---- — BEVERLY — The Ipswich girls basketball team hung around Beverly High’s Henry Cabot Lodge fieldhouse long after last night’s Division 3 North semifinal contest was over. The Tigers didn’t want to leave, because then their season would officially be over.
At some point however, the girls made their way to the busses and headed back home, and though the sting of the loss won’t go away for a while, the Tigers finished out a top-notch season.
There was little Ipswich could’ve done differently against top seeded Pentucket.
The Tigers got the open looks they were hoping for and played relatively strong defense for the majority of the game, but the shots were just not falling in their favor.
Scoring its lowest amount of points this season, Ipswich’s hopes of making it back to Tsongas Center for the second straight season were put to rest by the defending Div. 3 state champion Sachems in a 46-26 loss.
“I thought we got some good looks, we just couldn’t make the shots,” said Ipswich head coach Mandy Carter-Zegarowski. “I think nerves play a part of it. It’s unfortunate because I don’t think it was our best game and it’s tough to end the season on a note like that.
“Defensively, we did a good job for most of the game. Offensively, we just could not get it going, the ball was not falling. Turnovers were a big factor in the game”
Heading in, the odds were stacked against the Tigers (19-4). Only one team has been able to take down Pentucket this season and since then the Sachems have gone on a 10-game winning streak, including last night’s victory.
It wasn’t until the third quarter though, did Pentucket establish a significant lead — a lead it did not relinquish for the remainder of the contest. Cape Ann League Large MVP Nicole Viselli put in 10 points in the third quarter for the Sachems and went 9-for-10 from the free throw line.
“The first half we were just on life support trying to get through it with foul trouble,” said Pentucket head coach John McNamara. “I think we trapped better in the second and got some layups. We were able to take control of the game and change the tempo.”
Ipswich put up five points in the first quarter, but had its worst scoring quarter in the fourth, netting just two points in the final stanza.
“At halftime I thought we were in pretty good shape,” noted Carter-Zegarowski. “This just didn’t turn out to be a good offensive game for us.”
Sophomore Caroline Soucy scored a team-high eight points, with six of those coming in the third quarter. Soucy, one of many young, talented players on the Tigers will surely be back next season prepared to make another tournament run.
“We have a really good team bond that I don’t think a lot of teams have,” said Soucy. “Overall, I think we had a great season and we’ll be back.”
Ipswich says goodbye to its two senior captains, Julia Davis and Brigid O’Flynn. The duo has been on the team for the past four years and was the true backbone and anchor of the squad this season.
“They’ve been everything to us,” said Carter-Zegarowski. “They bring a lot of character and they’re our leaders. They’ve willed some wins for us. For what we have, I feel like they got the very best out of the girls.”
Davis (six points, 11 rebounds) did just about everything she could in the final quarter to keep the Tigers in the game. She drove hard to the basket and took midrange jumpers, but aside from her lone basket in the first minute of the final quarter, her shots would just not drop in.
“The ball was just bouncing around the rim and just wouldn’t go in,” added Carter-Zegarowski. “It was unfortunate for her and a tough game for her senior year, but hopefully she can focus on the great career that she’s had.”
O’Flynn, who played alongside her older sister Hannah a few seasons back, wears her black and orange jersey with pride and realizes just how special this team was.
“Everyone didn’t expect much of us and we were just another Ipswich team,” said O’Flynn. “Jules and I knew we were good and we set a high expectation right away before the season started. I think we were amazing at fulfilling that with whatever talent we had, we utilized it to get back here.”
Gianna Addario is a staff writer at the Salem News. She can be reached by phone at 978-338-2615, by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow her on Twitter @GiannaAddarioSN.