By Dan Harrison
---- — TOPSFIELD — In terms of shooting, passing and the other physical skills of basketball, the Masconomet girls know they can hang with the other top Division 1 teams in the state.
But with Cambridge visiting last night, the Chieftains needed to rely on a different skill — one they hadn’t fully developed during the regular season.
After dropping close games to Pentucket and Lynn English at the end of the regular season, Masco blew a double-digit lead and found itself tied with the Falcons in the final 1:30 of its North Division 1 first round game. The Chieftains responded immediately with a back-door layup by Claudia Marsh and held on for the 64-62 win in what was a very physical game.
“I really think winning a close game is a skill, as much as any part of this game,” explained Masco (16-5) head coach Bob Romeo. “It’s a
mental skill and hopefully we learned that mental skill tonight.”
Cambridge looked to establish two things early on — Georgia Tech bound Donnaizha Fountain and a physical tone. The Falcons accomplished the second goal but tremendous defense on Fountain by sophomore Meghan Collins (18 points) mixed with intense full-court pressure from Hannah Kiernan, Nicole Femino and Claudia Marsh really muddled the Cambridge offense.
Masco forced turnovers that led to easy lay-ups and open shot opportunities to build a 20-point, second-quarter lead. Femino (16
points), Marsh (21 points) and Hannah Kiernan (nine points) carried the offense in the first half before Cambridge battled its way back
with some hot shooting from downtown.
“We just had to get the girls to settle down,” said Falcons head coach Dana Ellcock. “It was a great atmosphere and we knew the importance of the game. Turnovers have plagued us all season long. But our girls never quit.”
That theme carried into the third quarter when the lead was cut to three. Masco pushed it back up to 15 points by the end of the third quarter when Fountain was on the bench in foul trouble.
“We told the team coming in that Cambridge plays a very city-style, physical basketball,” Romeo said. “We thought we could run on them and we did early, but they stopped us from running in the second half.”
Fountain really went to work in the fourth quarter and started converting from the charity stripe the way she had been from long range. Fountain hit five three-pointers, four of them contested and finished with a game-high 28 points.
The only player who matched Fountain’s offensive aggressiveness was the girl tasked with covering her. When Masco couldn’t score for
stretches in the second half, Collins took the initiative and drove to the hoop possession after possession.
Collins scored 13 of the Chieftains’ 28 second half points.
“She never comes off the floor and you can see the kind of competitor she is,” Romeo said of Collins. “She wants to go to the rim and she wants to make plays. You need kids who want to make plays. They don’t make them all, but you need kids who want to make plays.”
It was a big confidence boost for a sophomore that’s showing more and more of it every time on the court. The win was also a boost for the team’s confidence, which will need to be sky-high for Saturday’s quarterfinal matchup against second-seeded Billerica.
agateHed:Masconomet 64, Cambridge 62
agate_lineQuarters:Cambridge@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:: Fountain 8-7-28, Berhe 4-0-12, Jeanty 4-0-8, Davis-Daniels 2-2-6, Gbenebor 2-2-6, Harrison 1-0-2. @SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:Totals@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters: 21-11-62@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:.
agate_lineQuarters:Masconomet@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:: Marsh 9-3-21, Collins 5-8-18, Femino 7-0-16, Kiernan 3-1-9. @SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:Totals@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters: 23-12-64@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:.
agate_lineQuarters:Halftime@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:: Masco, 36-28.
agate_lineQuarters:3-pointers@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:: C, Fountain 5, Berhe 4; M, Femino 2, Kiernan 2.
agate_lineQuarters:Records@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:: C, 14-7; M, 16-5.