BYFIELD — It was mission accomplished Friday night for the Lynnfield girls basketball team, which defeated host Triton, 47-18, to pick up its 10th win of the season and officially clinch a berth in the Division 3 North state tournament for the first time in four years.
The Pioneers missed their first 10 shots of the game, but got a huge boost from sophomore Ava Buonfiglio and freshman Riley Hallahan off bench to pull out to an 11-2 first-quarter lead. Couple that with a stifling defense that had the Vikings’ number from start to finish and and it all added up to a rock-solid win on the road.
Buonfiglio gave the Pioneers a huge spark with three three-pointers in a six minute span midway through the first half and finished with a season-high 11 points. Hallahan dominated the boards with nine rebounds, six of them off the offensive glass, to create many second-chance opportunities for the Pioneers.
“We didn’t want to get in unless we earned it with 10 wins, so we did that tonight and now we want to win our last two to get a better seeding,” said first-year coach Peter Bocchino. “Tonight, we started slow, but Ava came in and hit some huge threes when we were struggling to score and she also played some great defense. And Riley was just killing it off the boards. She’s not that tall, but has a nose for rebounds and tonight she really stood out for us. She brings a special swagger when she comes into a game and that’s what you saw tonight.”
Both teams started slowly. The Pioneers led 5-0 with a little more than a minute left in the first quarter. Enter Buonfiglio, who hit back-to-back threes to give the Pioneers an 11-0 edge with 30 seconds to go. Triton’s Caitlin White stopped the bleeding with a pair of free throws with 12 seconds left.
The second period also started slowly. A Buonfiglio steal and dish to sophomore Caroline Waisnor (eight points) bumped the lead to 13-2 three minutes into the second quarter. Then, an offensive rebound and putback by junior Tori Morelli (12 points) bumped the lead to 15-2. Triton showed a little life and pulled to 17-6, but Buonfiglio drained another three to make it 20-6 with 40 seconds left in the half. On Triton’s next possession, Buonfiglio ripped down a rebound, then found Hallahan for a buzzer-beating bucket to send the teams into halftime with the Pioneers on top, 22-6.
That was as close as the Vikings came the rest of the way.
Junior Melissa Morelli (eight points), freshman Cate MacDonald (four points) and sophomore Grace Klonsky (two points) also scored.
The win had special meaning for Bocchino.
“This means so much to me and the girls because this was supposed to have happened with Jim (Perry) on board,” Bocchino said. “Deep down in my heart, he was with us every step of the way this season. The girls wanted it for him, I wanted it for him and we wanted to get this 10th win so badly for him. It means a lot.”
The Pioneers can now rest easy as they await the announcement of the Division 3 North Tournament pairings, which are scheduled to be released by the MIAA Feb. 22. Lynnfield hosts Newburyport next Thursday (6:30).