In any sport, starting the season on high note is important, but the way you finish a season takes precedent over everything else.
Five of our local girls basketball teams might not have gotten the ending they were hoping for, but making it to the state tournament with the level of competition that's out there is pretty impressive within itself.
So, with regards to Salem, Ipswich, Swampscott, Marblehead and Masconomet: Losing to worthy opponents — such as Andover, Pentucket and Reading — can be hard to take in when the goal was to go all the way. But, the experience gained along the way makes the losses a little easier.
Here's a look at how the five teams ended their postseason runs:
Salem — After a come-from-behind victory in the first round against Melrose, the Witches went up against undoubtedly the toughest team in the Division 2 bracket, Reading. There was no stopping the undefeated Rockets. Salem showed poise in the game against Melrose, trailing for most of the game until a breakout fourth quarter by senior captain Holbrook Phelan. The veteran Reading lineup was too much for the talented, but young, Witches to handle in the quarterfinals.
Marblehead — A few years ago, mentioning the Magicians in the postseason would have been unheard of. But, with help from coach Skip Likins and the determination of the entire team, Marblehead has successfully turned the program around. It was a tough draw getting Gloucester in the first round for the Magicians. The two teams locked up earlier in the regular season, and the strong Fisherman offense powered by the Marblehead defenders. The first-round matchup turned out to be very similar, as Gloucester knocked the Magicians with a 67-54 victory.
Ipswich — The Tigers had one of the more — if not the most — successful runs out of these five teams. Graduating only two seniors this year, the majority of the roster is underclassman. Ipswich went through Watertown, upset the No. 1 seed in the Division 3 bracket, Bedford, before meeting Pentucket at Tsongas Center. The Sachems held Ipswich to just 30 points in the North final, as the two familiar Cape Ann League foes squared off for the second time this season. The Tigers were stagnant in the first half, but with help from the bench, started to generate some offense late in the game.
Swampscott — Another one of our teams that felt the wrath of Pentucket, the Big Blue was probably one of the only teams that matched up heightwise to the Sachems. In the first round, Swampscott outscored Stoneham by 25, but could only generate 27 points against Pentucket. The Sachems defense held Swampscott to 12 points in the first half, six in each quarter.
Masconomet — With a starting lineup as skilled as Masco's, the goal of getting to the TD Garden appeared to be within reach. The Chieftains battled it out in the earlier rounds, taking down Somerville, Woburn and Lincoln-Sudbury, only to face Andover in the Division 1 North final. It was a devastating loss for Masco and for Brooke Stewart, who spent the final minutes of the game on the bench after picking up her fifth foul. The Chieftain leadership didn't disappoint and cut the deficit to eight down the stretch, capping off a 20-4 season.
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As individuals, a handful of girls had widely successful seasons on their own. Here's a look at whom I would choose for my starting five, the annual Bounce Passes Super Team:
Masey Zegarowski, Ipswich — As a freshman, Zegarowski was the second leading scorer on her team with 282 points. On numerous occasions, it was Zegarowski's offense that led her team to victory. It had been a while since Ipswich had a natural point guard in the starting lineup. Zegarowski's role on the team allowed for her teammates to contribute and play their positions full out. With the skills she has already, Zegarowski is someone to watch in the coming years.
Brooke Stewart, Masconomet — One of the most talented girls basketball players in the state, Stewart amassed more than 500 points this season, finishing with 1,397 career points in a Chieftains uniform. Stewart has the ability to completely take over a game, scoring a season high 40 points against Cambridge. In the fall, Stewart is headed to The College of William & Mary to play Division 1 hoop for head coach Debbie Taylor.
Ara Talkov, Swampscott — The Big Blue junior played a limited role last year, as she was sidelined with an ankle injury for the majority of the season. This year, she was back with a vengeance. Talkov's smooth dribbling, 3-point shooting and long reach allows her to factor in almost every facet of the game.
Danielle Davis, Masconomet — As one of the tallest girls in the Chieftain lineup, Davis defends mostly in the paint but can score from beyond the arch and uses her body to create space to dribble in the lane. Davis had five double-double performances this season, between rebounds and points. Starting as an ordinary post player her freshman year, Davis (now a senior) has developed spin moves to the basket, leaving defenders in the dust.
Julia Davis, Ipswich — As a junior, Davis has proved to be irreplaceable to her Ipswich team. Just a role-player last year, Davis has transformed into the go-to person in the post. Not the tallest player at her position, she has managed 20-plus rebounds in four outings this season and recorded 13 double-double performances.
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Be sure to keep an eye out for Ipswich, Peabody and Salem next year.
The Tigers have most of their core back again next season and are looking to make another push for the Division 3 North title.
Although the Tanners didn't make it to the tournament this season, watch out for Carolyn Scacchi and Olivia Summit, who will return as juniors next winter eager to put their team in playoff contention.
For the Witches, Jaclyn Panneton, Rachael Zipper and Alix Bryant have stepped up huge for the team as underclassman. Next year, they will look to return to the playoffs, having had the experience and knowing what's expected of them in the postseason.
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It's always nice to see the local athletes giving back in their community. Peabody sophomore Olivia Summit volunteered her time during the winter as a coach for a PBA girls basketball team. Summit, who is a starting forward for the Tanners, coached the 10- to 12-year-old team and helped lead them to a championship.
"Last year, one of my teammate's coached, and ever since I wanted to do it, too," said the 15-year-old Summit. "Coaching has allowed me to approach my game differently."
Summit coached from November through February, and the team won their championship game just a few weeks ago.
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Bounce Passes, a column on North Shore girls basketball, appears in The Salem News every other Friday during the winter season. Contact Gianna Addario at GAddario@salemnews.com, 978-338-2615 and follow her on Twitter @GiannaAddarioSN.