year’s state champs, 41-36, at Tsongas Arena on Saturday afternoon.

Winning the D2 North puts the Hornets (16-8) into the D2 state semi-finals against Foxboro on Wednesday (5:30PM).

The Hornets were behind by eight in the first half, took the lead for good in the third quarter, and held off a Pentucket rush in the last minute to get the win.

Angelica Hurley (20 points) hits a three with fifteen seconds left to get Pentucket within three points

“That last minute was the longest minute of my life,” exclaimed Coach Romeo.

North Reading had lost twice to Pentucket during the regular season and hadn’t scored more than ten points in any of the eight quarters played.

Lauren Sullivan (16 points)

“We were such underdogs,” said Lauren Sullivan (16 points) afterwards. “We were looking for revenge for the two losses.”

“These kids have been special all year,” said Coach Romeo. “We were down eight and looked like we couldn’t score in this game, but we kept going.”

An Anna Wyner reverse layup gave Pentucket the eight-point lead (14-6) five minutes into the second quarter.

Full-court defense by both teams limited the half-court structure for both teams. One-on-one basketball was the order of the day.

Angelica Hurley (20 points) carried the Sachems as far as she could. Angelica had eight points, including two three’s, as Pentucket took that eight-point lead.

Loose ball

Even with the lead, Pentucket was not playing well.

“We never got into synch,” said Pentucket coach John McNamara, “and that’s a credit to North Reading. Bob Romeo and his staff did a great job getting them ready. They deserved to beat us today.”

The Sachems’ defense created twenty-one turnovers, by my count, but most of them were in the front court. Pentucket is well known for turning miscues into quick points. But they didn’t have that going for them today.

Credit the ballhandling and passing of senior guard Ali Grasso for much of that. She saw the court really well today. When trapped, she’d find open teammates. Guarded one-on-one, she would bring the ball up without losing it.

Kiley McCarthy (12 points) guards Angelica Hurley

Pentucket had the eight-point lead but eight minutes of playing time later they trailed, 18-14. That’s twelve unanswered. The Sachems would never get the lead back.

Lauren Sullivan started the run of good NR offense with two 3’s in the closing 1 ½ minutes of the second period.

The Hornets’ streak of points continued with Ali Grasso setting up Nasha Arnold for a layup. Lauren Sullivan then had an old-fashioned 3-point play and Sarah Gerber added a free throw.

Angelica Hurley stopped the bleeding with a layup off a turnover, narrowing things to 18-16 with three minutes left in the third quarter.

The Sachems stayed within one-possession range until the end of the quarter when a free throw and a last-second, NBA-distance three by Kiley McCarthy (12 points) sent NR to a 27-21 edge.

Angelina Yacubacci and Nasha Arnold

Kiley’s triple was one of four she made on this afternoon. She had made two earlier but on several had missed everything. “I tried to get the ones I missed out of my head,” said Kiley.

That she did because the next points scored were yet another three by Kiley. This one went off the backboard and in. The NR lead was now a game-high nine points (30-21) with 6 ½ minutes left in the game.

You waited for Pentucket to put some defense/offense together and they did at the very end.

The Sachems started getting to the basket for layups in the final quarter but on this afternoon the Hornets had responses.

Lauren Sullivan shoots free throws to ice the win

NR was still up by eight (39-31) after Lauren Sullivan’s two free throws with 1:10 left.

Ali Grasso and Alyssa Thompson

A Mackenzie Currie layup followed and, after Ali Grasso missed the front end of a one-and-one, Angelica Hurley nailed a long 3-pointer. Pentucket was back within a possession with fifteen seconds left.

But North Reading was able to get the ball into Lauren Sullivan’s hands and she was fouled. The senior cashed two pressure free throws with ten seconds left and the Hornets had the win and the D3 North title.

“We came back but they made plays,” said Coach McNamara.

“I didn’t sub,” said Coach Romeo. “All five played thirty-two minutes. Lauren, Ali, and Kiley took turns making big shots.”

“It was an amazing team effort,” said Ali Grasso. “We worked so hard to get here. We scouted them. We came in so prepared.”

Scramble on the floor

Coach McNamara: “We didn’t seem to have a lot of energy. I don’t know why. We didn’t play our usual aggressive defense. We missed a lot of shots and we didn’t dribble very well. It was just one of those days. We didn’t play as good as we could, and they did…a recipe for a loss.”

Coach Romeo: “Credit to Pentucket. They’re state champs. They weren’t going to go away easy in this game. That last minute was the longest minute of my life.”

Kiley McCarthy: “I wasn’t going to let this be our last game. We’re a team. That’s how we won.”

