DANVERS — The Pingree girls basketball entry into the Danvers Girls Summer Basketball League has emerged from the loser's bracket to force a one-game, winner-take-all contest for the championship.
Avenging an earlier one-point loss to Lynnfield, Pingree won convincingly Tuesday night against the previously unbeaten Pioneers, 44-25, on the outdoor courts at Plains Park in Danvers.
Now, the two squads will meet again Thursday back at Plains Park (7:30 p.m.), with the winner emerging as league champs.
While Pingree led most of the way, the game was close at halftime (22-20). It was a different story after intermission, though.
Lynnfield's Riley Hallinan hit a bomb to give her team a brief lead before the Highlanders answered with tenacious defense and an 7-2 run to open up a big lead. Pingree's Tori Farrell had four points during that stretch while incoming junior Kendall Travis made three free throws. Sophia Lopez and freshman Cam Travis added baskets for the eventual winners.
Lynnfield called a timeout with just under eight minutes remaining and trailing by eight points but couldn't stop Pingree's momentum.
Sammie Jones of the Highlanders hit a fallaway jumper and was fouled on the play for an old-fashioned three pointer. It was Pingree the rest of the way with Savannah Gibbs hitting two shots and Kendall Travis racing the length of the court for an easy layup.
"We're very young and didn't have any seniors out there, but we move the ball around well," said coach Dave Latimer. "When we play defense like that every night, it's a lot of fun causing havoc.
"It's really nice to play in a summer league and face good competition," he added. "Our seniors have AAU games and can't make it most of the time, but these young kids are hungry. Savannah has been leading us all summer; she's been doing a great job."
Pingree had a balanced scoring attack led by Farrell with 11 points while Gibbs, Kendall and Cam Travis all had eight points. Lopez (4), Jones (3) and Bella Vaz (2) scored while Alana Richardson and Emily Norton were outstanding on defense.
Riley Hallinan led the Pioneers with 10 points, and Lucy Cleary added 9.
"It's really fun playing with this team," said Gibbs, a junior from Danvers. "Our defense and aggressiveness is what gets the offense going. It's been fun leading the younger girls along with the rest of our juniors. Everybody is learning to communicate.
"It's great to win this one and have a chance to take it all if we beat them again. We had so much success last year and we want to keep it going."