LYNN — The St. Mary’s and Bishop Fenwick girls basketball teams provided a packed house at Tony Conigliaro Gymnasium with yet another classic battle Friday night, and it was the Spartans who came away with a close 62-58 overtime win in the back-and-forth affair. Over the course of the game, there were 18 lead changes and seven ties.
“It’s at the point now where we both have excellent basketball programs and you can expect this kind of battle every time we play,” said St. Mary’s coach Jeff Newhall. “There were a lot of stories of resilience, from us coming back at the end of regulation to them hitting the three to send it to overtime and then us battling back in overtime, it was just a great battle.”
“It’s just a classic rivalry, there’s no other way to put it,” said Fenwick coach Adam DeBaggis. “Every player on each team is playing for a win, and it shows. Add in the atmosphere that the fans create, and it’s just a great basketball setting.”
Pamela Gonzalez had a huge game for the Spartans, recording a double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds, 14 points of those points coming in the second half.
But perhaps the biggest play of the game was made by Gabby Torres, who finished the game with 13 points and three rebounds. With just 9.6 seconds left in overtime and the score tied 58-58, Torres came off a screen and buried a three-pointer to put the Spartans ahead for the rest of the game.
“Gabby’s been struggling lately and she hasn’t started the past couple games, and that would make some players pack it in,” said Newhall. “But she stays ready all the time and she dug in and cashed in on her opportunity to hit a big shot.”
Also playing well for St. Mary’s was Olivia Matela (nine points, 11 rebounds), Jannise Avelino (eight points, nine rebounds) and Nicolette D’Itria (six points, two rebounds).
For Fenwick, Sammi Gallant led the way with 26 points and seven rebounds. Jaxson Nadeau finished with six points and six rebounds, while Olivia DiPietro and Micayla Rossi each had six points. Elizabeth Pica added five points and six rebounds, while Liz Gonzalez had four points and 10 rebounds.
“We played well for most of the game, but we just made enough mistakes to allow them to keep fighting back at critical points in the game,” said DeBaggis. “We let them get a number of open shots, and they buried them when they mattered.”
There wasn’t much action in the first half, with both teams playing solid defense for much of the time. Both teams got into some foul trouble as the half came to a close, but by the time both teams headed into the locker room the score was still relatively low at 19-17 Bishop Fenwick.
But in the second half, things changed.
The Spartans tied the game at 22-22 early in the third quarter, and from there the two teams went back and forth with six lead changes and four ties over the rest of the quarter. And once all the dust settled at the end of the quarter, the score was once again tied at 33-33.
The fourth quarter was even more back-and-forth, with 10 lead changes and three ties. As the quarter began to wind to a close, the Spartans hit a couple of free throws and got some defensive stops to take back the lead. After two made free throws by Gonzalez to make it 51-48, Fenwick got the ball back with 9.5 seconds to go. The Crusaders ran the play they wanted and got the ball to Gallant, but she was double-teamed. The ball got kicked out to Rossi behind the three-point line, and she sent up a prayer that banked off the backboard to send the game to overtime tied 51-51.
Fenwick used that momentum to get a quick start in overtime, scoring the first five points of the quarter to go up 56-51. But from there, things went cold as St. Mary’s battled back to make it 58-55. It was at that point that Matela nailed a three to tie the score at 58-58 with 25 seconds to go, which allowed Fenwick to potentially get the final shot. But instead, the Spartans forced a turnover and got the ball back. St. Mary’s went up the floor and ran a play for Gonzalez, but she was triple-teamed. That left Torres open, and Gonzalez hit her with a perfect pass for a catch-and-shoot three with 9.6 second left to put the Spartans ahead for good.
“Obviously Pam had a big impact on the game in terms of points and all that, but the two biggest plays that stand out to me were her block to keep the score tied and her pass to set up Gabby,” Newhall said.
Fenwick (6-4) has a more than a week off for midterms before getting back into action against North Andover on January 27.
St. Mary’s (10-3) also has a week off before going for its tournament-qualifying 11th win against Archbishop Williams next Friday.