By Jim Sullivan
---- — NEWBURYPORT -- The Amesbury boys basketball team came to Newburyport last night for a rematch of the Institution for Savings Holiday Basketball Tournament championship game, which Newburyport took 51-43. The Clippers were more than up for the rematch thanks to a career night from senior co-captain Ian Michaels and a strong defense to go undefeated against the Indians this season, 51-37.
“(Fellow senior) Colby Morris is out, and he is coming back the next game so we had to pick up the points from somewhere,” said Michaels, who had 26 points. “So I’m glad that we got that so he can come back and fit in the way that he is.”
Amesbury (5-5) started the evening off well when Pat Halloran sunk the first bucket among a capacity crowd, followed by two from Clipper Adam Traxler. Halloran sunk another pair directly after followed by a text book lay up from Newburyport’s Matt Canning. Indians senior Tommy Connors checked in with a pair next, followed by a bucket from Clipper Jake Baribeault. Things continued on an even-keeled, up and down pace for the rest of the quarter until the Clippers started pulling away after a point from the line from Dillon Guthro, Michaels’ first pair of the night and a single foul shot from freshman Dan Baribeault. Two points from Indians senior Curran O’Connor closed out the frame, resulting in a 12-10 Port advantage.
Newburyport (6-3) began breaking away in the second quarter thanks to some spectacular defense and buckets from Drew Bourdeau, Guthro, Canning, Colt Fontaine, and a pair of 3-pointers from Michaels and sophomore Mike Shay to open up a 28-18 lead going into the half.
The beginning of the second half saw Connors sink a three for Amesbury, followed by two more from Jack Fortin, which was answered by another three from Michaels. Fortin would find the basket from outside the line for another three, and Connors would do the same soon after to cut the Clippers’ lead to five. But the Clippers would regain their composure thanks to their defensive prowess to maintain an 8-point lead at the end the third quarter.
Newburyport started the fourth quarter with possession, allowing Michaels to get going and regain his team’s 10-point lead, and the defense would do the rest, cruising to the victory.
“I think the last couple of weeks have been a real eye-opener for us,” said Clippers coach Tom L’Italien. “We realized our offense had to get a little more sound with the ball. But the defense is our bread and butter, and to hold a good team to 37 points is a credit to these guys. They have worked very hard, and it was just a great effort for our guys. We’ve just had a couple of excellent days for preparation, and just stuck with the plan and beat who we think is a pretty excellent Amesbury team.”
“We had good looks, good shots that didn’t fall,” said Indians coach Thom Connors. “You’ve got to give credit to their defense, there is no question about that. We missed some lay-ups early that kind of got us down 10 in that first half. We did not do a very good job at the free-throw line tonight. I thought we had good looks from the perimeter, but they didn’t quite fall. That happens when you play away.”
“This is the third year in a row we’ve had to play here,” Connors said of Newburyport High School. “We haven’t played in Amesbury in three years. And to come on the road here and have to be hot every time is tough. But I thought we played well and just had trouble having the ball fall for us. I’m happy with the way we played, like I said, you’ve got to give Newburyport credit. They were the better team tonight.”