READING — The Essex Tech girls basketball team was coming off a thrilling victory overtime victory in the opening round of the Division 4 North tournament, and hoped to get by Austin Prep and on to the semifinals.
Things didn't work out in the second round Sunday, as the Hawks quickly fell behind and never caught up in a 56-25 season ending loss. The No. 14 seeded Cougars ran off the first 10 points, and never let up. The game site had been switched to AP because of a technical problem at Essex Tech.
The Hawks are a young team with only two seniors and two juniors. The rest are all sophomores, and their inexperience in a pressure packed situation showed with turnovers and missed shots. In addition, two valuable members of the team, senior Catherine Nicholas and sophomore Ginny Vienneau, were out with concussions.
"I was afraid we'd have trouble with Austin Prep after I watched the video," said Hawks coach Deb O'Reilly. "They are bigger, faster, and more athletic than we are. Our youth showed in this game. We were very nervous, and not doing the things we usually do well. We didn't move the ball around the way we've done all season, and they dominated the boards.
"Austin Prep has been a menace to us, knocking our teams out in softball, soccer, lacrosse, and volleyball. Now they can add basketball to the list."
The Cougars paid extra attention to both Ally Vienneau and Sydney Noyes in an effort to shut them down . Noyes led her team with eight points while Vienneau had seven, and Gabby Scibilia chipped in with six.
"The plan is always to win the tip off and go down to score," said AP coach Maggie Reedy. We didn't do that, but we did play aggressive defense right from the start that got them off their game. I didn't expect us to be able to pull away that quickly, but once we opened up the big lead we put the pedal to the metal.
"We work hard in practice on the little things, and it paid off. Boxing out and rebounding are so important. When we own the boards we win."
The Cougars (11-13) had a big advantage on the glass, especially at the offensive end where they often got three or four chances. By the end of the opening quarter they had a 16-4 lead and stretched it out to 29-12 at the half. Jade Finnegan, a sophomore guard from Peabody, led all scorers with 16 while Ellen Klucznik and freshman Catherine Bravo each had 11. Swampscott's Lillian Burkett, a senior captain, added five.
Klucznik drilled a 3-pointer early in the first quarter and followed it up with a layup. That was when Reedy knew she was ready to play.
"Ellen had a temperature of 102 degrees the other day, and I really didn't think we could count on her, but she was ready to go," said Reedy. "Coming into this game we knew No. 3 (Vienneau) and 23 (Noyes) were their main scorers. We had to contain 3 and keep 23 off the boards. I put Lauren Joyce (senior captain) on her, and she did a great job.
O'Reilly was pleased with the way Vienneau and Noyes kept battling right to the end. Vienneau had somebody in her face all game, and seldom got a clean look at the hoop.
"Ally and Sydney played their hearts out," said O'Reilly. "We had four kids in double figures against Mt. Alvernia, and today didn't have anybody. If we had Ginny available she could have shut down No. 5 (Finnegan). We thought we had to worry about her and No. 11 (Klucznik), but 4 (Bravo), and 32 (Joyce) gave us problems, too."
ET (11th seed) finished with an 11-11 record and went one round further in the tourney than a year ago. Next season the team will move up to Division 3.
"It was a good season," said O'Reilly. "We got off to a rocky start, and it really took us a while to come together as a family. We were still feeing that great victory in the first round, but sometimes you've just got to say you lost to a better team. That's what happened. Our young girls got a good taste of what the tournament is like, and hopefully they'll learn from it."
Austin Prep 56, Essex Tech 25
At Austin Prep Fieldhouse, Reading
Division 4 North quarterfinal
Austin Prep: Barden 0-2-2; Bravo 5-1-11; Finnegan 7-2-16; Torres 2-0-4; Klucznik 4-2-11; MacDonald 0-0-0; R. LoCoco 1-0-2; Burkett 2-1-5; Han 1-1-3; E. LoCoco 0-0-0; Joyce 1-0-2. Totals: 23-9-56.
Essex Tech: Lilly 0-1-1; Malionek 0-0-0; Vienneau 2-3-7; Jimenez 0-0-0; Mitchell 0-1-1; Reed 0-0-0; Allen 0-0-0; Noyes 1-6-8; Flynn 0-2-2; Scibilia 3-0-6; Wetherbee 0-0-0; D'Orlando 0-0-0. Totals: 6-13-25.
Halftime: AP, 29-12.
3-pointers: AP, Klucznik; ET, None.
Records: AP, 11-13; ET, 11-11.