EVERETT — Playing a schedule that consists largely of Division 2 and 3 opponents, the Manchester Essex girls basketball’s team’s record is rarely indicative of how dangerous a team the Hornets are when the Division 4 North tournament rolls around.
What it also does, though, is stick the Hornets with a low seed in the tournament, making each postseason an uphill climb.
Ultimately, the Hornets’ No. 15 seed did them in this season, as they drew No. 2 Pope John in the tournament’s opening round.
And while Manchester Essex, as always, was not an easy out, Pope John was able to capitalize on its length and athleticism to wear the Hornets down and advance with a 53-45 win in last night’s opening round matchup at Pope John High School in Everett. The loss ends the Hornets’ season.
“I think we had nerves early on and we turned the ball over more than we wanted early in the game,” Manchester Essex coach Lauren Dubois said after the game. “But then we started handling the pressure and we took it to the hoop. We did what we wanted to do, we got good looks but shots weren’t falling. But, again, they fought the whole way through. They gave it their all, they’re all heart, these kids.”
From the opening tip-off, it was clear that the Hornets were in for a fight. Pope John (19-2) was hugely athletic across the board and looked to capitalize on that athleticism with full-court defensive pressure and a fast-break attack.
Despite that, though, the Hornets hung around, trading baskets in a back-and-forth first quarter riddled by turnovers that ended with Pope John leading, 15-14.
The next eight minutes were what ultimately sealed Manchester Essex’s fate. Pope John’s relentless pressure started to pay dividends as the Hornets turned the ball over on possession after possession to pad an 11-0 run for the Tigers to start the second quarter.