Melissa Gray led all scorers with 21 points in Peabody’s win over English.
By HAROLD RIVERA
LYNN– With five wins in its last six games coming into Friday night’s matchup with English, the Peabody girls basketball team was looking to keep things moving in the right direction against a gritty Bulldogs group. Thanks to a strong performance from Melissa Gray, the Tanners stayed hot with a 67-28 win over English at Peabody High.
“When she (Gray) gets open and her shot starts to fall, she’s on,” Peabody coach Stan McKeen said. “She didn’t play in the last quarter, but our defense was the difference in the game. It’s been the difference in the last five games.”
Gray, a senior guard and team captain, led all scorers with 21 points and grabbed seven rebounds.
The Tanners raced out to a first-quarter lead as Gray scored five points and Alyssa Alperen flashed an early hot-hand with six points in the period. Tommi Hill knocked in a three and a floater in the paint to keep the Bulldogs close at 18-9.
“Early in the season, we were getting behind and struggled to get back in games,” McKeen said. “We’ve abandoned the zone on defense, we’re strictly playing man to man now and it has worked.”
Gray took center stage in the second quarter and English had no answer when the ball was in her hands. Peabody staged a 16-0 rally and Gray accounted for 15 of those points. With their senior guard on fire, the Tanners built a 22-point advantage and led 40-18 at the half.
“She’s (Gray) a great shooter,” English coach Mackenzie Charles said. “She shot the ball well and we didn’t bump her. We didn’t play that physical Lynn English girls basketball.”
McKeen added, “Our defense was the turning point in the game tonight. It was a great effort.”
With a 22-point lead, the Peabody offense continued to capitalize on scoring opportunities in the third quarter. This time, it was Nene Onwuogu who carried Peabody with seven points in the period. The Tanners led 59-27 after three.
By the time the fourth quarter started, the deficit was too steep for English to climb back in. Peabody (7-4) rolled to the 67-28 victory.
“I give my team credit for fighting,” Charles said. “We got to give some young girls minutes in the game. It wasn’t the way we’d like to, but we have to find some positives in the tough loss.”
Charles added, “Every night’s a tough, competitive game in the NEC. Tonight wasn’t all that competitive but we’ll learn and get better.”
Nine different players scored for the Peabody side. Onwuogu logged a double-doubled at 14 points and 11 rebounds. Alperen scored eight points, while Katie Wallace and Hannah Pellizzaro each added six.
For English, Rachel Calnan scored eight points. Hill and Dorathy Ezemba each added seven.
Both teams play again on Tuesday as English visits Danvers and Peabody travels to Classical. The Rams defeated Peabody when the two teams met earlier this season.
Harold Rivera can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.