By Jim Sullivan
---- — HAVERHILL — The sixth-seeded Newburyport boys basketball team saw its season come to an end last night at the hands of the third-seeded Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School.
The Clippers (14-8) came up short against the Wildcats, 55-37, in the second round of the Division 3 North tournament in Haverhill.
Despite the loss, Newburyport coach Tom L’Italien said he was proud of his squad, crediting them for playing hard.
“It’s just been a great year for our kids,” L’Italien said. “Every win we’ve had this year, we’ve worked for. This senior class, in the last three years, is a part of 44 wins. They played in the Division 3 North finals. And they’ve had seven state tournament wins. That’s a pretty damn good resume.”
As for the 20-2 Wildcats, coach Tom Sipsey credited his team for being able to compete against Newburyport on just two days rest.
“I had some serious butterflies about tonight’s game,” Sipsey said. “I’m glad it’s over and that we’re fortunate enough to move on.”
Wildcat Ryan Grant got things started with the first two points of the night after a Newburyport possession and Clipper Dillon Guthro followed suit. Justin Reyes added a three-pointer for Whittier next, followed by two more after two Port possessions.
Newburyport took a time-out at the 31/2-minute mark, resulting in a fruitless possession, followed by two more points from Reyes. Matt Canning was able to get two back for the Clippers before the Wildcats’ Nate Frongillo grabbed a pair off a rebound and Reyes had another bucket for 11 unanswered Whittier points. Clipper Colton Fontaine had a point from the line and fellow co-captain Ian Michaels nailed a three to end the first quarter, 13-8, Whittier.
Whittier’s Jaylin Deveau started the second quarter off with a pair followed by two for Newburyport from Fontaine. Andrew Wells checked in for Whittier next with two and Michaels parried with three more. Grant had his first two points of the night for the Wildcats and Reyes had two from the line to give Whittier a nine-point lead. The Clippers gained two more from the line from Guthro before freshman Dan Baribeault nailed two three-pointers in a row to creep Port back into things with two minutes to go in the half.
Grant rallied for two on a rebound and Wells nailed a three to end the half with Whittier up 26-20, amid rising tempers on the court.
The start of the second half began a lot like the first as Whittier reversed the Clippers’ first possession for two from Reyes followed by a personal foul from Frongillo that resulted in a Clipper point from the line. Reyes grabbed two, matched by Fontaine, and Reyes grabbed two more again to give the Wildcats a nine-point advantage before Fontaine grabbed two more himself with two minutes left in the third quarter.
Jesse Triplett had two from the line before Grant nailed a three for the 12-point lead as the Wildcats began cruising 38-27 going into the fourth quarter.
The Clippers entered the final eight minutes of their season fighting away, but frustration began to fray their edges just in time for Reyes to cool off marginally. But the rest of the Whittier crew was ready to go even as Newburyport attempted a mini-rally halfway through the final quarter. In the end, it just wasn’t Newburyport’s night.
Whittier will now move on to play Danvers in the semifinals.
“I can’t wait to be able to practice again with my seniors and my group,” Sipsey said. “We have a huge challenge with Danvers and I think it’s another step for us to be able to play with a team that we want to be like.”
Ryan Grant: 25 points.
Justin Reyes: 18 points.
Andrew Wells: 8 points.
Nate Frongillo: 2 points.
Colton Fontaine: 9 points
Dan Baribeault: 8 points
Ian Michaels: 7 points.
Dillon Guthro: 8 points
Adam Traxler: 2 points
Matt Canning: 2 points