By Jean DePlacido
---- — PEABODY — Beating Cardinal Spellman before their home fans was extra special for the Bishop Fenwick girls. A convincing 59-40 victory was the 10th win for the Crusaders and they qualified for the Division 2 North tournament last night.
This is the first time heading to the tourney for second year coach Adam DeBaggis, and only a couple of girls on the team were there two years ago when Fenwick made a deep postseason run.
Junior guard Kate Lipka knows what it’s like to play in the tournament when it’s win or go home. She was there as a freshman and her game-high 20 points including four treys is one of the big reasons Fenwick will be going back. Lipka was on fire in the first half, hitting the first three bombs she attempted to help her team quickly open up a huge lead.
“This will be the first time going to the tournament for me, and for most of the girls,” said DeBaggis. The Crusaders finished 9-13 a year ago and have turned this around this season. “Kate is one of the few that knows what it’s like.
“All the girls worked very hard, and I’d say we played our best basketball of the season in that first half. We were playing as a team, and the enthusiasm was high.”
Fenwick was red hot in the first half and built up a 21 point lead by halftime. After Sarah Myers gave the Cardinals their only lead of the game, 2-0 in the opening seconds, Fenwick reeled off eight in a row behind two 3-pointers by Lipka.
A 17-0 run late in the first quarter that continued into the start of the second put them ahead, 25-6. They had balanced scoring with senior Samantha Borelli also hitting double figures (10) and Rose Fantozzi, Gianna Pizzano, and Sydney Brennan chipping in with 8 apiece.
“We played together as a team,” said Lipka. “One of our goals coming into this year was to make the tournament, and we’re so excited to do it. We set other goals, but this was our big one. Now we have to work our butts off to go for a higher seed.
“I was getting good looks on the three’s. We work the ball around, and there were some great passes tonight. We all look for the open person, and everybody tries to take good shots.”
Cardinal Spellman coach Pat Lamb was upset with his girls for leaving Fenwick open for easy three’s. In addition to Lipka’s four, freshman Sydney Brennan had two, one in each half.
The Crusaders man to man defense and press created 17 Spellman turnovers in the first half. The visitors have had a tough year with only three wins thus far. But they turned the tempo up in the third quarter and were more aggressive.
The changes paid off as they outscored Fenwick, 16-13 led by Emma Dagesse and Lizzy Leonard. The lone Cardinal in double figures was Sarah Myers with 10 points while Leonard had eight.
“We came out flat in the third quarter,” said DeBaggis. “After such a great first half that was disappointing. We also were cold from the free throw line (7-20), and that’s been a problem all year. I think it is mental more than anything because in practice the girls are hitting most of them.
“That press the whole game makes you get tired legs so that could have been a factor. You have to slow the game down at times. We had the same exact press against Notre Dame, and we worked on it in practice.”
DeBaggis was able to work all of his players into the game. The Crusaders moved the ball around quickly and effectively to find the open person or drive to the hoop. Whoever was on the floor, the intensity and hustle for every ball never changed.