St. Mary’s slips past Fenwick

Courtney Norton (left) dribbles the ball as Nicolette D'Itria positions herself on defense. (Owen O'Rourke)

LYNN — The Bishop Fenwick girls basketball team, which needed a win to qualify for the state tournament, brought its A game to Conigliaro Gymnasium Thursday night.

Unfortunately for the Crusaders, that wasn’t enough to defeat St. Mary’s, which grabbed a 55-50 victory behind a fourth quarter surge.

Olivia Nazaire led the Spartans with 18 points, Pam Gonzalez added 16, and Gabby Torres finished with 11.

“We’ve had a couple close games lately,” Spartans coach Jeff Newhall said. “It certainly isn’t making my hair any darker. I didn’t think we played great for a while. Late game situations, fourth quarter, we’ve done it quite a bit recently. I have to give them credit for hanging in there until the end, but we have to do things better earlier in the game.”

Fenwick’s Sammi Gallant scored 18 points and had six steals. Fredi DeGuglielmo scored 10 points, Jaxson Nadeau added 9 and Jennie Meagher grabbed nine rebounds.

“Our effort was awesome,” Fenwick coach Adam DeBaggis said. “That’s why it sucks to lose a game like this. We played our hearts out and lost,  it’s hard. We’re very equal teams. Both teams played hard and someone has to lose.”

St. Mary’s ran out to a quick 6-2 lead in the first quarter. Fenwick took the ball to the paint and reclaimed the lead at the free throw line. Gallant hit four free throws, and Nadeau added two, giving the Crusaders the 8-6 edge. Gonzalez finished the quarter with a 3-point play, leading the Spartans to 9-8 edge.

Fenwick’s offense picked up in the second quarter. After St. Mary’s took a 15-10 lead behind back-to-back 3-pointers from Torres and Olivia Matela, Crusader DeGuglielmo swished a pair of 3-pointers to lead a 17-7 Crusaders run. Fenwick led, 27-22, at the half.

“I think with every big game there’s a lot of nerves, so the shots don’t go in as well,” DeBaggis said. “We had to calm ourselves down. It’s a mental game with the ball going into the hoop. We talked about playing more composed. We’ve been playing more composed so that’s a positive.”

The Fenwick lead disappeared in the first 90 seconds of the third quarter. Nazaire hit back-to-back hook shots and Torres cashed in a steal for a layup. Courtney Norton stopped the bleeding with a layup and a pair of free throws, giving Fenwick a 31-28 lead. Nazaire swished another basket in the closing seconds but the Crusaders fired back with a jump shot at the buzzer from Lix Gonzalez and a 40-35 lead after three.

“Between Fredi and Jaxson, Fenwick has leadership, athleticism, and good basketball players,” Newhall said. “They made the difference tonight. Fredi stretches the floor and Jaxson’s a force out there. It’s hard to win in this league. It’s hard to beat your rival twice in a season. Fenwick played very well and I feel fairly certain saying there’s going to be a third game.”

St. Mary’s didn’t give in. With the game tied at 47, Nazaire knocked in a pair of floaters to put the Spartans ahead, 51-47, with two minutes to play. Fenwick swished three free throws to crawl within a point, but the Spartans put the game away in the final 20 seconds. Gonzalez netted four freebies, and Nazaire hit one, for the 55-50 win.

The Crusaders, 9-9, need one more win to qualify for states with two games remaining. Fenwick visits Beverly Sunday (5:30).
“This hasn’t happened since my first year so it’s a little different,” DeBaggis said. “It kind of stinks because it takes a load off your shoulders when you qualify earlier. It allows you to try different things. Without it, we have to focus on one game a time.”

St. Mary’s, 15-6,  hosts Essex Tech Sunday in the Spartan Classic.

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