By Gianna Addario
---- — LAWRENCE — The Masconomet girls basketball team left the Lawrence High gymnasium last night the same way they entered — together.
After dominating the first half of last night’s Division 1 North semifinal game against Central Catholic, the Chieftains watched their double-digit lead slip through their fingers down the stretch. Central Catholic then ran the table in the fourth quarter to take down Masconomet, 49-43.
“You look at what you accomplished; you don’t look at the final game,” said Masconomet (21-2) head coach Bob Romeo. “We ran the table in the Cape Ann League, beat Penutcket twice and had a real good showing in the St. Mary’s Tournament.
“There isn’t a person leaving this gym that didn’t think we were the better team ... (but) we didn’t win the game. We didn’t get those breaks down the stretch and (now) we go home, turn in the uniforms.”
Masconomet took the first half by storm, holding Central to just four points in the second quarter. The Chieftains took a convincing 24-16 lead at the half, back by senior captain Hannah Kiernan’s seven points in the second quarter.
“Early on we did a great job attacking the rim and our defense was phenomenal,” said Romeo.
The Raiders (21-1) went scoreless for over eight minutes between the second quarter and start of the third.
“One of the keys we talked about was fighting for every possession and fighting until the final buzzer,” said Central Catholic coach Sue Downer. “Little by little we were able to get ourselves back into the game.
“Our theme for this year is having heart and having courage,” added Downer. “They don’t want their season to be over. That’s where our veteran leaders made some huge contributions.”
Junior Meghan Collins hit a basket and senior Nicole Femino banked in a left-handed layup to extend the Chieftains’ lead to 12 points, 28-16. Central found its rhythm, though, and went on a 6-0 run to close the third period, setting the stage for the final quarter.
Just a minute into the fourth, Femino hit a huge layup to put Masco back by eight, but on the way down rolled her ankle. Femino stayed on the ground holding her ankle, before being helped off the court. She did not return.
“She doesn’t always dominate the scoring column, but she just makes plays happen,” explained Romeo. “Even that basket where she got hurt, we had nothing going. She was able to find an open spot and laid it in.
“It’s a huge basket, I’m looking at the defensive end and I hear a whistle. I see her laying on the floor. Nicole is a tough kid and when I saw her laying there not getting up, I knew it was bad. Nicole is one of the toughest kids I’ve ever coached, so for her to stay down it that situation I knew it was real bad.”
From there Central poured on the pressure, making jumper after jumper and hitting their free throws.
Senior Amanda Williams tied the game at 40 on a conventional three-point play with 3:33 left to go.
“It was huge, just a huge play,” Downer noted of Williams’ game-tying conventional three-point play. “She struggled a bit in the first half. She’s a senior and co-MVP of our league. We were waiting for her to make a play like that. It was huge emotional lift for the entire team.”
While there was still time for Masconomet to make another run, the Raiders’ momentum didn’t allow that to happen. Central held the Chieftains just six points in the final quarter, including Hannah Kiernan’s three-pointer to put the Chieftains within three with 30 seconds left.
The Raiders went 3-for-4 from the foul line to seal the win.
“It snowballed real quick,” said Romeo. “Even at the end, we got a couple good looks. To their credit, they’re (defending) state champs for a reason. They don’t fold under pressure. They make plays and stay with what they’re trying to do.”
Kiernan had a game high 19 points, while Femino finished with eight points and six rebounds after her injury. Kate Kitsakos had 10 rebounds and Stephanie Mini added six points.
“Hannah played one heck of a game,” noted Romeo. “Maybe she got gassed at the end.”
Central Catholic 49, Masconomet 43
at Lawrence High School
Masconomet: Femino 4-0-8, Collins 2-0-4, Letvinchuk 1-0-3, Kiernan 8-1-19, Kitsakos 0-3-3, Mini 2-2-6 Totals 17-6-43.
Central Catholic: Walsh 4-1-10, Nagri 0-4-4, Williams 6-3-15, Borelli 2-5-9, Dell’Orfrano 4-3-11. Totals 16-16-49.
Halftime: Masconomet, 24-16.
3-pointers: M, Kiernan 2, Letvinchuk; CC, Walsh.
Records: M, 21-2; CC, 21-1.