By Jean DePlacido
---- — TOPSFIELD — Defense wins games. That was the message Masconomet coach Bob Romeo stressed at halftime of the Masconomet Holiday Basketball Tournament championship game.
The girls listened and shut Bishop Fenwick down, giving up only two points in the third quarter and rolling to a 46-35 victory Saturday night.
“I said we have to be a better defensive team,” said Romeo, after his team improved to 4-1. “We talked about that a lot at halftime. The girls responded by coming out and doing it.”
Masconomet got off to a slow start, but junior forward Nicole Femino, the tournament MVP with a game-high 15 points, bailed her team out by scoring nine of their 10 first quarter points.
Fenwick’s Chandler Wilder hit a buzzer beating three-pointer to give the Crusaders a 12-10 lead after the first eight minutes, but at intermission Masco clung to a 23-21 advantage in the see-saw half.
The Crusaders were able to build up a seven-point lead early in the second quarter before sophomore guard Meghan Collins, who finished with a dozen points and was named to the All Tournament Team, led the Masco comeback.
“It’s a big honor to receive the MVP, but I couldn’t do it without my teammates,” said Femino. “We’re a different team than last year (Division 1 North finalist), and we’re young but very smart. At halftime coach Romeo told us it was more important to play defense. We’re a very quick team and can play great defense as a unit. We went out there in the third quarter and concentrated on doing that.”
Masconomet shot just 12 for 58 in the game, but won with a tremendous rebounding effort. They controlled the glass at both ends and often got three or four shots off. Claudia Marsh led the team with 19 boards while Lexie Nason had 16. Collins chipped in with seven and Femino had five. Marsh and Nason combined for 18 offensive boards as the Chieftains outrebounded Fenwick, 57-33.
“Femino had a terrific tournament,” Romeo said. “She’s been solid all season. Nicole goes to the basket, knocks down jump shots, and runs the floor well.”
The Crusaders, who dropped to 5-2 with the loss, were led by senior captain Rose Fantozzi, who was the lone Fenwick player in double figures with 10. Fantozzi made the All Tournament Team along with junior guard Kate Lipka.
The stifling Masco defense gave Fenwick fits in the second half, and they couldn’t adjust to the fast breaks that led to easy baskets at the other end for the Chieftains.
“Masconomet played a lot harder defensively in the second half,” said Fenwick coach Adam DeBaggis. “Even in the last three minutes of the first half we started to have problems after a pretty good start. We’re not aggressive enough on offense, and being outrebounded is a problem we had early on. I thought we had fixed it, but you just can’t give teams three or four chances.
“Fantozzi played hard the whole tournament along with Gianna Pizzano and Lipka. Wilder had a few big shots for us tonight (six points). We’ll learn from this game because Masconomet is a lot like St. Mary’s and Arlington Catholic.”
Beverly senior forward Andrea Zelano and Wilmington senior forward Cailin O’Flaherty were also named to the All-Tournament Team. Wilmington defeated Beverly, 52-30, in the consolation game.