Tech girls hoop sees season end vs. Manchester-Essex

LYNN – All roads to the Division 4 North final may not lead through Manchester-Essex, but Tech’s route certainly does, and once again, it turned into a dead end.Last year the Tigers lost to the Hornets in the semifinals and this year, they got stung a little earlier, losing 53-43 in the first round Tuesday at Tech.Tech led 28-27 at the half, but trouble was on the horizon. Sophomore guard Katrina Freeman injured her ankle late in the second quarter and Jessica Underwood, who led the Tigers with 14 points, headed into the half with three fouls. Both would come back to haunt Tech down the stretch.”With Katrina out, that was one less guard to handle the ball,” Tech coach John Crowley said, adding that Freeman’s ability to hit from the outside opens up the inside game.”She’s been terrific for us offensively,” Crowley said. “She loosens things up inside for us ? losing her affects everything.”The Hornets proved tough to stop inside with senior Dani Ciccone and junior Elsa Keefe supplying the muscle in the paint. Ciccone, a four-year varsity player and Cape Ann League All-Star, led all scorers with 16 points. Keefe and Jordan Bigger, another junior forward, each had 10 points.Manchester-Essex led 16-12 after the first quarter, but the Tigers weren’t about to roll over. Shena Mitchell (13 points) buried a three to start the second quarter and Fanice Baptiste followed with a trey of her own to put Tech up 18-16. Underwood extended the lead to four with a hard-earned hoop from the paint, but Ciccone answered right back.Tech retained its four-point lead another few minutes thanks to another three by Mitchell and some nice play by Zulieka Lopez, but Ciccone continued to be a thorn in the Tigers’ side, with two late buckets that cut the lead to one at the half.Tech fortunes started to turn in the third quarter with Freeman on the bench with an ice pack on her ankle and Underwood trying to avoid picking up that fourth foul. Her luck ran out with 4:43 left in the third quarter.Underwood scored eight of her team’s nine points in the third quarter, but the Hornets started to pull away, and, by the end of the quarter, led 44-37. Underwood, a 1,000 career-point scorer, saw her high school career end when she fouled out with 3:27 remaining. Lopez headed to the bench less than a minute later with her fifth.With three of Tech’s top five players on the bench, Manchester-Essex had little problem riding it out the final couple of minutes for the win.”It was a good game,” Hornets’ coach Lauren Dubois said. “It was an intense game. They (Tech) were hitting their shots. This was a battle.””This (Manchester-Essex) was a very good team,” Crowley said, adding his players gave it everything they had.Although Tech’s tournament run is over, the Tigers did reach a couple of their goals this season. They won the Commonwealth Conference Large and the state vocational tournament.

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