By Jim Sullivan
---- — NEWBURYPORT — The Newburyport boys’ basketball team (5-3) took on Cape Ann League rival Manchester Essex (5-4) at home last night and found the Hornets more than up to the challenge.
The Hornets took the Clipper defense apart to the tune of a 54-38 victory, the fifth win in the last six games..
“We’re not making any excuses,” said Clippers coach Tom L’Italien. “Everyone is coached to play a certain way, and I feel like we battled hard just to make foolish mistakes at certain times.”
The Clippers started the night quick with a deuce from Matt Canning followed by a 3-pointer from Hornet Max Nesbit. Clipper senior Ian Michaels sunk a lay-up with a booming assist from Colt Fontaine next, followed by two more from Dillon Guthro and a pair from Hornets forward Taylor Ketchum as things began to go back and forth, culminating in a 18-14 Hornets lead at the end of the quarter after Canning dropped a brick and Ketchum hit another pair.
Newburyport started the second quarter with three from Michaels, and Ketchum grabbed one at the line, then two more Hornet points were gained by Dylan Estes. Nesbit nailed three more to put the Hornets up seven. Fontaine grabbed a point and then two with a lay-up, but Craig Carter sunk a bucket to give the Hornets a six-point lead at the half.
The Hornets kept the attack going into the third quarter opening an 11-point lead a lead that the Clippers would cut to seven by the end of the quarter 39-32.
The final stanza would start off with Hornets Petey Morton nailing a 3-pointer followed by two from Michaels and a three from Fontaine to cut the Manchester Essex lead to four. But Manchester Essex would not be shaken, regaining their previous lead and then some, leaving the Clippers in the dust.
“I thought we moved the ball really well,” said Hornets coach Bryan Shields. “We rebounded hard which is what we knew we needed to do. Newburyport is a really well coached team. They go to the glass well, they rebound well, and I thought that we did well keeping them off the glass.”
Nesbit led the Hornets with 19 points on four three-pointers, Liam Aldrich chipped in 10.
The Clippers clearly missed the presence of stand-out senior point guard Colby Morris, who is out on a five-game MIAA violation suspension, but L’Italien was adamant that his team’s problems were not just the lack of one man.
“We strung together too many mistakes,” said L’Italien. “Four or five times over the course of the game, and you can’t do that against a team like that, that can score. But we played hard. We’re getting a little bit better, and we measure success by being better, game after game. We held them to 54 points and that’s a pretty good job against a team that has been in the 70s. We’re pleased with the 54, we’re not happy with the little mistakes on offense. That’s the thing that we need to work on. We’ll battle our way out of it.”
“Every win is a great win,” said Shields. “We’re just trying to get to ten so we can make the tournament and we’ll go from there.”