By Gianna Addario
---- — LYNNFIELD — The Masconomet girls basketball team has had its way with most opponents so far this winter.
The Chieftains were well aware heading into last night’s contest against Cape Ann League Small leader Lynnfield that they’d have their hands full. The Pioneers showed a relentless effort down the stretch, but Masco was more than prepared to uphold its undefeated record on the road.
Not only did the Chieftains maintain their perfect record in the 53-45 victory, but in doing so they qualified for the state tournament after winning 10 straight games.
“Every time we made a mistake they seemed to capitalize on it,” said Masco head coach Bob Romeo. “I thought they did a very good job at getting to the rim and getting to the foul line.
“We needed a win like this. We needed a game that was a grinded out, leave it all on the court type of fourth quarter. This game got within six with a minute and a half left, anything could’ve happened.”
That’s where Masco’s leaders took over. Junior point guard Meghan Collins forced three turnovers which resulted in free throw attempts for the Chieftains. Senior Hannah Kiernan got to the line twice in the final seconds and hit all four free throws to ensure the win for her team.
Whenever the Chieftains fail to do something in the first quarter, they never make the same mistake in the second quarter. Masco was being out-rebounded on the glass and Romeo let his girls know that in order to win, that cannot happen.
They responded by dominating the boards in the second and managed to take a 26-21 lead in halftime, as Nicole Femino hit a buzzer beater 3-pointer.
Senior forward Lexi Nason, who finished with three points, grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds and was aggressive down low to gobble up those loose balls.
Junior Amy Fogarty added some key minutes in the second quarter, hitting two jumpers, including a long 3-pointer.
Masconomet started the second half on 7-0 run, before Lynnfield called a timeout. The Chieftains finished out the quarter ahead 40-29, but the Pioneers got it to within six in the final minutes of the fourth quarter.
“We’re a team that’s going to grind until the end,” said Lynnfield head coach Bob Melillo, who’s in his first year with the Pioneers. “The girls believe in what we’re trying to do and it’s easy to coach them because they play hard.”
Melillo has turned the program around and helped his team to an 8-2 record this season. The Pioneers are one of the top teams in the CAL and have what it takes to hang around late in games.
Lynnfield junior Emma Mancini led all scorers with 16 points.
Femino scored a team-high 15 points for Masco and grabbed eight rebounds, as well. Kiernan finished 12 points, while Collins added seven points and six assists. Kate Kitsakos contributed five points and eight rebounds.
Freshman Stephanie Mini, who finished with six points and five rebounds, has been a bright spot for Masco off the bench this season and has established herself as a prominent post player.
“The team is getting more confident finding her down low,” noted Romeo. “It’s been difficult from the standpoint for the past few years we never threw the ball into the post. We’re looking in a little more. They’re not used to it. but they’re getting there.”