By Nick Curcuru
---- — ROCKPORT – The Rockport and Newburyport boys basketball teams came into Tuesday night’s Cape Ann League crossover tilt each holding a distinct advantage in one area of play.
The Vikings had an advantage in the jump shooting department while Newburyport was the more physical team.
In the end it was Newburyport’s physicality that shone through as it wore Rockport down in the second en route to a 54-37 win at Rockport High School. Newburyport moves to 6-3 with the win while Rockport drops to 4-5, its fifth straight defeat.
“Our kids are pretty physical, we are in good shape and I thought we played a good physical game tonight,” Clippers head coach Tom L’Italien said. “They can really shoot the three and you can’t overhelp against them. This was a great win for us, we knew it would be a battle and it was.”
The Clippers ran an aggressive 2-3 zone defense that Rockport could not crack all night long. Newburyport was able to both crowd the Rockport shooters and muscle them out of the lane.
The Vikings shot 26% from the field Tuesday (16-61) thanks to the tough defense the Clippers threw at them.
“I’m not sure if it was a lack of execution or we didn’t take good shots but we had a tough night offensively,” Vikings head coach Tim St. Laurent said. “I liked the way we battled all night but Newburyport is a tough team and they played better tonight.”
A back and forth, low scoring two and a half quarters had the look of a game that was going to be decided in the final minutes. But midway through the third quarter the Clippers started draining shots and pulled away.
The first 21 minutes of play saw a pair of ties and six lead changes, the sixth coming when Shaun Asepesi (21 points) nailed a three pointer to complete an 8-0 run and put Rockport up 31-29 with 2:37 to go in the third quarter.
That lead, however, would be Rockport’s last as Newburyport dominated the rest of the game.
Back-to-back three pointers from Mike Shay, who was called up from the junior varsity team due to injuries and was playing in his first career varsity game, put the Clippers up four.
Newburyport would go on to score the next eight points of the frame finishing the third on a 12-0 run and taking a 41-31 lead into the final quarter of play.
Rockport cut into the lead early in the fourth when back-to-back buckets from Conor Kuykendall (six points, 12 rebounds) cut the Clippers lead to six at 41-35 with 7:00 to play, but Rockport would only sink one more shot the rest of the way.
“We cut it to six and we couldn’t get any closer,” St. Laurent said.
“Newburyport is a physical team, give them credit, we are going to have to put this behind us and get ready for Triton on Friday.”
After the Vikings cut the lead to six, the Clippers quickly got the lead back to 10 starting a 13-0 run that ended with the Clippers up 19.
The Vikings would hit one more basket in the final minute to cap the scoring at 54-37.
Newburyport moved the ball around offensively as Colt Fontaine led the way with 11 points, but his biggest contribution to the game came on the glass as he hauled in 22 rebounds.
“I’m not surprised (that he had that many rebounds),” L’Italien said of Fontaine. “He is always doing the tough things for us and his motor is always going.”
Freshman Danny Baribeault had 10 points while Ian Michaels chipped in nine for Newburyport. Shaun Aspesi led Rockport and all scorers with 21 points, Conor Kuykendall chipped in 12 rebounds.
The first half was a sloppy, back and forth affair that saw neither team get a comfortable lead. A 7-1 Rockport run in the first quarter gave it an 8-5 lead, but the Clippers bounced right back to end the first on a 5-1 run to take a 10-9 lead into the second.
The second quarter was much like the first with both teams playing at a frenetic pace but struggling to find any offensive rhythm. Newburyport extended its lead to as much as six (19-13), but Rockport battled back to cut the lead to one at the break at 20-19 before Newburyport broke it wide open in the second half.
“We are thrilled with this win tonight,” L’Italien said. “Rockport is a good, well coached team. Now we will get back to work and get ready for the next one.”
Newburyport 54 Rockport 37
at Rockport HS, Rockport
N: Fontaine 5-1-11, D. Baribeault 4-0-10, Michaels 1-7-9, Canning 4-0-8, Shay 2-1-7, J. Baribeault 1-3-5, Boudreau 0-2-2, Traxler 1-0-2.
R: Aspesi 8-1-21, Kuykendall 3-0-6, Meredith 2-0-5, McCarthy 1-0-2, Curtis 1-0-2, Scatterday 0-1-1.
3-Pointers: N, Baribeault 2, Shay 2; R, Aspesi 4, Meredith.
Halftime: Newburyport 20-19
Records: N, 6-3; R, 4-5.