By DAN TOMASELLO
DANVERS — In a case of déjà vu, the girls’ basketball team’s season came to an end on Thursday, Feb. 26 when the fifth seeded Pioneers fell to fourth seed Bishop Fenwick 47-34 in the Division 3 North quarterfinals at St. John’s Prep in Danvers.
“I can’t say enough good things about this team,” said head coach Bob Melillo.“Coming into the season, we weren’t thought of as a team that could win the (Cape Ann League) small division and it was dismissed that we could. I am proud of the fact that after we graduated five seniors, they came out and played great defense the whole year. We held teams to only 37 points per game over the course of the season.”
The Crusaders jumped out to an early 11-4 lead halfway through the first quarter. Undaunted, senior captain Emma Mancini and senior guard Katie Scanlon knocked down three quick jumpers, cutting the Crusaders lead to three, 13-10, at the end of the first quarter.
Bishop Fenwick revamped its defense during the second quarter, which frustrated the locals. In addition to launching a full court press, the Crusaders got into the passing lanes, particularly in the paint, which forced Lynnfield to turn the ball over and allowed Fenwick to take an 18-12 lead. Additionally, the Crusaders repeatedly double-teamed Mancini and limited her scoring chances.
“I think Fenwick made some really good adjustments,” said Melillo. “They just jammed up the middle and didn’t let Emma do what she did in the first quarter.”
Undaunted, Mancini led another Pioneers comeback. She hit a jumper and made a three from the top of the key, which cut Fenwick’s lead to three, 24-21. The Crusaders scored a layup as time expired and took a 26-21 lead at the break.
Bishop Fenwick stormed out of the game at the beginning of the third quarter and jumped out to a 34-22 lead, prompting Melillo to call a timeout. The Pioneers decided to utilize Mancini as the Pioneers’ point forward in order to jumpstart Lynnfield’s floundering offense.
“We felt getting to this stage, in order for us to advance, Emma needed to have the ball in her hands,” said Melillo.
Trailing 37-24, the Pioneers began making a run late in the third quarter. Mancini and junior forward Marie Norwood hit back-to-back jumpers, making the game 37-28.
Fenwick responded by drilling a three pointer, giving the Crusaders a 12-point lead. The locals cut the lead to 10 after junior Kelly Look connected on a pass to point guard Abby Weaver for a layup. Norwood added another basket, which made the game 44-32 at the end of the third.
Lynnfield and Fenwick’s offense both went cold during the fourth quarter. Weaver scored the Pioneers’ only two points after sinking two free throws, while Fenwick only scored three points.
Mancini and senior captain Toni DiCesare tried their best to get Lynnfield back into the contest but both players’ shots were not falling.
“We had wide open shots that we kept missing,” said Melillo. “I always tell the kids that defense can be consistent for every single minute of a game but offense is fickle. Sometimes you are going to hit shots and sometimes you are not.”
Fenwick defeated the Pioneers 59-38 during last year’s Division 3 North quarterfinals.
“I am disappointed because I thought we could have beaten Fenwick,” said Melillo. “Even when there were five minutes remaining in the game, I thought we were right there. Fenwick is a good team. I think Adam DBaggis does a great job with his kids.”
Mancini had a monster game for the Pioneers, finishing with 19 points, 11 rebounds and a block.
Norwood finished with six points, 13 rebounds and two steals. Melillo said Norwood gave the Pioneers a lift against Fenwick just as she did over the course of the season.
“For her first season playing high school basketball, Marie had a really nice season for us,” said Melillo. “She has been a difference maker in a few games. She got some tough rebounds tonight that most people didn’t expect she would get.”
Weaver had five points, four rebounds, two assists and a steal. DiCesare had two points and an assist. Scanlon finished with two points and two rebounds. Look added three rebounds and two assists.
Lynnfield concluded the 2014-2015 Division 3 season with a 13-8 overall record. The locals were co-champs of the CAL Small Division along with Manchester-Essex and Ipswich.
The Pioneers will be saying goodbye to three seniors this year, including Mancini. Mancini, who averaged 18.4 points and 11.7 rebounds, was named as a CAL All-League player this year. She will be playing both basketball and volleyball for Endicott College next year.
“Emma was Emma for the whole year,” said Melillo. “She carried us this year. Emma felt like it was an obligation that she needed to get it done.”
The Pioneers will also be saying goodbye to DiCesare, who averaged 11 points per game and was named as a CAL All-Star.
“Toni had a great season,” said Melillo. “She hit 60 threes this year and helped get us into first place.”
Melillo said Mancini and DiCesare deserved to be praised for repeatedly putting the Pioneers on their back this winter.
“We relied on two kids offensively pretty much for most of the year and they carried us,” Melillo said.
Lastly, the Pioneers will be saying goodbye to Scanlon.
“I am really glad Katie came out for the team,” said Melillo. “She is a great teammate and is a great kid to coach. She always works hard and can be an x-factor.”