NEWBURYPORT — Playing against a team of Arlington Catholic's (16-6) caliber in front of their biggest crowd of the season with standing room only by the tip-off, Newburyport (15-7) needed nothing less than their best effort.
Unfortunately, the Clippers just did not have their A-game and their season came to a close in the Division 3 North quarterfinals 61-53.
The Clippers did not look crisp on offense, missing several point-blank layups throughout the course of the game. Shooting just a woeful 36 percent from the line, the Clippers hit just five of 14 free throws compared to the Cougars, who were 16 of 18 at the line — a big difference in the game. And Newburyport's inability to get defensive stops trailing late in the game never allowed the Clippers to put a run together to get closer than five points in the fourth quarter.
"We looked real good early and they tightened it up a little bit defensively on us," Newburyport coach Tom L'Italien said. "We missed some executions, we missed some box outs, we gave up the lane a little bit in the first half and then in the second half I thought it seemed like we just couldn't get anything to fall."
Tied 33-33 at the break after a sensational back and forth first half highlighted by Colby Morris' five three-pointers and 17 first-half points, Newburyport could not get it going in the third quarter. Arlington Catholic began to pull away with a 13-4 quarter, thanks to the balanced scoring trifecta of Kevin Connors (21 points, 3 assists, 2 steals), Matt Woods (13 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists) and Robert Wesoloski (12 points, 9 rebounds), who scored his 1,000th point in the first quarter.
The Clippers would twice get the score as close as five points in the fourth quarter after two more three-point makes by Morris, who finished with eight threes on the day and a game-high 26 points. However, poor free-throw shooting really hurt Newburyport down the stretch, as the team was 0-for-4 in the fourth quarter at the line.