By Greg Phipps
---- — NEWBURYPORT — Though they struggled a bit offensively, the Newburyport girls basketball team made up for it on the defensive side by holding the Manchester Essex Hornets to single digits in every quarter and carving out a 49-28 victory Saturday night in the championship round of the 10th annual Institution For Savings Girls Holiday Basketball Tournament at Newburyport High.
On the strength of 10 first-quarter points, including a basket from beyond the arc from sophomore forward Emily Pettigrew (a game-high 15), the Clippers jumped out to a 16-6 lead after one period. From there, the visiting Hornets never got closer than nine points, as their deficit remained in the double-digit range for most of the night.
Newburyport (5-0 on the season) advanced to the title game with a 37-point first-round triumph over Triton, while the Hornets, now 3-2, knocked off last year’s tourney-winner Ipswich to gain a spot in the final.
“I thought we played good defense at times. (Manchester Essex) is extremely well-coached and disciplined, with all their screens and picks,” said Newburyport head coach Gregg Dollas. “Our girls did a good job of fighting through those. We did our best to make sure we held them down, and I thought we did a good job of that.”
Despite netting just nine points in the second quarter themselves, the Clippers still went into halftime with a comfortable 25-14 lead. After a layup by Hornet guard Sydney Christopher opened the scoring in the second half, Newburyport went on an 11-0 run to pretty much seal things, outscoring Manchester Essex 13-5 in the third period and leading 38-19 heading into the final stanza.
Forward Morgan Johnston was instrumental in the Newburyport surge, collecting eight of her 12 points over the final two periods and hauling down nine rebounds for the game. Senior Mary Pettigrew finished with four points and eight boards while Aly Leahy (five points) and Abbie Bresnahan (six points) were strong in the backcourt.
The margin of victory could have been larger had the Clippers not missed a number of makeable shots from the field. They also struggled at the foul line, shooting 14-for-25 from the charity stripe.
“If we can do a better job of finishing off the basic shots, that will put us in a better position to win games down the road,” said Dollas, who added that his team had been shooting around 70 percent at the line before Saturday’s game.
As for his team’s perfect record so far, Dollas said there are a lot of challenges ahead for his squad.
“Obviously, this is a very good start to our season, but after the New Year we play teams like (Masconomet), Pentucket and Whittier. So we’ll see where we are after that,” he said.
Manchester Essex was led by Christopher’s 10 points, which included a 3-pointer, and Sabrina Pallazola and Maya Heath with six each. For the Clippers, Amy Sullivan grabbed four rebounds, Jaycie Triandafilou collected three points, and Lilly Donovan and Shelby O’Brien chipped in two points each.
Emily Pettigrew, who combined for 30 points and 11 rebounds in the tournament, and Leahy were named to the all-tournament team for Newburyport. Others receiving all-tourney recognition were Pallazola for Manchester Essex, Jordan Morrissey for Ipswich, and Hannah Canning for Triton.
Canning was the leading scorer for Triton in its 49-28 loss to Ipswich in the consolation game, finishing with 15 points.
Sarah Tobin added six for the Vikings.