SWAMPSCOTT — Monday night’s 39-34 Swampscott girls basketball win over Malden must have been a revelation for anyone who wasn’t already familiar with the Big Blue’s Nikki Rosa.
And while Golden Tornadoes coach Scott Marino knew all about her — or thought he did — coming into the game, it was obvious afterward that even he had no idea.
“She dominated the game,” said Marino. “I mean, we knew about her coming in, but that was a one-woman show out there tonight. I don’t think the ball ever hit the rim.”
Rosa scored 22 of her team’s 39 points, and hit three 3-pointers in the second half, including one with 2:53 to go that gave the Big Blue the largest lead either team had all night — 37-30 — and made it tough for Malden to catch up.
“I was pretty impressed with her too,” said Swampscott coach Katelyn Leonard. “And it’s not just her scoring either. She is very unselfish with the ball, and on defense she’s everywhere. She had 11 deflections tonight, and that’s the type of thing that really can throw an offense out of rhythm.
“I’m sure she’s pretty exhausted right now,” Leonard said. “She was everywhere tonight.”
When it was suggested to Leonard that Rosa was the “you” of this generation of Big Blue girls basketball stars (Leonard was a standout who led Swampscott to back-to-back North sectional titles in the 1990s), coach demurred.
“No,” she said. “She’s better than I was.”
Swampscott needed all 22 of those points, too, as the Golden Tornados hung tough all night. Neither team could get any traction on the other. Both teams suffered through cold shooting from the start, and the score was only 7-6 Malden after a quarter when Shoe Zhou hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer for the Tornados (she ended up with 6 points).
It was just as tight, and just as close, in the second quarter, Malden went into the locker room at the break with an 18-17 lead, thanks to a MacKenzie Kearney basket with seconds remaining in the second quarter.
The entire third quarter settled nothing, except that the Big Blue managed to gain a whole point on the Tornados as the score was tied going into the fourth quarter, 27-27. During the period, Rosa, whose presence on every inch of the floor was needed had five points. And Grace DiGrande (6 points) closed out the quarter with a traditional 3-point play to allow the Big Blue (3-3) to climb into the tie.
Rosa opened the fourth quarter by drilling a 30 pointer, and then Emme Landry hit one free throw to give the Blue a 4-point cushion.
MacKenzie Furlong (11 points) heated up to act as Malden’s counterweight to Rosa in the final eight minutes.
“She had a nice game,” said Marino. “She played with poise and had some nice shots.”
Try as they might, though, the Tornados could not ever retake the lead.
“We missed a lot of shots … and lot of layups,” said Marino. “This loss (Malden is now 2-3) really hurt because of that. We had a lot of chances.”
After Furlong hit three of four free throws to bring Malden to within a point (31-30), DiGrange drained one three, and then Rosa — after two Malden misses at the line — hit another trey with 2:53 left to make it 37-30.
But Malden wouldn’t go away. Furlong, and then Tiffany Tortora, hit back-to-back buckets and all of a sudden it was a 3-point game.
However, with five seconds to go, Kearney’s bucket put the game out of reach.