Fenwick draws a familiar foe in semifinal round

Danvers, Ma. 2-26-19. Sammi Gallant gets by Mia Han. (Item File Photo)

PEABODY — Somehow, the Bishop Fenwick girls basketball team always finds its way into the thick of the conversation in Division 3 North. Do the Crusaders make it easy on themselves in the regular season? That hasn’t been the case as of late. Do they deal with their fair share of injuries during the course of the year? Absolutely.

But when the state tournament rolls around, Fenwick finds a way to toss all its question marks out the window and play its best basketball.

“I think we focus on getting better all the time,” Fenwick coach Adam DeBaggis said. “That’s all we really focus on. Goal No. 1 is to get better every day. If we’re just playing our best at the end, that’s all that matters. It’s hard because our league’s so good. We haven’t made the tournament until the last week for two years in a row. I think if we keep our goals in check everything works out for us.”

Perhaps none of Fenwick’s victories this season was more evident than last Friday’s, when the No. 8 Crusaders knocked off No. 1 Latin Academy with a 52-40 come-from-behind win. Sammi Gallant  (who was named Catholic Central Player of the Year last week) led the way with 15 points, five assists and three steals. Olivia DiPietro logged a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds.

“Even though some things were going wrong, we stayed mentally into it,” DeBaggis said. “Some of my younger kids, they lose it a little bit when things aren’t going right or when they’re missing shots. Liz Gonzalez is a sophomore. She wasn’t playing her best but she kept her confidence. It’s a long game and it’s a long season. There are going to be ebbs and flows but we stayed with it. We didn’t go down there ready to play but we held our composure. That was the biggest factor.”

The win earned Fenwick another battle with CCL rival St. Mary’s, the No. 4 seed in the bracket. The Crusaders and Spartans split their two meetings during the regular season. Fenwick won the most recent clash, a 44-33 win on Feb. 15.

“St. Mary’s is tough. They have tough kids,” DeBaggis said. “They’re certainly never going to give up. I think we both share that. They shoot well from the outside, which makes it tough. It’s tough to defend that. They also have a good inside presence. Those are the two biggest things.”

DeBaggis highlighted Fenwick’s two keys to victory.

“Rebounding,” DeBaggis said. “When we’re winning and playing well, we don’t allow more than one shot per possession. When we’re not playing well, we give up rebounds. We have to have a balanced scoring attack. We’ve won games this year where Sammi has carried us offensively. When she’s going that’s good, but we need other people to put the ball in the hoop too.”

To the Crusaders, it comes as no surprise that St. Mary’s stands in its way as Fenwick aims for a repeat trip to the sectional final.

“It’s definitely not shocking,” DeBaggis said. “We saw it coming, especially when the seeding came out. It’s always in the back of your mind. When you see it coming it’s hard to focus on one game at a time because that’s our rival. Now it’s here and now we can focus on this one.”

Tip-off for Tuesday’s game is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Woburn High.

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