By Nick Curcuru
---- — MANCHESTER-- Thursday’s tilt against Cape Ann counterpart Manchester Essex was a must win in every sense of the word for the Gloucester girls basketball team.
Gloucester entered the game with a 3-7 record and in the midst of a difficult stretch that saw it lose four straight games, three of them to top Northeastern Conference Large teams in Revere, Lynn English and Lynn Classical. To have any realistic shot at a postseason berth the Fishermen needed to get past the always tough Hornets, who have already qualified for the postseason.
In a hard fought battle at Manchester Essex high school, Gloucester was too much on the defensive end en route to a 40-26 win. With the win Gloucester improves to 4-7 on the year while Manchester Essex falls to 4-8.
“It’s nice to get back into the win column,” Gloucester head coach Brandon Lewis said. “It’s about time, we had a few tough ones against some very goo teams be we got back to playing defense tonight. We match up pretty well with (Manchester Essex) so we were able to play man-to-man and get back into our bread and bugger. Hats off to them, they are a tough team and they hit their free throws but we kept them off the line in the second half. Nice to pick up a good win against a good team.”
Defense was the story from start to finish on Thursday as both teams had to battle for every single point. Ahead 19-15 at the half Gloucester opened up its lead with a strong first quarter, but not before Manchester Essex battled back to tie the score at 19-19 with an 8-0 late in the second quarter and early in the first quarter.
From there, however, it was all Gloucester, which finished the game on a 21-7 run.
In that decisive third quarter the Fishermen finally got into an offensive rhythm beating the Hornets vaunted full court press and creating open looks. Powered by a pair of buckets inside from Marlee Melvin, and baskets from Sophie Black, Katie Ciaramitaro, Kayla Nasser, Jessica Mathews and Sam Oliver, Gloucester was able to open up a 33.24 lead heading into the fourth.
“We needed to trust our offense a little more,” Lewis said. “We got a little helter skelter when pressured and that’s something we have to work on. But in the third quarter we got out and ran, broke their press and worked a nice transition game. That turned out to be the deciding quarter.”
The Fishermen defense made sure their lead was safe in the fourth quarter as they stifled the Manchester Essex offense. The Hornets missed their first 12 shots from the field in the final frame and did not get on the scoreboard until there was just 2:11 to play essentially ruining any chance of winning.
The first two quarters were back and fourth with neither team holding a lead greater than six points. The Fishermen got the ball to the basket but Manchester Essex kept itself in the game by hitting seven of eight free throw attempts to go into the break trailing by just four points.
Sophomore Julianna Costanzo led all scorers with 11 points Thursday. Sophie Black had a double-double with 10 points and 16 rebounds while Katie Ciaramitaro did a good job on defense and breaking the Hornets full court press.
Ella Silag-Stearns led the way for Manchester Essex with six points, Evy Weihs had 12 rebounds and Eliza Logue had 10 rebounds in the losing effort.
Gloucester will be looking to get back into the win column tonight at Beverly (7:00 p.m.) while the Hornets will host state powerhouse Pentucket tonight (6:30 p.m.) in a postseason tune up.
“We still have work to do but this is a step in the right direction,” Lewis said. “Hopefully we can build some momentum from this win and put together a winning streak.”
Gloucester 40 Manchester Essex 26
G: Julianna Costanzo 2-6-11, Sophie Black 4-2-10, Marlee Melvin 2-1-5, Katie Ciaramitaro 2-0-4, Kayla Nasser 2-0-4, Jessica Mathews 2-0-4, Sam Oliver 1-0-2.
ME: Ella Silag Stearns 2-0-6, Fraley Morton 2-0-5, Carolyn Heslop 0-3-3, Evy Weihs 0-3-3, Sydney Christopher 1-1-3.
3-Pointers: G, Costanzo; ME, Silag Stearns 2, Morton.
Halftime: Gloucester 19-15
Records: G, 4-7; ME, 4-8.