By Conor Walsh
---- — MANCHESTER — Playing the majority of its schedule against Division 2 and Division 3 opponents, the Manchester Essex girls basketball team has limited chances to see how it stacks up against the kinds of teams the Hornets will see in the Division 4 state tournament — where they’ve always proven to be dangerous.
Last night was one of those measuring sticks for the Hornets, who hosted Division 4 and Cape Ann League foe Georgetown.
The result only furthered the belief that the Hornets will be a tough draw for anyone in the upcoming tournament. While Manchester Essex continues to struggle to replace the production of injured senior captain Evy Weihs (broken leg), the Hornets got points from nine players and held off several Georgetown surges to secure a 40-34 win on the team’s Senior Night.
“Any D-4 team that we play is a good indicator for us,” Hornets coach Lauren Dubois said. “We want to win these games and we want to show that we belong. The girls worked really hard tonight. Senior Night, they came up big and held on to it down the stretch. What’s big for us is we’re starting to develop that composure that we need in these close games.”
The composure Dubois referenced had been missing for much of the season for Manchester Essex, as the Hornets have struggled to maintain their hot streaks and recover from opponents’ runs.
Last night, though, the growth in that respect was obvious. In a back-and-forth game in which neither team ever led by more than seven points, the Hornets found their opportunities to get their points and remained steadfast when the Royals would respond.
Ella Silag-Stearns, despite a cold shooting start to the game, ultimately finished with a team-high 10 points, while freshman guard Sydney Christopher drained three 3-pointers for nine points.
The defensive end was the real story for the Hornets, though. After struggling to contain Georgetown center Ali Newbury on the glass in the first half — which resulted in extended possessions and ultimately extra points — the Hornets were able to adjust and limit her presence down low.
That defensive tweak allowed the Hornets to pull away in the second half, particularly in the fourth quarter, where they pulled away late and led by as many as seven.
“They did what we asked them to do, which was deny her the ball in the low post,” Dubois said of her team’s defense on Newbury. “They worked hard at that and I thought we did a nice job of helping on defense, getting to shooters and keeping our composure.
“From the beginning of the season to now, I think that’s something that we’re really starting to develop: the ability to maintain the lead and withstand runs from the other team, which we’ve been a lot better at recently.”
The Hornets improved to 2-1 since losing Weihs, a key cog in the paint, for the season. As they wrap up their regular season tonight against Gloucester (6:30, Gloucester High), a team looking to complete an improbable run to the state tournament with a win tonight, Weihs continues to push her team forward. Only, unfortunately for her, from the bench.
“Evy’s a huge part of the team and we’re so sad for her, as a senior, not to be able to play the rest of her senior season,” Dubois said. “But I think that the girls have really rallied around her and decided that they want to do this for her.”
Manchester Essex 40,
agateText:at Manchester Essex Regional High School
Georgetown: Marisa Agganis 3-6-13; Kylie Troy 3-0-8; Kristin Hogan 2-0-6; Ali Newbury 2-1-5; Olivia Monroe 1-0-2.
Manchester Essex: Ella Silag-Stearns 4-0-10; Sydney Christopher 3-0-9; Fraley Morton 2-1-6; Maya Heath 2-1-5; Eliza Logue 1-1-3; Carolyn Heslop 0-2-2; Ally Conway 1-0-2; Sam Taylor 1-0-2; Ivy Silag Stearns 0-1-1.
Halftime: Tied 18-18.
3-pointers: G Hogan 2, Troy 2, Agganis; M Christopher 3, E. Silag-Stearns 2, Morton.
Records: G 6-13; M 7-12.