BOXFORD — There's no doubt where this game was won: Complete control by Masconomet's girls basketball team on both the offensive and defensive boards. That effort led to a 51-39 victory over visiting Ipswich that was much closer than the final score might indicate.
The Tigers trailed by only two points heading into the final eight minutes after Mya Cuevas drained a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to two. That's when the Chieftains took over, holding the visitors to just three points in the fourth quarter while scoring 13 to pull away.
"The boards killed us, and in the fourth quarter we had five or six turnovers in a row," said Tigers coach Chris Tolios, his team 4-4. "Masconomet is a really good team; overall the best one we've played all year. They've been a powerhouse in our league for a lot time.
"I thought our girls came out with a lot of energy, but we've got to work on ball security and take care of the ball better."
The disparity in rebounds was a key factor with Masco (4-1) having a 48-25 advantage, but it was even more glaring on the offensive boards, 22-6. Often times the Chieftains would miss a shot and get two or three more chances to put it in the hoop. Paige Richardson led all players with 15 boards (10 offensive) and had a double-double with 10 points.
Mak Graves was high scorer in the game with 14 points and sophomore Krystal Zepaj had a dozen points, including two big treys in the fourth quarter.
"It was a good thing we had that big advantage on on the boards because our shots weren't falling," said first year Chieftain coach Shannon Kirwan. "Every practice we work hard on controlling the boards, and Richardson did an outstanding job getting second and third chances for us.
"I have to give credit to Ipswich. That's a very hard working team. We were stagnant in the first half with little or no movement, but adjusted our zone defense at halftime to allow us to move the ball around better. I love competitive games like this; you learn so much more than in a blowout. We learned a lot in this one and know what we've got to work on."
The Tigers took a 9-5 lead after Riley Daly (11 points) hit a 3-pointer, but Masco came right back with an 11-0 run late in the first quarter and start of the second to pull ahead, 16-9. Richardson had four points during that stretch, Zepaj drained a 3, Graves made two from the line, and Maria Lantzakis had a layup to put the Chieftains ahead by seven points.
The Tigers had closed the gap to five points by halftime, 23-18, and when Cuevas (nine points) put back a rebound to open the third quarter the deficit was two points. Midway through the frame Cuevas it a trey to give her team a 28-27 lead. Another key player for Ipswich was senior captain Emma Lombara, who had a team high 12 points.
It was anybody's game when the final eight minutes began, but Ipswich ran out of gas. Masco had nine steals in the game led by Richardson's four.
For the Tigers, Daly had an all around strong performance with five steals.
"She's the best," said Tolios. "Riley plays incredible defense and our offense goes through her. She's deceivingly long for a point guard and very quick. We got tired at the end. We used a short rotation because of the matchups. This was one of the best games we've play all together as a team, but we have to spend more time working on taking care of the ball."
A 10-0 run by the Chieftains midway through the fourth quarter put the game out of reach. They made eight 3-pointers with Zepaj hitting four, Graves three, and freshman Kaleigh Monagle with one.
Masconomet 51, Ipswich 39
at Masco Field House, Boxford
Ipswich: Tarr 0-0-0; King 0-0-0; Lombara 4-3-12; Galuski 2-3-7; Cuevas 3-1-9; Daly 4-1-11; Horsman 0-0-0 Totals: 13-8-39
Masconomet: Caron 0-0-0; Graves 4-3-14; Richardson 5-0-10; DiPietro 2-2-6; Dumont 0-0-0; Monagle 1-0-3; Lantzakis 1-0-2; McSweeney 2-0-4; Zepaj 4-0-12; Green 0-0-0 Totals: 19-5-51
Halftime: M, 23-18
3-Pointers: I, Cuevas (2), Daly (2), Lombara; M, Zepaj (4), Graves (3), Monagle
Records: I, 4-4; M, 4-1