By Jean DePlacido
---- — MARBLEHEAD — Any hopes of qualifying for the post season tournament had been dashed, but the Marblehead girls wanted to finish the season on a high note. A great defensive effort led the Magicians to a 36-18 victory over Advanced Math and Science Academy, a charter school from Marlboro, in the first round of the Brad Sheridan Memorial Tournament.
Marblehead will meet Martha’s Vineyard in the finals at 4 p.m. today. The Vineyard Regional team beat Newburyport in the other game.
Junior Emily Freedland led all scorers with 17 points. including 11 in the first half. The Eagles came out strong, but Marblehead fought back, scoring the last five points of the opening quarter to only trail by one, 11-10. Freedland hit a jumper, and then Suzanne McCarthy nailed a 3-pointer to close the gap.
“Our goal was to play strong defense, and we did a good job after a slow start,” said Marblehead coach Skip Likins after his team improved to 8-11. “This is the fun part of the season; we don’t have any tourney games coming up to try to get ready for so we’re trying to set the tone for next year.
“We struggled at the beginning, and I sat some people down trying to find the right combinations. We’re usually a man to man team, but we had to go into a zone. They have a very quick point guard (Arin Smalls), and we had to find a way to stop her so we went back to the zone and tried to box them out.”
Smalls, who is only an eighth grader, had four of her six points in the first quarter when the Eagles (11-8) used the long outlet pass to spring her for easy layups at the other end. After the first quarter Marblehead outscored AMSA, 26-7. The Magicians denied the middle and forced the visitors to take shots from outside. Marblehead went on a 9-2 run late in the first half to go up by six at intermission, 21-15.
Freedland started the third quarter by hitting one of her two 3-pointers just before the 30 second clock expired to open up a nine point cushion.
“I wasn’t making those shots at first, and our team got off to a slow start,” said Freedland. “Once I got into a rhythm they started to go. We only have two seniors so we’ll have pretty much the same team back next year. We all feel it’s important to finish up strong. This is the last tournament for us, and it’s on our home court so we want to end this season on a high note. It’s great to be in the finals, and we know we have to play a strong game to win the tournament.”
Sara Snadecki was a force on the boards with 10 rebounds against the taller Eagles, and junior Mia Bongiorno had five steals.
“Maggie Forbes is one player you don’t see in the book, but she does everything for us. She had four points, but more importantly played incredible defense,” said Likins. “Caroline Helmes is another reason why our defense worked so well. We had to switch to zone today because of their little guard getting up the court so fast.”
Forbes and Emily Kulevich are the two seniors Marblehead will lose to graduation, but the Magicians will have six juniors and five sophomores returning.