By Gianna Addario
---- — IPSWICH — The Ipswich High girls basketball team is pretty familiar with the way tournament hoop is played. Having made a long postseason run last year, the Tigers have established a winning tradition in the playoffs and are doing everything they can to keep that going this winter.
The fourth-seed Tigers squared off against their Cape Ann League counterparts from North Reading last night in a Division 3 first round matchup and took control of the contest early on, cruising to a 68-34 victory.
The win advances Ipswich to the Division 3 North quarterfinals for the third consecutive season; it will play its second straight home game of the tournament against Winthrop on Sunday (4 p.m.).
“Most of us have experienced the tournament before and we knew coming in that we couldn’t take anything for granted,” said senior captain Julia Davis. “It didn’t matter that we beat them during the regular season, we just had to buckle down and play our hardest.
“I love having the home games ... and once the tournament gets going, the crowd gets more into it.”
Davis, a vocal leader on the court, gathered her teammates in a huddle on several occasions to either regroup or call out defensive plays. The CAL Small Co-Player of the Year (along with sophomore teammate Masey Zegarowski) recorded a team-high 13 rebounds to go along with her 14 points.
Ipswich (18-3) shot well from the field in the first half and established a 10-point lead at halftime, 30-20.
“I thought we did a pretty good job,” said Ipswich head coach Mandy Carter-Zergarowski. “We seemed a bit nervous in the first half; we’re not used to this big of a crowd. We made some silly mistakes in the first half. I really was trying to stress that we had three referees and not to foul. We could’ve played more aggressive getting through some of the screens in the first half, but that’s something that we’ll take a look at.”
Sophomore Caroline Soucy controlled the pace of the game for the Tigers in the opening quarter and set the tone with her two three-pointers in the first three minutes of the game. Soucy, who finished with 11 points, also played strong defensively with six steals.
Carter-Zegarowski was also able to get most of her bench involved in the game, something the Tigers haven’t been able to do a lot of during the regular season.
“I’m really pleased that other girls were able to get in,” noted Carter-Zegarowski. “It’s a new environment for them to play in and they’ve worked so hard all season and deserve it.”
Zegarowski scored 10 of her game-high 24 points in the fourth quarter alone and dished out six assists. Freshman Jenna Gagnon added eight, while senior Brigid O’Flynn had six assists and three points.
The 13th seeded Hornets (10-11) are a young squad with just two seniors on the team. They were led by 6-foot-4 freshman center Jessica Lezon (11 points) and sophomore Francesca Elliot (10 points).
“We thought the being down by 10 points at halftime wasn’t bad,” said head coach Hank DeSantis. “I thought we played really hard and really well in the first half. (But) when you shoot the three’s like Ipswich can and struggle to score like we do, it takes the wind out of our sails.”
agateHed:Ipswich 68, North Reading 34
agate_boldCentered:Division 3 North first round
agate_lineQuarters:North Reading@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:: Elliot 4-2-10, Swartz 3-0-6, Makowski 1-1-3, Maiola 1-2-4, Lezon 4-3-11. @SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:Totals@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters: 13-8-34@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:.
agate_lineQuarters:Ipswich@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:: Zegarowski 9-2-24, Soucy 4-0-11, O’Flynn 1-1-3, Curran 0-2-2, Davis 6-2-14, Gagnon 3-0-8, Morrissey 1-1-3, Pignone 0-3-3. @SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:Totals@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters: 26-11-68@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:.
agate_lineQuarters:Halftime@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:: I, 30-20
agate_lineQuarters:3-pointers@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:: NR, None; I, Zegarowski 4, Soucy 3, Gagnon 2.
agate_lineQuarters:Records@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:: I, 18-3; NR, 10-11.