LYNN — The St. Mary’s girls basketball team made a game of it in the first half against Catholic Central League foe Cathedral, but the Spartans faded down the stretch and fell to the top-ranked Panthers, 55-41, at Tony Conigliaro Gymnasium Monday night.
“They’re the No. 1 team in the state for a reason, and you’ve got to take chances at times out there,” said St. Mary’s coach Jeff Newhall. “We were down by eight after three quarters and I thought we were still in the game, we got some great shots at times, and we just lost to a better team tonight. Overall, I was very happy with the effort we put forth out there.”
Nicolette D’Itria led the way for the Spartans with 13 points and eight rebounds, while Jannise Avelino contributed four points and 12 rebounds. Olivia Matela had three points and five rebounds, while Pamela Gonzalez was held to just two points and six rebounds.
One real bright spot on the night was the play of eighth-grader Yirsy Queliz, who came off the bench to notch 12 points and two rebounds and also played solid defense throughout the game.
“She actually hasn’t been playing so well lately, but tonight you could tell that she was ready to play and that’s why we went to her early,” said Newhall. “She hit some shots, which was great, but she did some other things tonight on defense as well. She played a complete game tonight, and if we can get that from her every night then that’s an added bonus.”
The first half was a back-and-forth battle from start to finish. Both teams came out with intensity and played solid defense, forcing the opponent into tough shot after tough shot. But Cathedral was able to exploit a few cracks in the Spartans’ defense early, and the Panthers took a 15-11 lead after one quarter.
The second quarter saw more back and forth. Just as Cathedral started to hit a few shots and look like it was about to run away, the Spartans fought back behind a couple of big 3-pointers from Queliz late. When the buzzer sounded for halftime, it was still a four-point game at 24-20 Cathedral.
Things changed in the second half. St. Mary’s wasn’t hitting the shots that it hit in the first half, while Cathedral remained hot. The Panthers eventually were able to extend their lead to as much as 12 points before the Spartans fought back to make it an eight-point game, 40-32, going into the fourth.
But in the fourth, Cathedral hit a number of clutch 3-pointers to kill off any potential run St. Mary’s tried to put together. And when the Spartans stopped hitting shots again, Cathedral pushed the lead to as much as 15 points and ran away with the victory.
Despite the loss, Newhall knows that the Spartans (12-5) are still in decent shape. But he also knows that his team will have to bring the same intensity Friday night (6:30) when the Spartans take on CCL rival Bishop Fenwick in a neutral-site game at St. John’s Prep.
“If we bring this same intensity and take the shots we took tonight, I think we’ll be alright going forward,” Newhall said. “We certainly know we’ll have to bring a lot of intensity for that game. I feel like every time we play them it comes down to the last few possessions, and I don’t expect it to be any different Friday.”