---- — It would have been easy for the Beverly girls basketball team to simply mail in the rest of the season after starting off at 0-5.
The Panthers aren’t looking for the easy route, though. Instead, they’re looking to turn heads in the Northeastern Conference and put their program back on the map.
First year head coach Allison Flynn is at the forefront of the team’s turnaround. Once a standout at Salem High, Flynn has brought in an entirely new system — which takes time for the girls to adjust to.
“They’ve bought into it,” said Flynn. “They’re really starting to play as a team, all of 12 of them. Even from the beginning, coming into this season with a new coach, it was about learning a new system. It was a learning experience for me too, finding out what each player needs and what their strengths and weaknesses were.”
In each of their first five games, the Panthers couldn’t seem to find their scoring rhythm. But those contests were probably the stiffest competition they’ll see this season: powerhouses like Lynn English and Pentucket, not to mention excellent squads such as Peabody and Bishop Fenwick got the Orange-and-Black ready for the rest of the season.
After falling to Peabody last Monday, the Panthers went on a four-game win streak. They topped Gloucester, Danvers, Saugus and Peabody, putting up an average of 47 points.
The Panthers even gave mighty Winthrop a game last night and led the NEC Small frontrunners by six points (15-9) after the first quarter before ultimately falling, 47-30.
“Even after our first five losses, we’d go into practice and their attitude hadn’t changed at all,” explained Flynn. “They could’ve put their heads down and folded, but that’s not them. They work hard at everything they do.
“Beverly sports are very competitive. Whether it’s field hockey, track or soccer, the girls know what it takes to win because of the sports they play. Coming in, I didn’t have a set number of games I thought we’d win; it’s more about getting better every day. We’re right there now — and it’s because of their incredible work ethic.”
Flynn has tweaked the starting lineup since the season opener. Seniors MaryCate Flaherty and Bridget Keaton, junior Ashley Augulewicz, sophomore Melissa Lubas and freshman Natalie Mellinger have found themselves in starting roles over the past few games. The new group of starters blended together well, which built up their confidence offensively.
“I started talking to some of the other coaches in the school, like (principal) Sean Gallagher,” Flynn said. “They all reminded me that anytime you take over a program, it takes time for the girls to buy in. We knew it was going to happen ... we just didn’t know when it was going to happen.”
Other players such as Michayla Woodward, Ashley Keaton, Emma Moriarty, Hannah Silvestri, Maddy McGraw, Keegan Whitehair and Olivia George have played instrumental minutes of the bench.
The Panthers have been making the extra pass and finding open players down low. They also have an unselfish nature and realize when to shoot and when to pass.
“Our senior leadership has been unbelievable,” noted Flynn. “The girls are starting to realize each other’s strengths. We’ve been making some really good basketball plays lately. Kids that come off the bench have been great, whether its getting steal or scoring points, it’s made a difference.
“We don’t look at whether a player is a freshman, sophomore, junior or senior — it’s just a Beverly Panther.”
Masconomet head coach Bob Romeo recorded his 200th win last week in a game against Saugus. In a dozen seasons with the Chieftains, Romeo has piled up a 202-54 overall record and has led his team to postseason appearances in all 12 years.
The Chieftains best regular season under Romeo was the 2005-06 season, in which they went 20-0. Their best postseason run happened in 2012 when the Chieftains reached the Division 1 North final before falling to Andover.
Romeo has built Masco into one of the premiere programs in the state over the past 12 years and led his teams to three Cape Ann League titles (2003, ‘06 and ‘08), with potential for another one this winter. The Chieftains are currently the only unbeaten team from the CAL at 9-0.
Hamilton-Wenham is quietly having another promising season under second-year head coach Jon DeMarco. The Generals boast a 6-3 record and even took down CAL powerhouse Pentucket earlier in the season.
DeMarco always stresses the importance of team defense, which the Generals have bought into.
Senior captain Sam Charette is tops on the team in scoring (11.2 ppg.) and is among the North Shore’s scoring leaders as well. Fellow captain Haley Willis remains one of the most consistent three-point shooters in the CAL.
There were many bright spots for Bishop Fenwick during last week’s loss to St. Mary’s of Lynn. Head coach Adam DeBaggis put in freshman Sam Mancinelli to run the point in the fourth quarter to get some big game experience.
“I definitely want her exposed to games like that,” said DeBaggis. “She’s quite frankly one of the best ballhandlers on our team and has a really good sense of what to do. I wanted to see how she would do and how she would react against a strong defense.”
DeBaggis also made note of center Colleen Corcoran. Only a sophomore, Corcoran has established herself as an elite post player and scoring threat. She leads the Crusaders in scoring (11.7 ppg.) and provides solid leadership in the paint.
Bounce Passes, a column on North Shore girls basketball, runs in The Salem News every Friday during the winter season. Contact Gianna Addario at GAddario@salemnews.com, 978-338-2615 and follow her on Twitter @GiannaAddarioSN.
BOB ROMEO'S MASCONOMET COACHING HISTORY Regular Season State Tournament Overall Season W L W L W L 2002-03 17 3 1 1 18 4 2003-04 12 8 0 1 12 9 2004-05 17 3 1 1 18 4 2005-06 20 0 2 1 22 1 2006-07 18 2 2 1 20 3 2007-08 19 1 1 1 20 2 2008-09 15 5 1 1 16 6 2009-10 14 8 1 1 15 9 2010-11 15 5 1 1 16 6 2011-12 17 3 3 1 20 4 2012-13 15 5 1 1 16 6 2013-14 9 0 9 0 Total 188 43 14 11 202 54 2013 GIRLS BASKETBALL SCORING LEADERS Name, School Games Played Points Average 1. Hannah Kiernan, Masconomet 9 124 13.8 2. Nicole Femino, Masconomet 9 114 12.7 3. Carolyn Scacchi, Peabody 7 87 12.5 4. Jaclyn Panneton, Salem 7 83 11.9 5. Jenna Gagnon, Ipswich 7 83 11.9 6. Colleen Corcoran, Bishop Fenwick 11 129 11.7 7. Sam Charette, Hamilton-Wenham 9 101 11.2 8. Meghan Collins, Massconomet 9 98 10.9 9. Emily Freedland, Marblehead 8 86 10.8 10. Emily McNulty, Danvers 8 78 9.8 Three-point leaders: Emily Freedland, Marblehead 13; Hannah Kiernan, Masconomet 12; Hannah Llewellyn, Danvers 12; Haley Willis, Hamilton-Wenham 12; Nicole Femino, Masconomet 11. Note: Leaders include players from The Salem News coverage area only and games played as of January 16.