Lynnfield’s stellar run ends with loss to Amesbury

Lynnfield's Melissa Morelli (left) gears up for a rebound during Wednesday's game. (ITEM PHOTO BY ANNE MARIE TOBIN)

HAVERHILL — The Lynnfield girls basketball team may not have won the game, but it showed a lot of people that they are, indeed, the real deal.

For nearly three quarters of Wednesday’s Division 3 North semifinal game against No. 2 Amesbury (18-4), the Pioneers (14-9) took every punch thrown at them by the favored Indians and fought back.

But in the end, foul trouble, injuries and a sub-par performance from the free throw line proved to be too much to overcome as the Indians pulled away to a 66-50 win to bring an end to the Pioneers’ season.

“We were only down by one at the half and hung around for three quarters, but we just had way too many fouls,” said Lynnfield coach Peter Bocchino. “With Tori (Morelli) in foul trouble the whole game and with Missy (Morelli) also in foul trouble and losing Ava (Buonfiglio) so early really hurt us. Then in the end, their off-guards hit some really big threes from the corners that hurt us in the fourth, but the girls came to play tonight and they competed. We just couldn’t finish it off and hit the shots when we needed to.”

The game was a defensive battle through the first quarter with Amesbury holding a slim 8-7 lead, then still led by only one, 23-22 at halftime.

Lynnfield opened the second half with a 6-0 run to lead 32-29 with four minute left in the third after Cate MacDonald drained a 3-pointer. But the Indians closed out the quarter with an 18-7 run to seize the momentum going into the final quarter up 47-39, then outscored the Pioneers 19-11 in the final frame.

Missy Morelli had a monster game in the paint, finishing with 14 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks, while Cate MacDonald had 12 points and five rebounds. Grace MacDonald and Riley Hallahan had seven points each, while Caroline Waisnor had six points and Tori Morelli had four.

Bocchino highlighted the play of freshman Lucy Cleary (4 rebounds) off the bench.

“I told her she was going to get some serious time because of some injuries, and she came in and made a big impact tonight.”

Amesbury was led by Flannery O’Connor (22 points), Avery Hallinan (11 points) and Allison Napoli (11 points).
With the win, the Indians advance to the sectional final Saturday Tsongas Center where they’ll take on No. 4 St. Mary’s (10:30).

Lynnfield has truly enjoyed a turn-around season this year. After winning just five games in the past three years, this year’s Pioneers returned to their winning ways and got back to the tournament for the first time in four years.

Bocchino said he owes it all to former coach Jim Perry, who died shortly after last year’s season.

“The girls dedicated the season to him so it has been an emotional year,” Bocchino said. “Jim’s wife Ava has come to every game this year and was here (Wednesday), so we all know none of us would be where we are without Jim.”

With no seniors and just two juniors and five returning starters, the table is set for the Pioneers to make a serious run at a sectional title next year.

“This was a learning experience and I hope all of the players now know that you have to step up in tournament games,” Bocchino said. “They need to know that things you get away with in the regular season, don’t cut it, so I do feel that with everyone coming back, they will come back stronger next year.”

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