PEABODY — First they had a local legend get the crowd roaring with a stirring rendition of the National Anthem. Then the Bishop Fenwick girls basketball team did what they do best: take advantage of any opportunities their opponents give them.
After the famous Rene Rancourt belted out the National Anthem before the game, the Crusaders took off and running from the opening tipoff on, blasting Gloucester, 62-24, on Senior Night.
The bandbox gym at Fenwick is far smaller than his usual stage on the ice at TD Garden before most Boston Bruins home games, but Rancourt delighted the large crowd with a terrific rendition. He signed pictures and pucks in the foyer before the game, posed for pictures and let fans to try on his Stanley Cup ring.
“This is my first time here at Bishop Fenwick and it’s great,” said Rancourt. “I’ve done weddings without any microphone; my voice carries.”
Once the game started, the outcome was never in doubt. Fenwick ran off the first 12 points and had a commanding 17-7 lead after the first quarter.
The Crusaders finished the regular season with a 13-8 record and now await seedings for the Division 3 North state tournament.
“This was a big game for our girls,” said coach Adam DeBaggis. “We’ve been playing really well lately and didn’t want to have a letdown. There was one brief point early in the third quarter when I thought we were getting a little sloppy, but I called a time out and the girls picked it up again. We played to our potential, and that’s so important heading into the tournament.
“I’m hoping we’ll get a bye in the first round because there are so few teams that qualified in our division. We’d love to get a home game, but whatever happens we’ll be ready.”
Seniors Kate Lipka, Gianna Pizzano and Bridget Corcoran were honored before the game along with the lone senior on the Gloucester team, Hannah Ellis. The Fishermen had only eight players for this makeup game, that had been snowed out a week ago.
“We had a couple of girls with vacation plans, figuring our season would be over by this week, and we’re not going to the tournament,” said coach Tara Driscoll. “We’re a young team with just one senior and only one girl had played any varsity minutes before the season started. We also have a couple of injuries, so we were missing some key players.”
Ten different players figured in the scoring for the Crusaders, who ran their fast powered offense very effectively, passing the ball around unselfishly and looking for the open girl. By halftime they were ahead, 24-10 after holding the visitors to only three points in the second quarter.
Lipka had a team-high 15 points, eight rebounds and three steals. Pizzano had 10 points and six assists while Sydney Brennan chipped in with eight points, six rebounds and two steals. Sophomore Colleen Corcoran had a team-high 10 rebounds, four points and two steals. Freshman Sam Mancinelli also had eight points.
“It feels great to go into the tournament with a good win,” said Lipka. “In the locker room before the game coach stressed keeping up the intensity all the way. We did that, and having Rene Rancourt here was the highlight of the night. I’m so glad he was able to come tonight after the game was postponed.”
DeBaggis shuffled players in and out of the lineup, and whatever combination he put on the court clicked. Heading into the final quarter Fenwick was ahead by 28 points.
“We are at our best when we’re moving forward, aggressive,” DeBaggis said. “We got scoring from just about everybody. Kate, Gianna, and Colleen are our big three, but we spread it around. This group works really well together.”
Sam Lipka, a sophomore guard was called up for the game, was set up by her sister several times, trying to get her on the scoreboard.
“It was really cool playing with my sister,” said Kate. “I didn’t know about it until I saw her out there for warmups. I really wanted her to score, and she came very close but it wouldn’t fall.”
Junior captain Julianna Costanzo did it all for Gloucester and had a game-high 16 points. She scored all of her team’s seven points in the opening quarter. “She’s an amazing player,” said Driscoll. “She leads our team in scoring, plays aggressive defense and is a great athlete.”