Friday, December 16, 2005

Maynard 52 SLA 22, from the Item

The Crusaders' season is under way and we're off to a tough start. I'm going to try to post articles about the team in local papers, etc. as they appear. This one is from The Clinton Item, Friday, December 16.

SLA loses Tip-off consolation game
By Craig Holt

MAYNARD - The gritty South Lancaster Academy girls' basketball team went down with its collective heads held high during Wednesday's clash against hot-shooting Maynard High in the 2005 Basketball Tip-off Classic consolation match at the Tigers' gymnasium.

The upstart Crusaders, graduation-depleted and youth-laden, never led and had trouble getting the ball over half court early on en route to a 31-point halftime deficit. Despite this, South Lancaster battled hard in the second half, found itself a bit offensively, and hung tough. SLA eventually lost 57-22.

The win was the first of the year for the Tigers, who are now 1-1. The Crusaders, who suited up just eight players, slipped to 0-2.

With several key players gone from last year's club, and little depth on the bench, South Lancaster faced an uphill battle from the start. In short, the time-honored "getting-to-know-each-other" scenario, with new individual responsibilities tossed in for good measure.

"We lost our two leading scorers from last year, and we also lost our point guard," South Lancaster coach Lance Harris said. "So, players are getting opportunities they haven't had before. As they get more comfortable out there, they'll improve.

"Physically and mentally we have some abilities, but people are being asked to do some things that they've never done before," he said.

The outcome negated a standout defensive effort by South Lancaster center Rebecca Barcelo. Though she went scoreless, Barcelo blocked 12 shots, including four in the game's first 3:55. She also altered many other shots, most notably on in-the-paint put-backs and drives.

Ironically, Barcelo's first-half defensive dominance came when her team was struggling offensively.

"Rebecca Barcelo is the one player who returned from last year, and she had a real good game defensively," Harris said. "She started most of our games last year at center, and she was a pretty good defensive player last year, too.

"Her play in this game was definitely a plus for us," he said. South Lancaster was led by Jaenia Fernandez' 10 points. Fernandez, a guard, drained eight of her points in the second half, including a long 3-pointer. Two of Fernandez' second-half hoops came on back-to-back possessions.

Amber Manning scored seven points, while Megan Jones had five. Only three players scored for the Crusaders.

Ashley Poh paced a balanced Maynard attack with 13 points. Kara Morgan and Jaclyn Pileeki funneled home eight points apiece.

The Tigers took control quickly, grabbing an 8-0 lead with 13:53 to go in the first half. Poh led the way with a perimeter pop and a runner in traffic.

Fernandez answered with a layup before the hosts again got hot, taking advantage of several South Lancaster turnovers forced by Maynard's man-to-man press to put together a 12-0 run. Pileeki capped the splurge with a short jumper, giving the Tigers a 20-2 advantage with 10 minutes to go in the half.

Maynard went on to maintain a 36-5 lead at the intermission.

South Lancaster scored just two field goals in 16 minutes. Jones contributed a layup and a free throw. The Tigers continued to click in the second session, substituting freely and scoring from all angles.

However, Manning put in six points down the stretch to cut into the Maynard advantage.

"It's going to take some time for us to get where we want," Harris said. "Over the long haul, we'll improve, though we'll struggle at times. It's still early.

"We were a bit nervous in this game," he said. "If a player is put in a position where she has to contribute in ways that she never has before, she's going to get nervous and have some butterflies."

South Lancaster lost 35-22 to Tahanto in its opening-round game. Barcelo led the Crusaders with a game-high 10 points. Manning and Jessica Malcolm scored four points apiece.

The writer was both charitable and quoted me accurately, although the reference to Rebecca should read "the one starter who returned..." not "the one player..."
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