GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

January 29, 2013

Rockport settling in to independent schedule just fine

Running the Floor
Nick Curcuru

---- — If there’s one thing we’ve learned this girls basketball season on Cape Ann it’s that Rockport can compete just fine playing against teams its size.

The Vikings (5-7) smartly ditched a full Cape Ann League schedule this season in favor of an independent schedule where they play primarily Division 4 teams. Last season Rockport played half of its games against CAL opponents and the other half against fellow Division 4 schools.

The rigors of the Cape Ann League were tough on the Vikings over the years as is evident in their 6-66 record over the last four seasons playing in the CAL. Rockport is one of the three smallest schools in the Cape Ann League, a league comprised of primarily Division 2 and Division 3 schools. The Vikings played only four games against Division 4 teams, two tilts with CAL rivals Manchester Essex and Georgetown, and struggled with larger schools with deeper talent pools and larger participation numbers.

Last season Rockport went to a hybrid schedule and saw its win total increase, this year it went all the way with a full independent schedule with hopes of competing night in and night out against several Division 4 state tournament teams.

“I just think we can compete much better with this schedule,” head coach Steve O’Connor said in the preseason. “We tried it last year and we were in every game even though we had five wins.”

O’Connor was dead on with his assessment.

At 5-7, Rockport is in the thick of the Division 4 state tournament race needing to finish its final six games with a 4-2 record to qualify. This season Rockport has played a who’s who of the best Division 4 has to offer with games against Greater Lowell, Mt. Alvernia, Lynn Tech and of course Manchester Essex and Georgetown.

Not once have the Vikings been outclassed on the floor this season and if they do get into the postseason, they know exactly what’s to come.

The schedule, however, is far from the lone reason Rockport has improved its record as its improvements on the court are obvious. The Vikings are beginning to hit their stride playing their best basketball of the season as the team hits the stretch run.

Still a young team with not a single senior on the roster and a pair of sophomores and an eighth grader in the starting lineup, the Vikings have the personell to give any team fits in Division 4.

Junior Heather MacArthur leads the team with 7.7 points per game but the Vikings implement a balanced scoring attack as sophomore Kayla Parisi and eighth grader Rachel Haselgard are also relied on to score big buckets for the team.

Parisi and Sarah Rowen have stepped up their game as of late giving Rockport a more than formidable one-two punch inside as both can score in the post and both can defend. Last week Parisi has a 20 point, 20 rebound game in a win against Lynn Tech. Rowen compiled a triple double (15 points, 11 rebounds, 10 blocks) in a win over Essex Aggie.

Haselgard has settled in to the teams point guard position while MacArthur is the team’s biggest shooting threat. Rockport has also gotten contributions from its role players as Mollie Watson has been productive on both ends of the floor while Alex Paradis and Shelby Gale have given the team some depth off the bench.

With the brutal Cape Ann League in its rear view mirror, teams will soon get used to Rockport being a contender for a state tournament berth year in and year out.

Crunch time

for Gloucester

The Gloucester girls basketball team is entering the most important part of its schedule and has a lot of work to do in its remaining seven games to qualify for the state tournament again.

Gloucester (5-8) will need to go 5-2 down the stretch to make the tournament, and fortunately for team team parity in the Northeastern Conference means that every game on the schedule is winnable.

The push towards the postseason begins tonight when Gloucester hosts Salem of the NEC Large at the Benjamin A. Smith Fieldhouse (7:00 p.m.).

In the next two weeks Gloucester will also square off with Saugus, Winthrop, Swampscott, Manchester Essex, Marblehead and Danvers in that order. Gloucester has played each of those six teams already this season posting a 3-3 record against them, a record it can’t afford to have the second time around. Losses to Winthrop, Swampscott and Danvers, however, were all fairly close and opportunities were there for Gloucester to win each of those games.

In order to get into the tournament Gloucester is going to have to have a strong two weeks on the offensive end. It’s a given that Brandon Lewis’ team will defend and defend well each and every night, and if the team can find a consistent third scorer to flank Sophie Black and Julianna Costanzo, a postseason berth should be in the works.

It’s not an easy stretch run for Gloucester, but the team is battle tested and experienced enough to find a way to get in.

Cape Ann Scoring Leaders Girls Player School PPG Sophie Black Gloucester 11.4 Julianna Costanzo Gloucester 10.8 Heather MacArthur Rockport 7.7 Kayla Parisi Rockport 7.3 Rachel Haselgard Rockport 6.8 Sydney Christopher ME 6.5 Evy Weihs ME 5.8 Boys Player School PPG Shaun Aspesi Rockport 17.2 Max Nesbit ME 15.6 Taylor Ketchum ME 12.8 Tucker Meredith Rockport 12.1 Adam Balzarini Rockport 12.1 Liam Aldrich ME 12.0 Jason Vizena Gloucester 10.3