---- — After back-to-back losses earlier this month, Bishop Fenwick wasn’t thinking about making a bid for the postseason.
Instead, the Crusaders were simply concerned with getting back on track.
Since then, they’ve gone a convincing 4-2 and can qualify for the state tournament with three wins in their final five contests.
“This team has improved more in a short period of time than any team I’ve ever coached,” said head coach Adam DeBaggis. “I think much of that has to do with our three seniors (Bridget Corcoran, Kate Lipka and Gianna Pizzano) and the way they work and carry themselves. They’re great role models, plain and simple.”
Fenwick’s schedule is arguably one of the toughest in the area. Playing state powerhouses like St. Mary’s of Lynn, Arlington Catholic and Archbishop Williams, not to mention their participation in Masconomet’s Holiday Tournament, have made for a tough road for the Crusaders. .It has, however, made Fenwick a better team in the long run.
Over the past 10 years, the Crusaders have qualified for the state tournament nine times and made it to the Division 3 North finals in 2010.
Fenwick’s 8-7 record may not be it’s best in recent years, but the team is playing a high level of basketball down the stretch. Most of that starts with the unselfish play of the Crusaders’ three senior captains.
If Fenwick can win its next two games, it has a chance to clinch a tournament berth next Thursday — which just so happens to be the team’s Senior Night. It will be extra special this year as Boston Bruins National Anthem singer Rene Rancourt singer will perform the anthem at Fenwick that night and sign autographs after the performance.
As usual, the underclassmen decorate the gym and present their captains with gifts.
”These seniors are particularly special to me because it will be the last time I coach both Gianna and Lipka,” said DeBaggis. “I’ve coached Gianna for eight seasons and Kate for seven. We’ve achieved a lot of success together and it’s hard to imagine coaching teams without them. I had them as freshman in the fall of 2010 for volleyball, and the time has unfortunately gone by really fast. They have been the heartbeat of both teams I coach for the last four years.”
This past fall, the volleyball team had its most successful season in program history after earning its first-ever North title.
Corcoran, who starts at forward for the Crusaders, does all the little things in practice and in games that sometimes go unnoticed.
“Bridget is the perfect example of someone that works extremely hard, moves up the ranks and achieves the highest level of success,” noted DeBaggis. “Gianna and Kate both made varsity early, but Bridget had to work for it by playing freshman, JV and then varsity. Now, she’s a captain.”
The team chemistry starts with the tremendous leadership that the captains bring to the court. It doesn’t matter if it’s a game or practice; the Crusaders set the bar high for themselves.
While Corcoran and Pizzano both play softball in the spring, this is Lipka’s last season playing for Fenwick. Leading the team with 24 three-pointers, Lipka recently committed to play basketball at the University of Southern Maine.
“As a close group of senior captains, we embrace the moments because Senior Night allows us to reflect on our past, but look forward to the bright futures that lie ahead,” said Lipka. “The tears may fall, but they only reflect the memorable moments we had throughout our four years in the Fenwick basketball program.”
Hamilton-Wenham has won eight straight games after falling to Pentucket in early January. With only three losses this season, the Generals were able to avenge one of their earlier missteps by topping Newburyport this past Tuesday.
“We’ve been playing much better defensively,” said head coach Jon DeMarco. “The girls took it personally and were up for the challenge this time around. We didn’t allow as many steals and the girls did very well not letting Newburyport get second chance opportunities.”
The Generals have another tough one tonight as they host undefeated Masconomet (14-0). The Chieftains are playing some of their best basketball of the season, especially after Monday’s 39-38 win over Pentucket. It was the first time Masco had won a game at Pentucket since the 2004-05 campaign.
Masconomet head coach Bob Romeo is more concerned with playing “good basketball” than he is about finishing the season with a perfect record.
“Some people will tell you it’s almost a curse to go into the state tournament undefeated,” noted Romeo. “I’ve been there (2005-06). We were 22-0 playing at the Tsongas Arena (in Lowell). It’s more important to be playing real good basketball.
“We’ve got some real big league games coming up and then the St. Mary’s Tournament will be tough. It would be nice to be undefeated, but that’s not the goal we set. If you’re playing good basketball you will win.”
A win tonight in Hamilton and a win against Newburyport on Monday will give the Chieftains the Cape Ann League title.
Interesting fact: if our Salem News vault serves us correctly, the last time Masconomet missed out on a postseason appearance was 30 years ago, the 1983-84 season.
Marblehead responded after Friday’s 47-46 loss to Swampscott with a huge victory over Everett on Tuesday. The Magicians (9-5) have a chance to qualify for the tournament with a win over Gloucester tonight.
”The season goes by quick, it’s hard to believe it’s almost over,” said Marblehead coach Wayne Hanscom after last week’s win over Salem. “We still need a lot of work. I’m a new coach. It’s my first year. The girls are getting used to me and I’m getting used to them. We’ve been getting a lot of contributions from different girls and playing a lot of freshmen.”
Freshman Lindsay Walker has seen a ton of minutes as a starter, while Jenny Norcross and Ashley Stiles have earned themselves roles coming off the bench.
Bounce Passes, a column on North Shore girls basketball, runs in The Salem News every Friday during the winter season. Contact Gianna Addario at GAddario@salemnews.com, 978-338-2615 and follow her on Twitter @GiannaAddarioSN.
2013 GIRLS BASKETBALL SCORING LEADERS Name, School Games Played Points Average 1. Nicole Femino, Masconomet 14 187 13.4 2. Jenna Gagnon, Ipswich 13 170 13.1 3. Carolyn Scacchi, Peabody 14 180 12.9 4. Hannah Kiernan, Masconomet 14 173 12.4 5. Colleen Corcoran, Fenwick 15 182 12.1 6. Gianna Pizzano, Fenwick 15 174 11.6 7. Jaclyn Panneton, Salem 11 121 11.0 8. Sam Charette, Hamilton-Wenham 15 163 10.9 9. Emily Freedland, Marblehead 13 136 10.5 10. Meghan Collins, Masconomet 14 144 10.3 Three-point leaders: Hannah Llewellyn, Danvers 28; Kate Lipka, Bishop Fenwick 24; Haley Willis, Hamilton-Wenham 20; Emily Freedland, Marblehead 17; Nicole Femino, Masconomet 16. Note: Leaders include players from The Salem News coverage area only and games played as of Feb. 6