PEABODY— The Danvers girls basketball team gave Peabody everything it had for the first half of Tuesday night’s game at Peabody High’s Field House. Then Peabody flipped the switch in the second half and ran away with a 50-26 win to remain unbeaten against Northeastern Conference opponents.
“It was a team effort tonight, especially in that second half,” Peabody coach Stan McKeen said. “We opened the game up 10-2, they come back and it’s 24-20 at the half. A lot of that was due to their outside shots.
“(At halftime) we went over a few things we needed to adjust and do a better job. The kids came out and did it. We were able to bring kids off the bench. We got in foul trouble with our starters so we had to use kids off the bench. They did a good job. Everybody contributed. The chemistry’s real good with these kids.”
Liz Zaiter scored a game-high 14 points and grabbed eight rebounds.
“This was a ‘step-up’ game for Liz,” McKeen said. “Danvers has size under the basket. She needed to prove herself tonight and she did. She did a great job.”
Oluchi Okananwa logged a double-double at 11 points and 12 steals. Catherine Manning didn’t have her best offensive night (four points) but made her presence known in the post with 12 rebounds.
“Catherine just works hard in the basket,” McKeen said. “She doesn’t get all the calls and she’s a little undersized too. But nobody works any harder under the basket than Catherine.”
For Danvers, Autumn James scored a team-high 11 points.
Kristina Rossignoll and Colleen Crotty hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Tanners a rapid 6-0 lead out of the gate. After a Danvers basket put the Falcons on the board, Zaiter powered her way through the paint for the next four points and the Tanners were up 10-2. But they froze for the next few minutes, allowing Danvers to hang tight. James netted a 3-pointer to close the quarter with Danvers trailing 12-7.
Peabody ran out to a 7-0 rally to start the second quarter, forcing the Falcons to burn a timeout. Madelyn Montanari hit a jump shot to end the drought and bring Danvers back on track. Consecutive 3-pointers from James and Gabrielle Chisholm reeled Danvers back within striking distance, down 21-17 midway through the quarter. Peabody carried a 24-20 lead at halftime.
The Tanners’ defense took over in the third quarter. Cheyenne Nessinger opened the period with a free throw to bring Davers within three points but it was all Peabody from there. Okananwa hit 3-of-4 freebies and Brooke Hodas banked in a 3-pointer to bring the Peabody lead up to nine (30-21).
“Oluchi still isn’t structured yet,” McKeen said. “We’re trying to structure her to play but she’s coming along slowly. She definitely makes the adrenaline rise when she comes off the bench.”
A 12-4 run saw the Tanners build a double-digit lead and, in the blink of an eye, they were up 42-25 heading into the fourth.
Danvers continued its struggles in the fourth quarter and the Tanners coasted to the 50-26 win. Peabody limited Danvers to just six points in the second half. With Peabody well ahead at 48-26, McKeen emptied his bench in the final three minutes.
The road ahead doesn’t get any easier for the Tanners. Peabody (8-1, 7-0 NEC) visits Medford Wednesday (7) and English Friday (7).
“This is a three-game week for us,” McKeen said. “It’s a tough stretch but I’m pleased with the way we’re playing.”