By Nick Curcuru
---- — GLOUCESTER— A happy Bryan Shields emerged from the Manchester Essex locker room following a 77-51 pounding of Bishop Fenwick Friday in the first round of the BankGloucester Holiday Tournament and said, “That was the team I knew we had, that was the team I signed on to coach.”
The Hornets were off to a rough 0-3 start heading into the tournament with a pair of tough luck losses, but on Friday the team was firing on all cylinders and in the process gave Shields his first win as Hornets head coach.
Manchester Essex did everything right in Friday’s rout, getting up and down the floor, forcing Fenwick into tough shots from the field and executing a balanced offense, dominating both inside and outside. Shields’ squad also held a 41-32 rebounding advantage.
“We have five new guys in new roles this year and it was just a matter of finding our rhythm and getting into the flow,” Shields said. “Tonight was a good step in the right direction. We had a plan and I thought we executed it perfectly.”
With the win Manchester Essex (1-3) moves on to the Bank Gloucester Holiday Tournament final tonight (7:30 p.m.) where it will square off with Cape Ann counterpart Gloucester, who topped Hamilton-Wenham 58-41 in the second game Friday night. Bishop Fenwick will meet Hamilton-Wenham in the consolation game at 6:00 p.m.
Ahead 36-29 at the break, Manchester Essex blew the game wide open with a dominant second half in which it outscored the Crusaders 41-22 (14-4 in the third quarter).
The Hornets began the third frame on a 10-0 run powered by back-to-back three pointers from senior captains Taylor Ketchum (28 points) and Max Nesbit (10 points) and never looked back.
Late in the third and early in the fourth quarter Bishop Fenwick attempted to go to a full court press in a desperate attempt to speed up the game, but the Hornets broke that press with ease leading to easy bucket after easy bucket. On the defensive end the Hornets worked a 2-3 zone to perfection forcing the Crusaders to 33% shooting (21-63) from the field. Bishop Fenwick was an abysmal 2-17 from the field in a four point third quarter.
“We did a nice job in the 2-3 getting out and closing in on their shooters,” Shields said. “We made them take tough shots and we crashed the board. When they went to the press we were prepared, we practiced hard to beat that press and it worked to our advantage.”
Manchester Essex came out on fire early on taking a 21-10 lead after one quarter of play. But with Nesbit on the bench in foul trouble in the second quarter, Fenwick went on a 12-2 run to cut the lead to 24-22. But that’s as close as they would get as the Hornets finished the half on a 12-7 run to finish the half and only built on that advantage in the second half.
Taylor Ketchum led all scorers with a career high 28 points to go along with 12 rebounds. Dylan Estes also had a big night for Manchester Essex with 20 points while Sean Gutierrez and Nesbit each had 10 points and nine rebounds. Matt Costello led the way for Bishop Fenwick with 14 points and 12 rebounds, Dom Luoni chipped in 12 points.
The Hornets will quickly put Friday’s win behind them and focus on tonight’s Holiday Tournament final.
“It’s very good to get in the win column,” Shields said. “This was a step in the right direction but we still have a lot of work to do. Now we have to regroup and focus on putting together another good game (tonight).”