By Conor Walsh
---- — ROCKPORT -- On a night that began on a positive note with the unveiling of Rockport High School’s refurbished “Stephen A. Rowell” basketball court, it seemed the Rockport girls basketball team might have karma on its side.
As Greater Lowell proved in the two teams’ season-openers, though, those kinds of good vibes can only go so far.
The young Vikings were unable to shake off the first-game jitters and struggled to hang onto the ball, and Greater Lowell ran away from them in a decisive third quarter to set the pace for an easy 42-16 victory.
”A lot of turnovers,” Rockport coach Steve O’Connor said. “We did that (in scrimmages) against Gloucester and Pope John. We’re a young team and they’re errors that we just don’t have to make. We have to get over that.”
Turnovers were the name of the game for the Vikings (0-1). The Gryphons (1-0) were athletic and aggressive on defense, jumping into passing lanes and forcing Rockport to make quick decisions.
That was where Rockport’s lack of experience shone through. The Vikings have no seniors on their roster and start an eighth-grader, Rachel Haselgard, at point guard. And while Rockport had some bright spots in the game, once it got into its halfcourt sets on both ends of the floor, the inability to handle Greater Lowell’s pressure ultimately sealed its fate in a lopsided third quarter.
Despite missed opportunities, the Vikings were still very much in the game at halftime, trailing just 17-9. But at the start of the third quarter, Greater Lowell coach Brian Martin dialed up the pressure and committed the Gryphons to a full-court press.
The result was disastrous for the Vikings. They were hardly able to advance past halfcourt, and Greater Lowell turned an endless string of turnovers into 16 third-quarter points.
The Vikings posted just three points in the third quarter, and an eight-point halftime deficit was stretched far beyond their reach.
”We play a little bit better when it’s crazy and chaotic,” Martin said. “It gets our energy up. When we sit back in the zone, we can get a little lazy, and it took us a while to get going tonight so we went into the press to try to take the energy up.”
Despite the lopsided scoreboard, though, there was plenty for the Vikings to build on. They struggled to contain speedy Gryphon point guard Amanda Gage, who led all scorers with 14 points, and the slew of turnovers predictably yielded countless uncontested buckets.
But when, however rarely, the Vikings were able to get into halfcourt sets on each end of the floor, the results were there.
The Gryphons found little luck with their motion offense and had their own share of turnovers in getting set up.
And while the Vikings had little to show for it, they had plenty of good looks offensively. Their shooting was just ice cold.
”Obviously, we shot poorly,” O’Connor said. “We were playing good defense, I don’t think that was the problem. In the first half, we had a lot of shots around the hoop that we didn’t convert. If we’d made even three or four of those, we’re tied or close to being tied at halftime. That makes a huge difference.”
Although she’s as many as five-years younger than some of her opponents, Haselgard was impressive for the Vikings. The eighth-grader was poised in running the point, and while she had some turnovers, she was agressive on both ends of the floor and led Rockport with nine points.
Now, O’Connor’s challenge is to quickly recover from last night’s drubbing, build from the good and find a way to deal with defensive pressure in time for the Vikings’ trip to Georgetown on Friday.
”I think as the year goes on, we’ll be able to work to get better as a team,” O’Connor said. “And I think we can win some games if we do.”