PHOTO BY BOB ROCHE
Jaxson Nadeau goes to the floor to steal the ball from Amesbury’s Madison Napoli.
By ANNE MARIE TOBIN
WAKEFIELD — Three hundred and fifty-seven days.
That’s how long the Bishop Fenwick girls basketball team’s reign as state Division 3 state champion lasted until a determined, and very talented, Amesbury team put on a shooting and rebounding clinic, stopping Fenwick dead in its tracks, 66-50, to win the Division 3 North championship Saturday at Wakefield High.
The Indians led practically from start to finish. Fenwick led just once, 2-1, after sophomore Jaxson Nadeau (4 points, 5 steals) picked Amesbury point guard Maddie Napoli’s pocket and dished to the trailer, senior captain Sam Mancinelli (14 points, 5 3-pointers, 6 steals), for a layup.
That might have been Napoli’s only faux pas of the afternoon as the two-time Baker Division Cape Ann League MVP, along with sophomore forward Flannery O’Connor (21 points, 20 rebounds), gave the Crusaders fits all afternoon. Napoli hit one key shot after another, finishing with 17 points and three 3-pointers.
Her younger sister Allison, only a freshman, wasn’t too shabby either; she hit two timely threes and finished with 10.
Fenwick fell behind by 10 twice in the first quarter (15-5, 17-7), but clawed its way back with a 6-0 run in the last minute to go into the second quarter trailing by just four, 17-13. Mancinelli started the run with an NBA-worthy 3-pointer from the top of the key, then, after another Nadeau steal, Liv DiPietro drained a baseline three from Fredi DiGuglielmo with 30 seconds left in the quarter.
Unfortunately for the Crusaders, that was as close as they would come the rest of the game in large part due to a disastrous second quarter when they could not buy a basket.
Fenwick took 21 shots in the quarter, five from beyond the arc, and missed them all. The Crusaders couldn’t cash in at the foul line either, connecting only five of 12 attempts.
The good news for Fenwick was it held Amesbury scoreless until the 5:19 mark when O’Connor made one of two free throws after grabbing two offensive rebounds. The bad news was the Crusaders didn’t get on the board until Mancinelli made one of two free throws at the 4:21 mark, cutting the deficit to five at 20-15.
After that, however, the Indians poured it on, outscoring the Crusades 16-4 to close out the first half with a 17-point lead, 36-19.
Mancinelli gave the Crusaders a boost to start the second half, draining two 3-pointers in the first 30 seconds to close the gap to 36-25, but the Indians went on a 12-2 run to stretch their lead to 21 at 48-27 with three minutes left in the quarter. Fenwick shaved the deficit to 15, 50-35, going into the final eight minutes, but the Indians kept their feet firmly on the gas, never letting the lead slip below 12 points the rest of the way.
“We had our spurts too, we just couldn’t stop them,” Fenwick head coach Adam DeBaggis said. “At the start of the second half, Sammy hits those two big threes, so we cut the lead to 12 but just couldn’t stop them from scoring.
“We just didn’t play good enough defense and they (the Indians) were feeling it, they were hitting their shots and we just got a little bit behind; we could never eclipse the 10-point mark. It kind of felt like it just didn’t go our way tonight, but they rebounded, they made their shots, they made their second chance shots, and they had a lot of them and that’s what won the game.”
Amesbury coach Matt Willis heaped plenty of praise on the Fenwick program after the game. His first exposure to the Crusaders as Indians’ head man was last year in the quarterfinals when the Crusaders ran roughshod over the Indians in a 69-32 rout in the Indians’ first tournament appearance since 2013.
“This victory feels so good ,especially after they put a pretty good whipping on us last year,” said Willis. “Fenwick is a great team and great program. I tip my cap to them. To make it to three straight sectional titles is incredible, they are a great team. They have nothing to hang their heads about, losing all the talent they had last year and still getting right back here. He (DeBaggis) does a great job, but my team has as much heart as anyone and this is the toughest group of girls I have ever coached.”