Advanced to face Tewksbury on Wednesday

Published March 8, 2019


MELROSE—The Melrose Red Raider girls’ hoop team started their Div. 1 North playoff run with a resounding 54-35 victory over the Danvers Falcons on Thursday, Feb. 28 at the Melrose Middle School gym. The victory advanced to Melrose to the North semifinals where, at press time, they were scheduled to take on Tewksbury on Wednesday, March 6, for the right to fight for a Div. 2 North title.

Against the Falcons, Melrose’s Sam Dewey earned a game-high 24 points over the evening. Teammate Peri McDonald also was a force with 15 points and a tenacious defense. Overall, Melrose had a depth that was hard for Danvers to overcome, with their best effort coming from sophomore Falcon Autumn James, who had 20 points. And after a sluggish first half, Melrose outscored the Falcons 15-5 in the last quarter to take the air out of Danvers’ game.

“We were a little sluggish in the first half,” says Melrose head coach Bill Hirschfeld. “We’d been off on 14 days of rest. But we grew confident in the in the second half and by holding them to 5 points in the last quarter, we managed to turn things around.”

SAM DEWEY’S 24 points were too much for Danvers in the opening round of the MIAA playoffs. Melrose beat the Falcons, 54-35. (Steve Karampalas photo)

A lot of that was containing Danver’s James. Says Hirschfeld. “We did a good job switching our coverage of her to Lily [Cunningham] our defensive specialist and that did the job.”

The game was tied at 7-7 to end the first quarter and Melrose took a larger lead of 19-10 behind baskets from Peri MacDonald. By halftime, Melrose took a lead of 23-19, and watched Danver’s James hit a half court buzzer-beating trey that impressed the crowd. 

In the second half, keeping Melrose’s Dewey out of foul trouble was key and that was something that the player and coach Hirschfeld managed effectively. Also pivotal was Melrose’s performance on the foul line; they made 20-30 throws, compared to Danvers, who went 6-18.

The win returns Melrose to the D2 North Semifinals where they will be pitted against a familiar foe: rival Tewskbury, whom they fell to in December, 44-38. The Redmen represent Melrose’s only losses besides Belmont and Reading. 

“I think we’re compatible teams and familiar with each other,” says coach Hirshfeld. “Our girls are coming into this game wanting to even if up. We can do that by focusing on taking care of the ball and limiting turnovers.” 

Should they advance past Tewksbury they will land a spot in the Div. 2 North game to be played Saturday at the Tsongas Center against Pentucket; which would be a widely anticipated rematch of last year’s Semifinal.  

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