LYNN — The St. Mary’s girls basketball team opened the new season on a positive, taking a 16-point lead in the first quarter and riding it to a 64-44 win over Saugus at Tony Conigliaro Gymnasium Friday evening.
“I thought both teams were a little nervous to start the game, but our defense was very solid from the jump,” said St. Mary’s coach Jeff Newhall. “From there, we got the pace where we wanted it and started to move the ball and knock down shots, which was great to see. And at the end of the day, to score 64 points without a 1,000-point scorer on the team speaks volumes about our team play.”
The Spartans were led by sophomore Nicolette D’Itria, who nearly had a double-double with 23 points and 9 rebounds.
“This is her third year on varsity, and she played excellent,” said Newhall. “She did a great job managing the game for us, and even when she wasn’t scoring she was making an impact on the game.”
Junior Olivia Matela added 12 points on four three-pointers, while junior Jannise Avelino just missed a double-double with 9 points and 10 rebounds. Eighth-grader Yirsy Queliz (6 points) and junior Gabby Torres (5 points) also got in on the scoring.
For Saugus, senior Alessia Salzillo led the way with 10 points and 6 rebounds. Junior Shaylin Groark added 9 points and 2 rebounds, while junior Jillian Ricupero had 7 points and 2 rebounds. Junior Taylor Bogdanski finished with 5 points and 8 rebounds.
“I think there were some jitters early, but we got better as the game went on,” said Saugus coach Mark Schruender. “I told them that I have to coach better and we have to execute better, but that will come. We have a team full of experienced players who have been through a lot and they’ll be able to turn things around.”
To open up the game, it didn’t look like either team would score very many points. In what both coaches described as early-season jitters, the two teams went scoreless for the first three minutes. It was only after D’Itria converted an and-one to get the Spartans on the board that St. Mary’s started scoring, and once she did that it was like the cover was taken off the basket.
The Spartans went on to finish the first quarter with a 16-point lead, mostly thanks to D’Itria (8 points) and Matela (6 points).
The second quarter saw Saugus play better and start to make some baskets. Despite some strong play by Salzillo and Bogdanski to cut into the deficit, the Sachems still went into the halftime break down by 17 points.
“Things started to come together in the middle of the game, so hopefully that’s a sign of things to come,” said Schruender. “It’s easy to be negative in a loss like this, but there were so many good plays that we’ll see on film, so there’s no way we can go anywhere but up from here.”
The Spartans opened things up even more in the third quarter, getting ahead by as many as 26 points. D’Itria and Queliz played well off of each other in the backcourt, while Avelino made a big impact in the paint and on the glass. By the end of the third, St. Mary’s held a 47-28 lead.
The fourth quarter saw many of the bench players from both sides see some action as St. Mary’s coasted to a solid win on the first day of the new season.
Due to a strange quirk in the schedule both teams will be in action again on Saturday, but not in a game that counts. Both teams will compete in the 26th Annual Paul Duchane Girls Varsity Basketball Jamboree, a preseason tournament that brings 20 area teams to the Lynn Classical gym for a day of basketball. St. Mary’s will take on Danvers at 5:20 p.m., while Saugus will play Billerica at 6 p.m.
“We’re excited to play, even though it would be nicer if we had a practice in between this game and that game to try to work through some things,” Schruender said. “But it will be fun, it’s always fun to play in that tournament. I don’t know much about Billerica, but we’ve got to mainly focus on ourselves in this one.”
“We have a lot of depth on the team this year, maybe more depth than we’ve had in a long time,” Newhall said. “So we’re just going to continue working people into the games and see who’s got it going on a specific night.”
Bishop Fenwick 83, Rockport 77
The Crusaders opened the 2018-2019 season with a close win on Friday night. Senior guard Nik Pignone led the way for Fenwick with 25 points, while freshman guard Jason Romans had a great all-around game with 19 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists. Senior guard Jahvon Newton added 13 points in the win.
Fenwick (1-0) visits Arlington Catholic Tuesday.