It was only a year ago when the Danvers basketball team finished its regular season at 5-15.
Over the past 12 months the Falcons have shown that they’ve left that record in the past, having already qualified for the tournament with a win over Swampscott on Tuesday night.
“I’m so happy for the girls,” said head coach Pat Veilleux. “We were just talking about the way we struggled against teams last year. At the end of the season we talked about how we could improve over the next few months and we did.”
Danvers, now 11-6 after last night’s win over Saugus, regrouped during the summer sessions as a handful of freshmen joined the team. Veilleux had a good feeling heading into the regular season with the group of players that he had.
Led by senior captain Kasey Sherry (13.2 ppg), the Falcons took something out of every game they played. Each contest was another lesson, which only helped them improve as the season went on.
In particular, Danvers had a pair of losses against Swampscott earlier in the year, but got that much needed win over the Big Blue on Tuesday.
“Those close games against Lynn Classical and Salem gave us a lot of confidence heading into this week’s games,” explained Veilleux. “After Swampscott thrashed us the first time, we weren’t feeling too good about ourselves, but we kept moving on.
“We got the win on Tuesday, but as a coach you’re never happy with a sloppy game. I like our depth right now and we got a lot of players some minutes who don’t always get to play.”
Freshmen Hannah Llewellyn and Devan Walsh have been a breath of fresh air off the bench and have made a huge impact on the court. Veilleux also made mention of the team’s unselfish play and the fact that they are more focussed on winning than on how many points they score.
With three games left on the schedule, Danvers has hit its stride at the ideal time for the tournament.
“This year has just been so special,” added Veilleux. “I like our chances the rest of the way.”
Salem has one of the most deceiving records in the Northeastern Conference. At 7-9, the Witches can arguably take you down on any given night, even if you’re the top team in the league.
The young Salem squad took Lynn English into overtime on Tuesday night and despite the loss, head coach John Fortunato has seen is team come full circle this season.
“To play that way, to play at that level and that hard, I couldn’t be prouder of the girls,” said Fortunato. “We showed improvement the second time against Peabody and certain improved the second time against English.”
Freshman Brianna Rodriguez hit a three-pointer at the buzzer of regulation to tie it at 61-61. The Witches even led by as many as 12 at the half, but English had a huge third quarter comeback.
Though Salem ended up losing 70-65, Rodriguez and the rest of the team showed tremendous growth and poise down the stretch.
“You talk about a freshman stepping up. She shot it like she had ice in her veins,” Fortunato said of Rodriguez after the game.
Pingree is still in the running to make it into the tournament. Though they missed it last year, the Highlanders are one of the top four teams in the EIL and need to finish the season in one of those top spots to make the postseason.
The Highlanders suffered a crushing loss to the Lexington Christian Academy (one of the four top teams in the EIL), which drops their overall record to 10-8. Pingree has another tough matchup against Berwick next week, a must win game for the Highlanders.
“My goal is to continue playing well and get that win next week,” said Pingree head coach Christina Kennedy. “I would love for us to enter the tournament in the top four (A Bracket), as that would be such a significant jump from last year. If we make it into the A Bracket, the competition will be challenging.”
Hamilton-Wenham had been searching for that win over its Cape Ann League Large rival Masconomet for several seasons now. On Tuesday night the Generals took down the Chieftains, 55-39— led by senior captain Cassandra Fibbe.
Fibbe, who played the majority of the game, scored a team-high 18 points and went 12-for-14 from the free throw line.
“It feels amazing to get the win” said Fibbe after the game. “Our team has really come together this season and have never been this close before. It makes this biggest difference on the court, when we’re all communicating.”
The Generals (11-5) just missed the tournament last year, but since Jon Demarco took over this season, they’ve become one of the top teams in the CAL large.
Bounce Passes, a column on North Shore girls basketball, runs in The Salem News every Friday during the winter season. Contact Gianna Addario at GAddario@salemnews.com, 978-338-2615 and follow her on Twitter @GiannaAddarioSN.
2012-2013 GIRLS BASKETBALL LEADERS Player Games Points Average 1. Masey Zegarowski, Ipswich 16 238 14.9 2. Julia Davis, Ipswich 16 237 14.9 3. Ara Talkov, Swampscott 12 171 14.3 4. Kasey Sherrry, Danvers 17 224 13.2 5. Emily Freedland, Marblehead 15 184 12.3 6. Carolyn Scacchi, Peabody 15 181 12.1 7. Hannah Kiernan, Masco 16 180 11.3 8. Jaclyn Panneton, Salem 16 180 11.3 9. Cassandra Fibbe, H-W 15 164 10.9 10. Carolyn Soucy, Ipswich 16 172 10.8 Three-point leaders: Kasey Sherry, Danvers 48; Masey Zegarowski, Ipswich 39; Emily Freedland, Marblehead 29; Kate Lipka, Fenwick 25; Arianna Gaffney, Salem 23.