Lauren Sullivan: “In the second quarter we knew we could do it. We just had to hang on. The five of us did amazing. We never stopped.”

Pentucket seniors

Pentucket will graduate four seniors. “They have won a state championship and been to Tsongas three times,” said Coach McNamara, “and they’re better people off the court than they are on it.”

Coach Romeo on being the underdog: “It’s a game. That’s why we play. Anything can happen.”

The MIAA. Who can figure them out? They decided that photographers should not be allowed in the area around the court until there was two minutes left. What were they afraid of? That we’d take pictures?? The result was that I ended up in the penalty box before I had even committed an infraction! But I digress.

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

Ali Grasso (7 points) and Anna Wyner

Ali Grasso and Abby Dube

Ali Grasso passes out of trouble

Angelica Hurley guarded by Lauren Sullivan

Angelica Hurley shoots a layup

Angelina Yacubacci introduced

Lauren Sullivan and Angelica Hurley

Mackenzie Currie defends

North Reading captains

On the floor

Pentucket ending

Sarah Gerber sets a screen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Pentucket stays undefeated with 57-33 win over North Reading

Angelica Hurley pressures Ali Grasso

Jess Galvin (12) guards Casey McAuliffe (10)

(West Newbury MA) The names change but the approach to defense doesn’t.

Pentucket (3-0) held North Reading (2-1) to just two points in the first quarter and went from there to a 57-33 win on Friday night.

Both teams had started the season with two wins over Cape Ann League competition.

“Pentucket is ahead of us,” said NR coach Bob Melillo afterwards.  “Their intensity level is better, and they are very good at running plays.”

On this night, the Sachems turned up layups on inbounds plays, backdoor cuts, and a full-court pass (Angelica Hurley) that led to a layup (Angelina Yacubacci) against full-court pressure.

Arielle Cleveland (16 points) tracks down a loose ball

After the first quarter (13-2) the Sachems joined the Hornets in struggling to score.  That lasted into the final quarter.  NR was within nine (31-22) as the 4th period began.

In that final quarter the Pentucket defense, which had been very good, was joined by a good-things barrage down the offensive end.  The points started flowing from in close (seven layups) and the lead reached twenty (50-30) 5 ½ minutes into the last quarter.

Arielle Cleveland led all scorers with sixteen points, including fourteen in the second half.  “Arielle is a very good basketball player,” said Coach John McNamara.  “She dominated the last portion of the game underneath at both ends.  She is only a sophomore and going to get even better.”

Lauren Sullivan paced the Hornets with eleven points.

Coach Melillo was disappointed with the way his team played.  “I thought that we would be much better than we were today,” he said.  “There were too many easy baskets and second-shot baskets.”

Julia Howse (33) blocks a shot

“North Reading is a very good team,” said Coach McNamara.  “I thought that they might be the best team in the CAL.”  Not on this night.  The Hornets never got comfortable against the hounding man-to-man coverage they faced.  Much of their movement on offense was east-to-west rather than toward the basket.

The North Reading defense was solid in the middle periods.  Sophomore Julia Howse had at least four blocks by my count.  She also made several terrific cross-court passes.  I won’t get into her skills as a shortstop on the NR softball team!

Angelina Hurley and Angelica Yacubacci each had fourteen points for Pentucket.

“We work a lot on in bounds plays,” said Coach McNamara.  “If you can get a couple of them to work in a game it’s big.”

Coach Melillo was optimistic about the future.  “We’ll get better.  I think that now the girls understand how hard they have to play for 32 minutes to compete with a team like Pentucket.”

Jess Galvin (12) looks for an opening

The Hornets were able to limit the Sachems to only three 3’s.  However, by closely defending the perimeter they opened up driving opportunities for Angelina, Angelica, and Jess Galvin.

I asked Coach McNamara about the after-effects of the overtime loss to Foxboro in the D2 state semifinals.  “The kids have gotten over the Foxboro loss.  As I coach, I don’t think I will ever get over it.”

North Reading was 16-6 last season.

Pentucket was 23-3 last season.

Coach McNamara is in his 13th season with Pentucket and currently has a remarkable 260-44 won/loss record during that time.

Good crowd in house on a warm (for December) night outside.

North Reading box

Pentucket box

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

Planning

Tight Pentucket defense

Ali Grasso (3) guarded by Maddi Doyle

Angelina Yacubacci (22) drives past Julia Howse (33) and Mia DeNofrio (23)

Angelina Yacubacci (22) eyes defender Julia Howse (33)

Blocking out

Casey McAuliffe at the line

Scramble on the floor

Julia Howse (33) at the line

Mia DeNofrio (23) in for two

 

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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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