GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

January 19, 2013

It's now or never for local girls basketball teams

Running the Floor
Conor Walsh

---- — As we approach the midpoint of the high school basketball season, the story’s the same for all three girls programs: It’s crunch time.

Gloucester, Manchester Essex and Rockport have all been up-and-down to this point in the season, showing winning potential at times while struggling to stay afloat at other points.

Thanks to the Sullivan Rule, Manchester Essex has already punched its ticket to the Division 4 state tournament. For Gloucester and Rockport, there’s still work to be done.

That kind of battle to the end, though, is what makes it fun.

Gloucester

Record: 4-7

X-Factor: Senior forward Sophie Black

Big win: 46-38 over Marblehead on January 4

Big loss: 40-33 vs. Danvers on January 7

Outlook: Before this season began, scoring was the obvious concern for the Gloucester girls basketball team.

After graduating stars Audrey Knowlton and Heather Cain following last season’s trip to the Division 2 North quarterfinals, the task for coach Brandon Lewis was to find a way to fill that scoring void.

Through 11 games, that’s proven to be no easy task. The Fishermen are averaging just 35 points per game to this point in the season, and that difficulty scoring has certainly been what’s held Gloucester back.

Despite that, though, the Fishermen are in the thick of things. They employ an aggressive, attacking defensive approach led by co-captains Katie Ciaramitaro and Sophie Black, and with their ability to create turnovers, the Fishermen have been in a position to win nearly all of their games.

Now, they’ve just got to put it all together down the stretch. Gloucester will need to win six of its final nine games to return to the state tournament, and that’ll likely depend on the Fishermen’s ability to score.

The talent, however, is there. Black (11 points per game) and guard Julianna Costanzo (10.2 points per game) have shown an ability to score in bunches, and with Ciaramitaro and Sam Oliver chipping in, the potential is there for the Fishermen to put together a second half run.

It won’t be easy, though. Gloucester’s got tough games left with NEC Large power Peabody (7-2) and NEC Small leaders Winthrop, Marblehead and Danvers left on its slate down the stretch, and the Fishermen will almost certainly have to pull off an upset to stay in the mix.

Having already beaten Marblehead and lost tight ones to Danvers and Winthrop, though, it’s not out of the realm of possibilities.

The Fishermen close their season with three home games, hosting Swampscott, Marblehead and Danvers. If they can string together some wins, don’t be surprised if the season comes down to the finale with the Falcons -- a beatable team Gloucester lost an ugly one to earlier in the year. It could turn out to be the best kind of revenge.

Manchester Essex

Record: 4-8

X-Factor: Senior forward Evy Weihs

Big win: 49-38 over Georgetown on January 7

Big loss: 40-26 vs. Gloucester on January 17

Outlook: Each season’s goal for the Hornets is simple: Get into the tournament, and see what happens.

Playing a brutal schedule in the Cape Ann League where they’re one of the lone Division 4 teams, the Hornets’ regular season record is often underwhelming.

That’s no different this season, as Manchester Essex has won just four of its first 12 games. But mixed into those four wins were the only two that really mattered. In beating Georgetown and Rockport, the Hornets have guaranteed a .500 record against Division 4 opponents, which, in accordance with the MIAA’s Sullivan Rule, will send them through to the postseason.

And, as the Hornets have proven year after year, they’re looking to be as dangerous as anybody in Division 4 North. Just take last season, when they took a 19-1 Pope John team down to the wire in the tournament’s opening round.

With senior co-captain Evy Weihs giving the Hornets a steady inside-out game with the help of Eliza Logue down low coupled with the outside shooting of Sydney Christopher, Ella Silag-Stearns and Carolyn Heslop, the Hornets are certainly going to be a tough out in the tournament.

For now, the rest of the regular season will likely be used to help the Hornets overcome the lulls that have plagued them this season. In many games, they’ve struggled to maintain a high level of play through 32 minutes, and that inconsistency has lost them some games.

If they can iron that out, there isn’t a team north of Boston that’ll be happy with drawing the Hornets once tourney time rolls around.

Rockport

Record: 4-5

X-Factor: Eighth-grade point guard Rachel Haselgard

Big win: 40-37 over Essex Aggie on January 17

Big loss: 58-39 vs. Cathedral on January 4

Outlook: For the first time this season, Rockport has fully removed itself from the Cape Ann League, opting for an independent schedule with Division 4 opponents.

That’s paid dividends already for the Vikings, who are just one win shy of last season’s total at the midpoint of the season.

Eighth-grade point guard Rachel Haselgard has impressed for the Vikings, running the offense efficiently and combining with junior captain Heather MacArthur to pace the Rockport offense.

With MacArthur and forwards Kayla Parisi and Sarah Rowan providing stability in the paint, the Vikings have been able to hover around the .500 mark throughout a season highlighted so far by two wins over Essex Aggie.

For such a young team, a tournament berth would be a victory in and of itself, proof that the Vikings’ move to an independent schedule was a positive one for the program.

But with no seniors on the roster, this season can also serve as a valuable learning experience for Rockport. The second half of this season gives the Vikings an opportunity to learn how to win consistently, a skill that will carry far beyond this season.

Cape Ann Scoring Leaders Name School PPG Sophie Black Gloucester 11.0 Julianna Costanzo Gloucester 10.2 Heather MacArthur Rockport 8.2 Rachel Haselgard Rockport 7.3 Eliza Logue ME 6.1 Evy Weihs ME 6.0 Kayla Parisi Rockport 6.0 Sydney Christopher ME 5.9 Elle Silag-Stearns ME 5.2 Carolyn Heslop ME 5.1