By DAN NUNN
NORTH READING— The Lady Hornets girls’ basketball team christened the new NRHS gymnasium with a hard-fought 55-50 season opening victory over the Newburyport Clippers on Dec.16. Junior center Jess Lezon was outstanding with a 21-point, 11-rebound double-double. Senior captain Adrianna Flanagan added 15 points and 9 rebounds.
Both offenses got off to a slow start in the first quarter. Midway through, the Hornets clung to a 6-4 lead. With the lead at 10-6, North Reading closed the quarter on a high note. In the waning seconds senior captain Frankie Elliott grabbed a defensive rebound and passed to sophomore Katrina Hassapis. With her head up Hassapis sent the ball down the court to a wide open Lezon under the basket for an easy layup. The score was 12-6 after one.
Clippers fight back
Early in the second quarter it looked like North Reading would run away with the game. By the 6:23 mark the lead had ballooned to 20-8. But the Clippers responded with a 15-2 run and with a minute left in the half Newburyport took a 23-22 lead. Fortunately the Hornets closed the half with three straight buckets to take a 28-23 halftime lead.
The game remained tight in the third. At 4:29 North Reading held a slim 32-31 lead. But the Hornets outscored the Clippers 9-4 the rest of the quarter and took 41-35 lead into the fourth.
Early in the final period the lead had expanded to 45-35 and it looked like it would be an easy win. But Newburyport hung around and thanks to a late three, the Hornet lead was cut to 53-50 with 12 seconds left. Fortunately, junior Julia McDonald hit two clutch free throws with two seconds left to seal the win.
The Lady Hornets faced Triton on Friday, Dec. 19 and Hamilton-Wenham on Monday, Dec. 22, both on the road, after press time. They head to Haverhill to compete in the Whittier Tech Christmas Tournament Dec. 28–29. They’ll return home for two games on Saturday, Jan. 3 at 1 p.m. against Masconomet and Tuesday, Jan. 6 against Pentucket at 7 p.m.