NEWBURYPORT — A three-pointer to tie the game and erase a 10-point Hamilton-Wenham lead rimmed out and the Clippers fell short last night despite a valiant fourth quarter comeback.
Facing a Hamilton-Wenham team with the best record in the CAL (13-2), Newburyport (7-7) knew that it had to bring its best effort and get to the foul line. Check and check. The emotion was there and the free throws came in bunches.
The Clippers made eight of 13 free throws in the first half alone, while Hamilton-Wenham was just one for three from the line.
“We are a physical team and I think over the course of the game we start to wear teams down, and when you wear teams down you can get to the basket,” Newburyport head coach Tom L’Italien said. “I think that’s how we manage to get to the line. It’s part of who we are. We are physical and like to attack the basket.”
Newburyport would finish 17 of 22 from the line, though it was their shooting from the floor that made a 10-point lead disintegrate with under two minutes remaining. A 56-50 Hamilton Wenham lead with 1:21 remaining became a 57-52 game with 41 ticks left. A contested jump shot fell for the Clippers and it was a one possession ball game.
Comebacks are something that Newburyport has grown used to, for it was just on Friday that a seven-point North Reading lead late in the fourth quarter was erased before the Clippers tallied their seventh win.
“We said before the game, ‘Empty the tank,’” L’Italien said. “They believed in themselves and played a heck of a second half. We certainly aren’t pleased with the result, but there are plenty of things we can work off of and I am pleased with the battle down the stretch.”
An open three-point shot by Caleb Stott rimmed out with nine seconds left, the Generals recovered the rebound and that was all she wrote. A valiant Newburyport effort fell short 58-54, falling to .500 on the year and forcing themselves to win three of their final four games in order to qualify for the state tournament.
“We are not focused on what we need to qualify,” L’Italien said. “We just want to come out and have a good practice and focus on our next game. It sounds like a cliche, but these kids believe it. We practice well and we practice hard. Midterms week, weekends, Christmas vacation — it has never changed. We will bounce back and are looking to play a great game on Friday night. That’s all we can control.”
Newburyport takes to Triton on Friday at 6:30.
Dan Baribeault — 18 points, four rebounds
Dillon Guthro — seven points, 11 rebounds
Drew Bourdeau — 14 points, four rebounds
Jimmy Campbell — 10 points, three rebounds
Marcus Zegarowski — 15 points, three rebounds
Nikkos Lara — nine points, four rebounds