Tech’s Anaya fuels Tigers to victory

Tech's Arianna Anaya dribbles the ball past KIPP's Destiny Guzman. (Owen O'Rourke)

LYNN — Tuesday afternoon’s game between the KIPP Academy and Tech girls basketball teams belonged to Arianna Anaya. With 31 points to lead all scorers, Anaya carried the Tigers to a 68-53 win at Tech’s Field House.

“We try to tell them to attack the basket,” Tech coach Kaitlyn Wechsler said. “It needs to be lay-ups and that opens up opportunities for us to get rebounds and put-backs. We really need everything to be attacking the basket. Arianna’s been doing that the past couple games.”

Alondra Sanchez scored 18 points and Michayla Lawrence added 11. Jafernee Cruz finished with 5.

Naudia Resnek led the Panthers with 15 points. Tatiana Megie-Maddrey added 13, Nicole Uchendu tallied 11 and Destiny Guzman added 7.

“Our defense wasn’t up to the task,” KIPP coach John DePasquale said. “It should’ve been. Tech did a very good job of attacking our poor perimeter defense and we never fixed it.”

Resnek hit a second-chance basket to give the Panthers their first lead. Tech answered on its next possession, with Anaya drawing a foul after sinking a floater. Anaya netted the free throw and the Tigers held a 3-2 lead. Tech’s offense stalled for the next few minutes but the Tigers recovered after Wechsler burned a timeout with her team trailing, 5-3. Tech’s offense found its rhythm as it started to attack the basket. The Tigers and Panthers were knotted at 12-12 at the end of the first quarter.

“We tend to come out and play pretty slow,” Wechsler said. “We try to fix it. We talk about how we need to play tough out of the gate but it always seems to be a battle for us to start strong.”

Tech built a 7-point lead (27-20) toward the end of the second quarter. After Sanchez made her presence felt in the post, Anaya single-handedly carried the Tigers to a 7-0 run and forced KIPP to use a timeout.

The Panthers regained their composure after the timeout. A 3-pointer from Megie-Maddrey at the buzzer whittled Tech’s lead down to 31-29 at halftime.

Then KIPP hit a rut and the Tigers started to distance themselves. Anaya’s floater with 3:50 to play in the third gave the Tigers their first double-digit lead of the game, 43-33. Tech scored another 6 points in a row before Uchendu broke her team’s drought with a 3-pointer. At the end of the third quarter, the Tigers held full command with a 53-36 lead.

“We didn’t really make any changes,” Wechsler said. “We’ve just been talking a lot about heart and toughness and that we needed to find a way to really pull away. We were upset with (Megie-Maddrey’s) 3-pointer at the buzzer. We needed to find it within ourselves to not let them think they were in the game and just pull away. We didn’t make any changes basketball-wise, it was just about the fight that we had.”

With the game well in hand, Tech had no worries in coasting through the fourth quarter.

“We scored 54 points,” DePasquale said. “That’s enough to win. If we’re in the mid 50s we’re in good shape. But we gave up high 60s. Tech did a very good job of saying ‘We see a weakness, let’s exploit it until they stop us.’ We didn’t stop them.”

Tech (7-9) hosts Northeast Friday (5:30). The Tigers need three wins in their final four games to qualify for the state tournament.

“We try to keep it day by day,” Wechsler said. “We haven’t talked to the girls too much about (states). It’s an elephant in the room. Some of them are aware of it but we tell them in practice that we need to focus on the things we need to do. We need to start defense, everything comes from there. The rest of it is heart and toughness. If we play with heart and we play tough, we can beat anyone and they know that.”

KIPP (8-5) travels to Greater Lawrence Friday (5:30). The Panthers need two wins in their final seven games to qualify for states.

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