MARBLEHEAD — It’s crunch time for the Marblehead girls basketball team. With the end of the regular season looming, wins are at a premium for teams fighting for state tournament bids. Monday night’s 44-37 win over Hamilton-Wenham helped Marblehead’s cause, as the Magicians are now one victory shy of qualifying for the postseason.
“I thought this was a really good win,” Magicians interim coach Paul Moran said. “I thought both teams played sloppy but it was too great defenses. I thought the defenses played hard. We were just lucky enough to come out with a win and we’ll take it. The kids played hard. I’m proud of them. One thing about these Marblehead girls is they play hard.”
Emily Clough led all scorers with 11 points. Darcy O’Sullivan and Maddie Erskine scored nine points each. Rounding out Marblehead’s offense were Maddy Lowy (eight points), Leila Walton (five) and Brigette Gable (two).
Hamilton-Wenham’s Sarah Cooke led the Generals with nine points. Madison Rivers scored eight (she netted two 3-pointers). Jemma Shea and Kailee Whelan scored seven each.
After the Generals started the game with a 3-pointer, Clough got the Magicians on the board with a pair of baskets. Erskine went coast to coast for a layup and the Magicians led 6-5 halfway through the first quarter. Trailing 11-9, the Generals reclaimed the lead when Rivers banked in a 3-pointer at the buzzer. Hamilton-Wenham held a 12-11 edge at the end of the first quarter.
Things got sloppy in the second quarter and neither team could gain any rhythm offensively. Marblehead limited the Generals to just eight points but Marblehead was held to seven. At one point in the second quarter, there were five travels called in a row. Hamilton-Wenham led by two, 20-18, at halftime.
“It was a combination of sloppiness and Hamilton-Wenham’s press defense,” Moran said of his team’s offensive struggles in the first half. “They have some good players over there. They’re young, just like us. We made enough good plays to finish it but we obviously need to get better.”
The Generals raised their lead to six, 34-28, with back-to-back buckets at the start of the third quarter. Erskine dribbled her way through Hamilton-Wenham’s defense for a layup to end Marblehead’s drought. Marblehead trailed until Clough converted on a second-chance hoop with 1:08 left in the period, giving the Magicians a 31-30 lead. That’s where it stayed at the end of the third.
A 3-pointer and an outside jumpshot from Lowy put the Magicians ahead 40-35 halfway through the fourth quarter and forced Hamilton-Wenham to use a timeout.
Marblehead locked down defensively, holding the Generals to just two points over the final minutes en route to the 44-37 win.
“One adjustment we made (in the second half) was we wanted to get Maddy Lowy a couple open looks,” Moran said. “We wanted to get Leila Walton a couple open looks. We did that. We were lucky. Maddy hit a couple of her shots, Leila hit a couple of hers. They all played great, Emily Clough, Darcy O’Sullivan. They just played their hearts out.”
The Magicians, now at 9-9 on the season, can punch their ticket to the state tournament Tuesday night (7) when they host Northeastern Conference opponent Malden during their annual senior night.
“We need one more,” Moran said. “We need to get that 10th win to get in. It’s a huge tribute to these girls. They only had two wins last year. For these kids to have nine wins and have a chance at getting in the tournament, it’s all the credit to them. Anybody can coach. Coaches don’t score. Players score and players make plays. I give these kids all the credit in the world.”