NEWBURYPORT — The Newburyport girls basketball team took the floor last evening for the first time in five seasons without 1,000-point scorer Beth Castantini and four-year varsity teammate Molly Rowe.
The Clippers unveiled a promising core of players to replace the 2012 graduates in a 39-23 season-opening victory over Amesbury at Newburyport High.
Junior forward Lilly Donovan emerged as the most likely player to replace Castantini’s scoring. The captain collected 16 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Junior center Mary Pettigrew appears improved after a breakout sophomore season; she manned the paint to the tune of 11 points and three rebounds.
“It looked like the first night out,” Newburyport coach Gregg Dollas said. “We had a great first half. We played well defensively, and the offense was moving. In the second half, everything got stuck in (point guard Aly Leahy’s) hands.”
Perhaps sensing his team would struggle offensively in the half court, Dollas called on the Clippers to apply full-court pressure at the start of the second quarter with his team leading 12-6. The Clippers forced turnover after turnover, limiting the Indians to a total of two points in the entire quarter.
The Clippers took a 20-8 lead into halftime, and the score was never closer than 12 points in the second half.
“We couldn’t score,” Amesbury coach Chris Perry said. “We played some good defense, but we need to find some scoring. We can’t throw the ball away. We have to focus. We’ll see what happens.”
Seven different Amesbury players scored at least one basket, but no player had more than six points. Sarah Abraham led the way for the Indians with six, while Morgan Reid added four.
Newburyport is coming off a fairly successful season, which was highlighted with Castantini’s 1,000th career point. The Clippers went 14-8 before falling to eventual state champion Pentucket in the state tournament.