PEABODY — A strategic move by Peabody coach Jane Heil at halftime paid dividends. Heil decided to change defenses from man-to-man to a zone with a slight difference. She knew they would have to find a way to pay close attention to Danvers sharp shooter Kasey Sherry, who had 11 points in the first half.
The result was a satisfying 56-34 victory for the hosts.
At the half Peabody clung to a one point lead, but came out on fire to start the third quarter. They outscored the Falcons, 15-2 in that eight minute period, putting in 15 unanswered points before Hannah Llewellyn made two free throws for the only points her team could muster.
The Tanners outscored Danvers 32-11 in the last two quarters. Sophomore forward Courtney Bua led all scorers with 16 points, and freshman point guard Sara Hosman added 11. Peabody had eight different girls figure in the scoring.
“The difference in this game was all about getting out of our man to man and switching to a zone defense,” said Heil after her team improved to 8-2 overall and 7-2 in the conference. “We didn’t want Kasey Sherry to go crazy so we had to get on her when she had the ball. It’s funny because you are better off playing man to man against some teams, and zone against others.”
Sherry hit two of her three treys in the first quarter, and Llewellyn hit one to give Danvers a 16-10 lead at the end of one. But the Tanners fought back to pull ahead, 24-23 at the half led by Bua, who had seven points in that quarter.
Carolyn Scacchi, who had a strong all around game with 7 points, 3 assists, and 11 big rebounds, stole the ball and fed Hosman to knot it up at 21-21. Alex Lomasney (8 points) drove to the basket to give Peabody its first lead with just over a minute remaining in the half.
But the game was won in the third quarter when Bua put back a rebound and Amanda Matthews (7 points, 10 rebounds) made back-to-back baskets before Danvers coach Pat Veilleux called a timeout. The Falcons couldn’t stop the bleeding as Matthews made a great pass to Hosman for a layup and Lomasney hit a 3-pointer.
Veilleux called another timeout, but Peabody kept pouring it on with Bua hitting a baseline jumper and Scacchi grabbing and rebound and putting it in for a 15-0 run. After switching defenses Sherry was held to one basket the rest of the way.
“The third quarter is usually ours, but not tonight,” said Veilleux. “That’s what Peabody is capable of doing, and unfortunately they did it against us. We struggle scoring points, and defensively we didn’t do a good job. Peabody went to the line too much in the first half because we were a little too aggressive. We gave them some easy points.
“I think we rely on Sherry a little too much. When her shots aren’t falling we need somebody else to pick up the slack instead of having her force them. That’s a good Peabody team, and they pass the ball so well. It was a very poor third quarter by us all around, and as coach I have to take some of the blame. I should have gone to the bench and got some fresh legs out there because they wore us down.”
The Tanners were tough defensively, keeping constant pressure on Danvers and causing 12 turnovers in the final two quarters. Both coaches went to their benches in the fourth quarter and gave everybody a chance to play.
“This team has learned that on any given night any team in this conference can beat anybody else,” said Heil. “You have to be ready to play every game, and this group of girls has a great work ethic. They’ve rejuvenated me. It’s one of the better shooting teams I’ve had, and we’re moving the ball better.
“The confidence level has gone up; winning is contagious and builds momentum. Bua made some big shots. She’s unbelievable in practice. We have one shooting drill that she absolutely nails. Matthews did a great job on the boards. She’s a quiet leader, and what I love to see is the way all these girls look to see who is open and get the ball to that person. They are so unselfish.”