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Seniors Zaiter, Manning push Tanners over Sachems

Peabody's Catherine Manning (right) helped lead the Tanners to the Division 1 North semifinal this season. (Item File Photo)

SAUGUS — Thanks to a pair of big double-doubles, the Peabody girls basketball team outlasted Saugus Wednesday evening to earn a 57-51 win at John W. Towers Gymnasium. Both coaches knew it would be a tough game going in, and that’s exactly how it played out on the floor.

“We knew it was going to be a tough game coming in, and they never quit,” said Peabody coach Stan McKeen. “We took that big lead and I knew they’d make a comeback, and that’s exactly what happened. But we got some good contributions off the bench and the kids worked hard out there to earn the win.”

Peabody was led by the inside duo of seniors Catherine Manning and Liz Zaiter. Manning led all scorers with 19 points and 14 rebounds, while Zaiter was right behind with 17 points and 13 rebounds. Freshman Oluchi Okananwa just missed a double-double with nine points and seven rebounds, and senior Kristina Rossignoll had seven points and four rebounds.

“Liz had a great game out there, and she really did a great job inside on both ends,” McKeen said. “Catherine had a huge game on the boards and was big with second-chance points. It was great to see the two of them clicking at the same time out there.”

Saugus was led by junior Taylor Bogdanski, who had a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Junior Kiley Ronan had nine points and three rebounds junior Molly Granara had seven points and five rebounds, while senior Alessia Salzillo and junior Jillian Ricupero each had five points. Senior Marissa Stockwell also had a solid game with three points and seven rebounds.

“Peabody’s having an awesome season,” Saugus coach Mark Schruender said. “In my mind, they’re one of the best teams in the state. It’s a great test to play a team like that and see where we measure up. We obviously wanted to win the game, but it’s something build on.”

The game opened up with both teams playing solid defense. Saugus pressured the Tanners the whole way up the court, while Peabody did a great job of forcing the Sachems to take tough shots. Eventually, Zaiter caught fire and registered nine points and six rebounds in the quarter to give Peabody a 12-6 lead going into the second.

Peabody stretched its lead to as much as 10 points early in the second quarter, but Saugus flipped the script as the quarter developed. Behind solid play from Ronan and Bogdanski, the Sachems cut the deficit to just four points. Peabody took a 25-21 lead into halftime.

The second half belonged to Peabody for the most part. The Tanners extended their lead to as much as 12 points by the end of the third quarter and then as much as 15 points early in the fourth. Saugus pulled to within six points toward the closing stretch, but that was as close as the Sachems would get as Peabody hit a few free throws to seal the win.

Now at 8-7, Saugus needs to bare down and earn two more wins to qualify for the state tournament. Next up, the Sachems will take on Somerville Thursday (7).

“We have to play like we did tonight as far as the effort and the energy and we just have to clean up the mistakes,” said Schruender. “We need to box out better and play better inside. Aside from that, I loved our effort. Our energy was terrific. We never quit. We kept coming, making runs until the very end. I loved our persistence.”

As for Peabody (13-1), the Tanners are aiming to continue to improve as they try to earn a top seed in the tournament.

“We certainly hope we can keep this level of play going,” McKeen said. “We got a great test tonight and we have a few more before the season is over, so we’ll just keep working hard out there and see where it goes.”

Peabody visits Marblehead Friday (7).

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