By Jim Sullivan
---- — Having weathered a tough middle of the season, the Newburyport girls basketball team has spent the last week reclaiming a .500 record and climbing up the ladder from there.
Newburyport (8-6 overall, 7-4 CAL) posted a 44-35 win against a plucky North Reading (8-7 overall, 5-6 CAL) squad at home, marking the Clippers’ third victory in a row, giving them some breathing room, for now.
“I think that right now we are getting almost every offensive look that we want,” said Clippers coach Gregg Dollas. “All we’ve got to do is just finish now.”
The Hornets buzzed at the start of the evening behind a rebound from Jessica Lezon and a bucket from Elise Makowski. Hornet Morgan Maiola fouled out next, allowing Clipper Aly Leahy to grab a point from the line. Lilly Donovan did the same to put the Clippers down a bucket which was sunk by Mary Pettigrew next to tie things at four. The Clippers would pull ahead thanks to a Jaycie Triandafilou and Leahy to end the first period up, 10-6.
North Reading would start the second period with a point from the line, followed by two from the line from Newburyport. The Hornets began to rally next behind a pair from Makowski and two from Lezon. Leahy grabbed two, and Pettigrew would have one from the line herself to stifle the Hornets energy, leading to a 18-13 Clippers advantage at the half.
The Clippers stared the third period with four more courtesy of Triandafilou and Lea Tomasz. But the Hornets kept pace until Donovan grabbed a lay-up, and Leahy sunk a bucket in between another pair from Donovan to put Newburyport up 30-23 at the end of the third.
The Clippers hustled to an 11-point lead in the first minute and a half of the fourth period, and that would be all the buzzing the Hornets could take as the Clippers cruised from there.
Leahy and Donovan led the Clippers with nine points a piece. Tomasz was next with eight points and Triandafilou had seven.
“They played hard,” North Reading coach Hank DeSantis said of Newburyport. “They forced us into a lot of mistakes. We’ve got to play better than that. We have to play better, we have to defend better, we have to rebound better, smarter.”
Dollas is becoming cautiously optimistic about his team’s current chances.
“If we can finish our basic shots, we’re going to have a real good shot at getting into the tournament, and hopefully go further than that,” said Dollas, whose team played every uniformed player last night. “That’s what it boils down to -- ball control and good shots. Because were having open shots we’ve just got to finish. I thought that our defense tonight did a really good job. Defensively we locked down. We had a lot of substitutions, we had a lot of kids go in and out.”
“The girls are having fourth-quarter games right now,” continued Dollas. “They’re not letting a struggle in the beginning of the game affect them like they did earlier in the year. It’s nice to see that they can finish games out. And every girl is contributing right now.”