“We spent two days game planning for Classical and then in the final drill of practice, Rachael came down wrong on her ankle,” explained Fortunato. “You don’t really have time to adjust. She’s such a tremendous leader on the floor for us, but we had to get by without her.”
In the following game against Beverly, Salem played without senior Shanteliz Nunez and freshman Martiza Scott.
But where they lack in numbers, the Witches more than make up for in determination.
Sophomore Arianna Gaffney has seen her minutes increase as the season has worn on, picking up the slack in the absence of her injured teammates. Gaffney, who averages 7.5 points per game, leads the team in three-pointers made with 36.
“Arianna is such a special girl who prides herself on defense,” said Fortunato. “She’s worked so hard and stays late after practice to work on her shooting. She’s always going to find herself undersized, but she’s really been then unsung hero of this team. It’s been more than just shooting; she also leads the team in steals and is so tough on defense.”
Each girl seems to fit into their role perfectly as sophomore Jaclyn Panneton is the quintessential post player. Panneton, who leads the Witches in scoring (11.9 ppg.), draws a lot of attention down low. By doing so, she’s often able to find her teammates wide open on the perimeter.
“Rebounding-wise she’s incredible, with 18 and 19 rebounds in the final two games for us,” added Fortunato. “Even when the other team is concentrated on Jaclyn in the paint, she manages to get those points. She’s our security blanket down low.”
Salem may have flown under the radar for most of the season, but veteran Peabody head coach Jane Heil realizes just what type of team the Witches really are.