LYNN, Mass. -– Monday night's tilt between undefeateds Masconomet and Lynn English packed Tony Conigliaro Gymnasium at St. Mary's. There were people crammed in the bleachers, on the stage, in the corners, and in the balcony.
The game lived up to the hype as English battled back from a six-point halftime deficit to defeat the Chieftains 59-49 and win the Division 1 bracket at the Spartan Classic.
The Bulldogs defense suffocated Masco in the second half and didn't the Chieftains vaunted guards get going in the final 16 minutes. Masco's starting three guards of Nicole Femino, Meghan Collins, and Hannah Kiernan were held to four field goals and 11 combined points in the second half.
“We really slowed them down with our half court trap,” English coach Fred Hogan said. “We wanted to take 10 seconds off the shot clock each time and that's all we wanted to do and we did that. They really buckled down real hard.”
The Bulldogs used their length underneath to dominate the glass. English won the battle of the boards 50-37 and pushed the ball hard up the floor for the full 32 minutes.
The catalyst for the English machine was Makayla Everette. Everette had a double-double with 12 points and 14 rebounds.
“It was nerve-wracking to be honest,” Everette said. “I think we all just worked well together talking, who's got ball. Even the bench was going crazy too. It was a very close game.”
Masco went blow for blow with the Bulldogs in the first half. The guards were able to do their thing from the perimeter and Stephanie Mini pulled down the boards. Kiernan scored 12 points in the first half.
Everything Masco had going for it in the first half was neutralized in the second half, and they had no backup plan that was able to stop English.
“Hannah's been great all year,” Masco coach Bob Romeo said. “Hannah and Nicole were co-MVPs of our league this year. They take turns having big games, finishing off of each other.
“The second half we got pounded. The key is where is the ball when they're taking shots. If the ball is in the paint when they're taking shots it's tough to rebound. When the ball is out on the perimeter and they're taking threes and the rebounds are deeper it's actually easier to rebound. The athleticism of our guards take over.”
The X-factor for the Bulldogs was Deidra Newson. Newson, the starting small forward, sat the bulk of the first half after picking up three fouls. She turned it on in the second half, scoring four points, and, more importantly, pulling down seven boards.
“I said to her it's time to take over and she went to the basket,” