Pioneers get back to .500 with win over Triton

Cate McDonald helped lead Lynnfield to a win over Triton. (Item File Photo)

When you are a young team like the Lynnfield girls basketball team, mistakes and inconsistent play is the rule rather than the exception.

Monday afternoon in a 50-34 win against visiting Triton at the high school, the Pioneers played some of their best basketball of the season. That’s the good news.

The bad news is the stretch lasted only 10 minutes.

“We had it going for a while there at the end of the first quarter and the second quarter,” said Lynnfield coach Peter Bocchino. “We put in a new spread offense that we put together this morning and that’s what was working in the first half. I told them they did good, but in the second half, the defense started to get lazy so instead of beating them by 30 like I thought were were capable of, it was much closer.

‘The good thing was it was a good game for us coming after those ugly losses last week to Masco and Pentucket.”

Three Pioneers scored in double figures with freshman Cate MacDonald scoring a game-high 15 points, junior captain Tori Morelli scoring 14 and freshman Riley Hallahan chipping in with 11 points.

Points were hard to find in the early going, but the Pioneers found their rhythm near the end of the first quarter, going on a 9-0 run in the final two minutes to build a 16-7 lead.

Hallahan and MacDonald capped the run with three-pointers, Hallahan’s from behind the arc, then MacDonald the old-fashioned way after an Ava Buonfiglio steal set her up for a  power drive through the paint. MacDonald was fouled on the layup and converted the free three.

The Pioneers kept their foot on the gas in the second quarter, stretching the lead to 21-7 with a 5-0 run over the first two minutes of the quarter.

Triton fought back, cutting the deficit to just seven, 23-16 with about three and a half minutes left in the half. After that, the Pioneers clamped down defensively and closed out the half with a 9-0 run to bump the Pioneers to 16, 32-16, heading into the second half.

Both teams came out flat in the third quarter. With three minutes left and the Pioneers on top 34-18, it was Hallahan to the rescue.  She drained back-to-back threes sandwiched around a Vikings’ three to push the Pioneers’ lead to 40-21. With less than 40 seconds left in the quarter, sophomore Caroline Waisnor (2 points, 4 steals) swiped a Vikings’ pass and dished to Morelli, who laid it in to give the Pioneers’ their largest lead of the game at 42-21 heading into the final eight minutes of the game.

Bocchino said Hallahan’s treys were the turning point.

“Riley really understands the game more than anyone,” Bocchino said. “She gets the concept of the pick and roll and she was on fire in the middle part of the game. Those two threes she hit were big and allowed us to get the lead back up to what, 19 or 20. She only missed one shot and made four of five shots. I asked the girls how do not find her more? We should have been looking for her more as she knows how to get open for the threes and she can hit them as well as anybody.

“In the second half we struggled in that when we finally got a defensive rebound, right away we turned the ball over because they weren’t looking for the outlet. They were putting the ball on the floor. We also struggled when they pressed late in the game. Had they pressed earlier, we may have folded. We were okay when as long as we stayed spread out and set our screens.”

Sophomore captain Grace Klonsky (5 points) and sophomore Ava Buonfiglio (3 points) also scored.

With the win, the Pioneers got back to .500 at 6-6 and moved closer to securing a berth in the Division 3 tournament.
“We need four wins to make the tournament and at least on paper, it looks like if we play good basketball for 32 minutes every game, we should be able to make it,” said Bocchino.

Lynnfield is back in action Friday night at Masconomet at 6:30.

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