But the final four minutes proved to be the most important in the Clippers' 55-43 victory.
Newburyport coach Neil Reardon knew the importance of last night's non-league matchup.
"We've struggled recently with our game plan, and we needed a step-up game," explained Reardon. "I think Lawrence was the game. It was a real nice team effort from the starters to the bench."
Multiple Clipper players have battled illnesses over the better part of two weeks leading to a degree of uncertainty for Reardon.
"Practice has been tough," said Reardon. "We've been down a few members so it's been really difficult to scrimmage."
Despite some coughing, the Clippers (7-5) had plenty of energy to press all game, collect steals, and grab offensive rebounds.
"I think the press worked well when we attacked it down the middle," stated Reardon. "We had our hands in the passing lanes, and I think that helped slow them down."
The aforementioned press did waver the Lancer attack. The Clippers nabbed four steals in the first quarter.
Senior captain Kirsten Hadwen (12 points, 6 rebounds, 5 steals and 2 assists) helped push the pace from the get-go by trapping Lancer guards at half-court and deflecting passes. Points in the paint came all game, and the Clippers interior passing helped Newburyport build a five point lead after one quarter, 12-7.
The second quarter saw the Lancers inch even closer due to hustle and inspired bench play by junior guard Alysia Clark (7 points, 4 boards, 2 steals and 2 assists). The Clipper press that worked so well in the first quarter saw fewer turnovers, and a settled Lancer offense swung the ball to nice effect. After a few Clipper turnovers and some 3-pointers by Lancer players Ashleigh Greer (11 points, 2 assists, 2 boards, a block and a steal) and Johelly Hernandez (11 points, 5 boards, 3 blocks and 2 assists) the Lancers skimmed down an eight-point deficit and trailed by four at the break, 24-20.
Sophomore Lindsey Tomasz (16 points, 10 rebounds, 5 steals), who was still shrugging off the team cold, knew the significance of fending homecourt.
"With the tournament not far away, every game is important," said a content Tomasz. "The whole team played well, and that's what we need."
As the third quarter began, the game quickly became a tale of two benches.
"Our bench was great. Kirsten Boyd in particular was awesome," explained Reardon. "She doesn't get the most minutes, but after tonight, it's clear she worked herself into the rotation."
Junior forward Boyd (9 points, 7 boards, and 2 steals) along with Hadwen, senior co-captain Taylor Hickman (10 points, 4 assists, 4 boards and a steal) and junior Taylor Bresnahan (4 points, 6 assists, 5 boards and 2 steals) all brought great hustle into the fray, helping the Clippers steal six more possessions and lead going into the fourth, 37-34.
The final quarter witnessed Newburyport trapping to perfection once again, as well as some timely hoops and free throws. Notwithstanding a chivalrous Lancer bunch, the Clippers just had too many answers and made all the right stops in crunch time.
"It was anyone's game going into the fourth, but the girls showed their character and pulled it out," explained a relieved Reardon. "That's what I teach my girls. I feel like if they can be strong and tough in adverse situations, then that's only going to help them - on and off the basketball court."
With a struggling Lynnfield coming up Friday, Tomasz knows what needs to be done. The Clippers must win two of their last five games to clinch an EMass. State Tournament berth.
"Our goal is to make the tournament," said Tomasz. "That's what we want, and we're excited for it."