Published January 2, 2020

NORTH READING — The North Reading girls’ varsity basketball team opened the season with a pair of hard fought games against two very strong CAL opponents, Amesbury and Pentucket.

The Hornets’ season opener on Dec. 18 with Amesbury resulted in a 51-37 loss to last year’s D3 North Sectional finalist. Amesbury built a 25-14 halftime lead but the Hornets used a strong third quarter to cut the deficit to 35-30 heading into the fourth quarter.

Amesbury hit some big shots to open up and extend the lead out to the final score.

ALI GRASSO gets fouled on this strong drive to the basket against Amesbury on Dec. 18. Grasso led the Hornets with 10 points and five rebounds. (John Friberg Photo)

Senior guard Ali Grasso led the way for NRHS with 10 points and 5 rebounds with plenty of help from sophomore forward Nasha Arnold (8 points, 8 rebounds), and senior guards Kiley McCarthy (6 points, 4 rebounds, 3 steals) and Lauren Sullivan (2 point, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals).

“I thought there were some early season jitters in this one,” said Bob Romeo after his first game as North Reading’s head coach. “A new season, a new coach, some new players and a tough opponent. We did a lot of things well but unfortunately came up short.”

Defending D2 state champion Pentucket visited the NRHS gym two days later on Dec. 20.

In a game that was fiercely competed for 32 minutes, Pentucket pulled out a 35-27 win.

Both teams battled on every possession throughout the game. It was a one-point contest at each of the checkpoints with Pentucket up 6-5 after the first quarter, tied at halftime 14-14 and Pentucket up 24-23 heading into the final period.

KILEY McCARTHY passes to a teammate during North Reading’s season-opener against Amesbury on Dec. 18. McCarthy led a strong defensive game against Pentucket on Dec. 20. (John Friberg Photo)

North Reading played very strong defense the entire night, spearheaded by Kiley McCarthy, holding the potent Pentucket offense in check.

Leading the way for NRHS was Julia Howse (3 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 blocks) and Lauren Sullivan (8 points, 6 rebounds). Other key contibutors were Nasha Arnold (6 points, 12 rebounds), Sarah Gerber (2 points, 11 rebounds), and Ali Grasso (6 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists).

“I thought as a team we took a major step in a positive direction,” said Romeo. “With tonight’s level of energy and effort along with better execution, our team’s upside potential is very high.”

“This game showed that we can play with anyone when we bring the right level of energy and effort and that can be our building block going forward. With only one game over the next two weeks (Sunday, Dec. 29 at Wakefield) the team will be able to get back into the gym and continue to work on smoothing out some the execution precision that will be needed to get onto a winning streak. Our best basketball remains in front of us and we will continue to improve.”

The Hornets beat Wakefield on Sunday, 46-33, for their first win of the season. A full story will appear next week.

North Reading travels to Triton on Friday night at 6:30 p.m. and will host Manchester-Essex on Monday at 7 p.m.