By Tim Lima
---- — School is not in session for the holiday season, but that doesn’t mean your local high school sports schedule is void of action. Several of the local high school girl’s basketball teams will be involved in holiday tournaments next week.
The Masconomet Holiday Tournament, held at Masconomet Regional High, is known for its competitive play among some of the area’s best girls basketball teams. Last year, Masconomet came away with a victory in the tournament it hosts, beating Beverly and Bishop Fenwick in the process. This year’s tournament will consist of Masconomet, Pentucket, Bishop Fenwick and Beverly.
“(Masconomet) has been a top-20 team for the past 10 years; they are always well coached and a very strong team,” Pentucket head coach John McNamara said. “Bishop Fenwick is a state tournament team from last year that brought everyone back. Beverly is also in it with a new coach, but they’re a team from a big town. They traditionally have a strong basketball program.
“So, this will be a good competitive tournament for us to have us figure our where our team is at and what we have to improve upon heading forward.”
The very dominant Sachems will look add another dimension of competition to the tournament. They competed in York, Maine in an overnight tournament last year, but competed in the Masco Holiday Tournament the two years before. The Sachems will enter this tournament with the hopes of adding another milestone to their already lengthy resume as a program.
If they are going to progress to the tournament’s championship round however, they will have to overtake the home team and defending champion Masconomet Chieftains in the first round. If anybody knows how to win at home, it’s the Chieftains, who finished last year with a strong 11-2 home record.
The Sachems are off and running in their 2013 campaign, and why wouldn’t they be? Pentucket coach John McNamara began his eighth season coaching the Sachems this past Friday, beating Saugus 70-43 and improving his overall record to 159-20 in his seventh season.
His team will look to go 2-0 on the young year against Hamilton-Wenham on Monday before turning its focus to Masconomet.
“Tournament games have a different feel,” McNamara said. “You are playing to go to the finals, and you want to play in the prime time game slot, not the earlier game, so there’s a differen’t feel when there’s a championship on the line. I think as a team, the pressure of these games is a good thing to go through.”
Also on the local map is the 10th annual Institution for Savings Girls Basketball Tournament at Newburyport High. Local teams playing in this tournament include Newburyport and Triton, along with Manchester Essex and Ipswich High Schools. In last year’s tournament held at Ipswich High School, Ipswich took the crown. This year’s host, Newburyport, hopes to follow along in the same footsteps in front of a larger-than-normal crowd.
“I think that this tournament is different because it is over vacation,” Newburyport coach Greg Dollas said. “It is attended more than a regular-season game. There is no other sport that these games conflict with. You usually get a better attendance and that kind of stuff. We play every game hard, but it’s just nice to have a better crowd.”
The opening game will be a contest of Cape Ann League teams: Newburyport and Triton. The Clippers will look to better a Triton team that is in rebuilding mode, suffering through a 2-16 record last year and falling in its first game to Hamilton-Wenham 45-22.
The other first-round game of the tournament will be Ipswich taking on Manchester Essex. Ipswich beat Amesbury in its season-opener, while Manchester Essex fell to Lynnfield 51-46. The first rounds will thus be teams looking to escape without their first loss, facing teams looking to escape the tournament with a tally in the win column.
Local holiday basketball schedule Dec. 27 Institution For Savings Girls Basketball Tournament - Newburyport vs. Triton, 7 p.m. Masconomet Girls Basketball Christmas Tournament -- Pentucket at Masconomet, 7 p.m. Dec. 28 Institution For Savings Girls Basketball Tournament -- Consolation, 5 p.m.; Championship, 7 p.m. Masconomet Girls Basketball Christmas Tournament -- Consolation, 5 p.m.; Championship, 7 p.m.