Lynnfield’s fantastic season comes to an end in D3N semifinals, 65-50

Mar 14, 2019 by

Published March 13, 2019

By DAN PAWLOWSKI

HAVERHILL — It’s fair to say that not many people expected to see the Lynnfield Pioneers at Whittier Tech on March 6 for a Div. 3 North girls’ basketball semifinal.

But that was at the beginning of the season, when a glance at the roster showed a senior-less team featuring six freshmen and only two juniors in sisters Tori and Melissa Morelli.

The team was also healing from the loss of head coach Jim Perry who passed away in April.

On paper, it looked like a great opportunity to rebuild.

Instead, the girls dedicated their season to Perry as his assistant Peter Bocchino took the helm and convinced his team that they could play with anybody. They proved it during a 12-8 season, earning themselves the 6th seed in the Div. 3 North Tournament.

Two postseason wins over Charlestown and Greater Lawrence later and the Pioneers found themselves in the semifinals going toe-to-toe with Cap Ann League foe Amesbury, the No. 2 seed in the tournament who finished the regular season at 16-4.

THE PIONEERS celebrate junior Melissa Morelli’s and-one during the first half of their D3N semifinal game. Pictured from left to right is freshman Cate MacDonald (12 points), Morelli (14 points) and sophomore Grace Klonsky (7 points). (Dan Pawlowski Photo)

CATE MACDONALD gets ready to hit a free throw against Amesbury. The freshman scored 10 of her 12 points in the third quarter during the Div. 3 North semifinals on March 6. (Dan Pawlowski Photo)

PETER BOCCHINO did a fantastic job during his first season as head coach of the Lynnfield girls’ basketball team. Bocchino stepped up after his friend, former Lynnfield coach Jim Perry passed away last year. (Dan Pawlowski Photo)

Rebuilding year? Not so much.

The Pioneers stuck with Amesbury for three quarters. Lynnfield trailed 23-22 at the half, but Amesbury took control in the second half led by Flannery O’Connor (22 points) and ran away with a 65-50 win.

“We just ran out of gas in the fourth quarter,” said Bocchino. “Their guards hit some big shots. We tried to double team (O’Connor) and she found them. Hopefully we learned that when we get double teamed we find the open player. We also had too many fouls, but we played well; our freshman (Cate MacDonald) came to play. She got a learning experience that when you get to this level it’s a different ball game.”

MacDonald scored 10 of her 12 points in the third quarter as Lynnfield needed somebody to take over while trying to buy some time to get Tori Morelli back into the game who got into foul trouble early in the game.

The fouls, combined with the loss of key bench player Ava Buonfiglio to an injury early in the game, mixed up Lynnfield’s rotations.

Even still, the Pioneers, led by Melissa Morelli’s team-high 14 points, stood tall in the first half.

It was a cold start for both teams scoring a combined 10 points in the first six minutes but the semifinal jitters finally wore away for the final two minutes.

With her team trailing 8-4, Lynnfield freshman Riley Hallahan (7 points) hit a 3 and then battled on the defensive glass to close the possession and the opening frame down just 8-7 with the Lynnfield fans getting the final say in the first.

Sophomore Caroline Waisnor hit a 3 to open the second and and claim the lead. MacDonald followed that up with a nice drive and drop off to Melissa Morelli who got her first two of a six-point quarter.

Freshman Lucy Cleary provided great defense off the bench with a strong closeout on a shooter and later followed that up with an offensive rebound and a nice pass to MacDonald who got to the line.

With Amesbury up 17-15 Melissa Morelli ripped down an offensive rebound and got to the free throw line. A rowdy Amesbury student section did their best to throw the junior off but Morelli, who led the volleyball team to a North Sectional championship in the fall, made it clear that she’s seen tougher crowds as she calmly knocked down two to tie it 17-17.

Led by O’Connor, Amesbury then went on a 6-0 run, but Lynnfield answered as junior guard Grace Klonsky had a nice kick to Hallahan who knocked down another 3. Klonsky (7 points) followed that up on the next possession with a nice cut, pump fake, spin and finish to cut the lead to 23-22 at the break.

Lynnfield hung right with Amesbury for the first six minutes of the third before the Indians ended the quarter on a 13-4 run.

MacDonald and Klonsky both had identical coast-to-coast layups as the tempo picked up. MacDonald just needed a couple to find her rhythm, as she knocked down a 3 with five minutes left to give the Pioneers a 32-29 lead. Melissa Morelli continued to get after it on the offensive glass and earn trips to the line.

Part of Amesbury’s big run were thanks to open 3’s for Avery Hallinan (11 points) and Allison Napoli (11 points), a trend of good ball movement that continued in the fourth as Amesbury outscored Lynnfield 18-11 in the final frame.

It was that display of teamwork that Bochinno hopes the Pioneers remember for next season.

“I hope they learned that come tournament time you need to rely on everybody on the court. When you get to this level, you need to use all five people, defensively and offensively. What I hoped especially the freshmen and sophomores learned today is that what you can do in the regular season you really can’t do at this level; you have to rely on everybody.”

What they can rely on is this success of this season building a strong base for the future. With the memory of Coach Perry and the terrific work of Coach Bochinno stepping up, the Pioneers have proved that they will be one of the Cape Ann League’s most feared teams next season.

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