THE MHS girls’ basketball team fell in a 41-37 heartbreaker to Lynnfield in their season finale. Pictured is senior captain Megan Casey. (Grace Gentile photo)

Melrose shy of playoffs as regular season ends

LYNNFIELD—There will be no playoffs for the Melrose High girls’ basketball team.

Melrose (7-13) fell in a very competitive 41-37 game to Lynnfield (9-11) on Saturday, Feb. 18 at Lynnfield High during their final regular season game. Both teams needed a win to enter the MIAA playoff field but that honor only went to the Pioneers.

A season of high and lows had Melrose primed for playoffs as late as Feb. 10 when they were power ranked #26 after their Wilmington win. With just 3 games left, they were in a position for playoffs. But after two losses in a week, they were dropped in power rankings.

The game was tantalizingly close, however. Melrose entered the game short handed with an injury to point guard Sofia Smith, but were nonetheless able to take a large 26-15 lead at halftime with more than capable sneakers on the court, doing the heavy lifting for Melrose. Senior captain Megan Casey and sophomore Alex Leeman (10 points) connected several times to open the game, with Leeman launching on a reverse layup and Casey (8 points) coming up with 5 first quarter points to help Melrose take a 11-7 lead at the end of the first.

In the second quarter, Leeman continued to dominate with baskets and clean foul shots, and sophomore Sofia DiCalogero and junior Lily Nolan contributed baskets.

IT WAS all hands on deck for the short-staffed MHS girls hoop team, who fought a valiant battle against Lynnfield, to finish their season on a close 41-37 loss. (courtesy photo)

It was a great debut for freshman Bella Strong, called up from junior varsity, and she showed no fear on the court, connecting with Lily Nolan for a basket that would give Melrose a big 24-12 lead. Freshman Sabine Wentzel was off the bench and delivered a nice shot to keep Melrose up 26-15.

Senior captain Chloe Gentile was the mainstay of defense over the game and had at least a dozen rebounds, plus a big third period with two straight layups to keep Melrose up 31-27 and the end of the third.

However, in the fourth period Lynnfield readjusted its defense, trapped Melrose and forced turnovers. Pioneer standout Bella George had 8 of her 10 points in the last quarter, timing the delivery just right. Melrose would match point for point behind the exciting baskets of Lily Nolan and Megan Casey, who delivered some well timed three pointers late in the game to keep Melrose in it 37-38, but a key turnover by Melrose with a minute left resulted in a Pioneer basket and a foul, putting Lynnfield up by four and Melrose unable to recover.

It was a disappointing loss for Melrose, whose faced obstacles on and off the court all season and battled in the toughest two Middlesex League divisions in years.

The remaining senior captain starters, Casey and Gentile, played one of their best games of the season, along with senior Elaine Albuja, and together they left it all on the court as the buzzer drained on the season. Yet Melrose’s talented underclassmen battled in a playoff-feel environment and will no doubt use the game for motivation next season when they return with valued experience.

Melrose says goodbye to five seniors, all key players: Elaine Albuja, Lily Kavanaugh, and captains Chloe Gentile, Megan Casey and Sofia Smith.