BY Gianna Addario
---- — LYNN — The Ipswich girls basketball team experienced first hand how to close out a basketball game. Unfortunately for the Tigers, they watched as St. Mary’s put up nine unanswered points down the stretch to win last night’s Spartan Classic Division 3 championship contest.
The host Spartans trailed by five with just under three minutes to play in the final quarter, but pulled off a late push to edge Ipswich, 59-53.
“We didn’t do a good job closing out the game,” said Ipswich head coach Mandy Carter-Zegarowski. “I don’t think it was because we were tired, I just think we made poor decisions. We didn’t take care of the ball and took some poor shots in the end that led to some fastbreak points for them. Credit to them to come back and hang on in a game that they were behind for most of the time.”
St. Mary’s senior Brianna Rudolph went to the line and hit both foul shots to cut the deficit to three. Ipswich turned the ball over and on the next possession freshman Kayla Carter, a Beverly resident, drove hard to the basket, scored and went to the free throw line. The foul shot tied the game at 50-50.
The Spartans (16-3) went on to dominate the closing minutes and hit five of their six free throws to ice the game.
“I don’t think there was any real strategy or science to it, I just think we found a way to win” explained St. Mary’s head coach Jeff Newhall. “This was probably our best win and we willed ourselves to it. Down the stretch we were just a step quicker to the ball and a step quicker in transition.”
Ipswich (16-3) trailed by four after the first quarter, but led 24-20 at halftime. The Tigers maintained the lead for 17 minutes just up until St. Mary’s went on the 9-0 run in the fourth quarter.
Leading by as many as six midway through the fourth quarter, the Tigers appeared to have the game locked up. Their shots were falling early on and they made stops on defense, but the final three minutes cost them the game.
“St. Mary’s is a good team,” said Zegarowski. “We felt good that we were in the game and we knew it was going to be close like this. Things just didn’t fall for us. It’s a chance for us to see what we need to do to get ready for the state tournament.”
Sophomore point guard Masey Zegarowski had an outstanding shooting night to finish with a game-high 26 points, including three treys. Zegarowski was selected to the all-tournament team and was recently named Cape Ann League Small Player of the Year.
“Zegarowski is a tremendous player,” said Newhall. “Anyone who can go to hoop with her left and right the way she does and be able to shoot from the range she can, it’s basically pick your poison. If you play her high, she’s going to the hoop and if you play off of her she’s going to hit NBA threes.”
Other than Zegarowski’s double figures, the Tigers were limited offensively. Senior captains Julia Davis (14 rebounds) and Brigid O’Flynn combined for 17 points, while Jenna Gagnon and Caroline Soucy each finished with five points.
Ipswich closes out its regular season on Thursday against a strong Arlington Catholic team.