Turnovers doom Lynnfield in loss to North Reading

Tori Morelli (center) makes a pass to twin sister Melissa Morelli for a basket against North Reading. (Photo by Anne Marie Tobin)

LYNNFIELD — If there has been a constant theme for the Lynnfield girls basketball team this season, it’s turnovers and trouble in transition.

Friday night at home, they were the difference again for the Pioneers, who lost to Cape Ann League rival North Reading, 61-46.

The Pioneers committed 17 first-half turnovers (26 for the game), yet trailed by only 11, 30-19, at halftime. North Reading threatened to run away in the third quarter, stretching the lead to 14, 35-21, in the first two minutes of the quarter.

The Pioneers fought back with a 6-0 run to reduce the deficit to 35-27. But North Reading answered with a 12-2 run to close out the quarter with a 16-point lead, 47-29, and coasted for the win.

“Honestly, I thought we were the better team, but just had too many turnovers tonight,” said Lynnfield coach Peter Bocchino. “We just have to find a way to control turnovers and limit easy transition points, and if we can do that, we will win some games. Despite turning the ball over so many times, we still scored 46 points and North Reading could not put us away until late, so that is a good thing to come out of this game.”

Lynnfield freshman Cate MacDonald posted a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds. Junior twin captains Melissa Morelli and Tori Morelli were also in double- figures with Tori scoring 14 points and pulling down five rebounds and Melissa scoring 13 points with seven rebounds.

North Reading was led by sophomore forward Julia Howse, who scored 22 points.

The Pioneers started strong and led 5-2, but North Reading went on a 13-4 run to lead 15-9 after the first quarter. The Hornets picked up where they left off in the second and raced out to a 22-11 lead, thanks to three straight Pioneer turnovers, which the Hornets converted into six fast-break layups. Freshman Riley Hallahan stopped the bleeding with a 3-pointer to make it 22-14. After a House bucket, Tori Morelli (from sister Melissa) and a MacDonald offensive rebound and put-back pulled the Pioneers to within six, 24-18, with 4:50 left in the half.

Lynnfield went cold the rest of the half, with its only point in the final three minutes coming on a free throw by sophomore Caroline Waisnor (four points, four rebounds).

Trailing 35-21 two minutes into the third quarter, Lynnfield’s sophomore point guard and captain, Grace Klonsky (two points, four steals) heated up the Pioneers’ offense.

After a defensive rebound and outlet pass by Melissa Morelli, Klonsky took the ball at mid-court and drove the lane for two. Klonsky and MacDonald teamed for a block, then Klonsky sprinted down court into the lane where she made a no-look pass to Tori Morelli for two more to cut the deficit to 10, 35-25.

After North Reading called a timeout, Klonsky pulled down an offensive rebound and powered her way to a put back on the baseline to make it 35-27 with 4:30 remaining in the third quarter.

That was as close as Lynnfield came, however. Trailing 47-29, Waisnor opened the fourth quarter with a baseline three-pointer to close to 47-32, but it was too little too late.

The Pioneers dropped to 1-5 in CAL play (3-5 overall).

“Lynnfield has  talent and is very young,” said North Reading coach Bob Melillo. “Peter has done a great job with them and the kids really worked hard. They’re a good team, no doubt about it with some very talented players.

“We struggled in the first half allowing the (Morelli) twins to get into low so we talked at halftime about not letting them get the ball there and we did a better job of that in the second half, but Lynnfield’s definitely going to beat some of the better teams and will be a team that improves so much in the second half of the season. They’ll beat some good team and I just hope we aren’t one of them.”

Bocchino highlighted the play of MacDonald, the Morellis and MacDonald along with Hallahan off the bench.

“Cate just gets beaten up and doesn’t get any calls, but she was solid tonight,” said Bocchino. “Riley gave us some quality minutes off the bench but ran out of gas at both ends. She and the Morellis were solid for the most part tonight, but the turnovers were a killer and we missed some shots I thought we should have made.”

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