But in a fashion typical to this season’s Fishermen, it couldn’t be that easy. The Hornets ratcheted up the pressure in the fourth quarter and more than doubled their output from the first three quarters combined, thanks to some hot perimeter shooting from the likes of Ivy Silag-Stearns (team-high 10 points), Carolyn Heslop, Sydney Christopher and Fraley Morton.
And just like that, with two minutes to play, the Fishermen’s lead had dissolved from 18 points to just six.
That was as close as the Hornets would come, though, as Gloucester hit its free throws down the stretch and limited Manchester Essex’s attack to walk away with the important victory.
“We struggled to put the ball in the hoop early and they never give up,” Manchester Essex coach Lauren Dubois said. “That’s what we ask of them is to go out and play for the whole game, all 32 minutes, and they did and they put up a little run in the fourth and that’s what we wanted to do.”
Ultimately, though, Gloucester’s desperation and defensive prowess coupled with the continued solid play of the likes of Sophie Black (18 points, 22 rebounds) and Juilanna Costanzo (12 points) was enough to extend the early lead far enough that Manchester Essex simply couldn’t complete the comeback.
For each team, last night marked the end of the regular season. Gloucester (10-10) will move on to the Division 2 tournament, while the Hornets (7-13) will look to capitalize on their trying regular-season schedule and make another run in the Division 4 North tournament.
While the Hornets wrapped up their tournament berth months ago, thanks to the Sullivan Rule, the Fishermen chose to go a more dramatic route.
“I think they’re very battle-tested,” Lewis said of his team. “I think they have what it takes now. I think, more than anything, they know that they can do it. I like to think that they were all believers four games ago, but now they have no choice but to be believers. Everyone played a role.”
Gloucester 43, Manchester Essex 34
at Gloucester High School
Manchester Essex: Ivy Silag-Stearns 3-3-10; Fraley Morton 3-2-8; Sydney Christopher 2-0-6; Carolyn Heslop 1-1-4; Maya Heath 1-1-3; Sam Taylor 1-0-2; Ella Silag-Stearns 0-1-1.
Gloucester: Sophie Black 5-8-18; Julianna Costanzo 5-2-12; Marlee Melvin 1-3-5; Katie Ciaramitaro 1-2-4; Kayla Nasser 1-0-2; Sam Oliver 0-1-1; Jessica Mathews 0-1-1.
Halftime: Gloucester 23-10.
3-pointers: M Christopher 2, I. Silag-Stearns, Heslop.
Records: M 7-13; G 10-10.