By Jean DePlacido
---- — BEVERLY – Since 2004 when the Endicott and Salem State women first met on the court the Gulls had only won twice. Now make that three times after a thrilling, 79-74 victory over the Lady Vikings in a game that wasn’t decided until the final seconds when Gulls senior captain Samantha Crough made two foul shots.
Crough had a game-high 30 points as well as seven rebounds, four blocks, and a steal. Endicott improved to 3-1 with the victory and will be off until after Thanksgiving.
“Crough is a great player, and she always wants the ball,” said Endicott coach Brittany Hutchinson. “She does it all for us, and she saved us early on when we weren’t hitting our shots. We’re coming off a loss to Bowdoin, and this is a huge win for us. It’s nice to be going into the break on a winning note.
“This was a very good game, and we love playing Salem State. They’re always tough and come right at you. We weren’t ready for them at the start of the game, and were settling for a lot of outside shots. After that we executed our offense well, moved the ball around, drove to the hoop, and made our free throws down the stretch. Our man to man defense was tough and gave them problems.”
The Lady Vikings shot out to a 15 point lead after Jess Kuzmickas hit a three-point shot, but Endicott answered with an 11-0 run to get right back in the game led by Crough, who made three baskets during that span.
“They showed man-to-man and had good pressure,” said Salem State coach Michelle Cunningham. “They’re long and lean; they attacked and we got lazy on defense. We didn’t move our feet enough, and got into foul trouble.”
At the half SSU led by only one point, 29-28. Endicott pulled ahead at the start of the second half on a hoop by Crough. They built up a nine-point cushion, but the visitors stormed back led by former Salem High player Ashley White, who had 24 points, 11 rebounds and six assists. Rachael Carter was also in double figures with 14 ponts, nine rebounds, and two steals while Katie Hutchinson (Masconomet) chipped in with 10 points and two steals.
“Hutchinson had a great game,” said Cunningham. “She’s so steady and works hard all the time. She does the little things and doesn’t make mistakes. Getting that much offense from her is a bonus.”
SSU cut into the lead and tied it at 68-68 with three minutes to go, and went ahead, 74-73 on a trey by White. But the foul trouble caught up with the Lady Vikings in the late going. Captain Ginny Fleming, Carter, and Hutchinson all fouled out. A three-point try by White in the final seconds didn’t fall.
“We were in foul trouble most of the game, but it didn’t really hurt us until we lost those three players late,” said Cunningham. “Carter is our go-to player, and we would have liked her out there at the end.
“We have some things to work on, but I’m proud of the way we fought back. The schedule has been hectic, game-practice, game-practice; a real tough stretch (2-2). We’ve got two games before the break, and I saw a lot to build on tonight.”