SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

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February 16, 2013

Witches beat Beverly, keep postseason hopes alive

SALEM -- It is crunch time for the Salem High girls basketball team in its quest to qualify for the postseason tournament. The Witches took a giant step forward with a hard-fought win over Beverly, 45-37, on Senior Night. Now they must beat Everett and Malden to earn a berth.

It wasn’t easy as the scrappy Panthers fought hard the entire game. Salem coach John Fortunato knew this was going to be a tough game, especially without sophomore guard Rachael Zipper, who is injured.

“Beverly gave us our worst beating of the year the first time we played them,” said Fortunato, his team now 8-10. “It wasn’t even close so we knew this would be a tough challenge for us. Beverly made us work hard for the win. Ten is the magic number.

“It was tough without Rachael, and then Maritza Scott went down (ankle). I’m going to have a tough time finding enough healthy bodies for our last two games.”

Sophomore Arianna Gaffney was unstoppable with baseline shots and led all scorers with 14 points. Scott had a dozen, and Brianna Rodriguez hit double figures with 10. Jaclyn Panneton had seven points,16 rebounds, and four blocked shots.

“We were offensively challenged tonight,” said Panther coach Matt Smith after his team fell to 5-15 with the loss. “I thought we played pretty good defense except for the first two minutes of the game, but our offense was the big problem.

“We just couldn’t score. All year long we’ve struggled against teams with two centers (Panneton and Shanteliz Nunez). Give Salem credit because they played very hard with Zipper out. I know they’re hoping to make the tournament, and that’s a great motivator.”

Salem capitalized on Panther turnovers to put eight unanswered points on the board in the first quarter, but Beverly fought back to tie it up at 8-8 on a basket by Abby Carnevale. The Witches went on an 11-0 run that carried into the second quarter to take a 19-8 lead, and they never trailed from that point on.

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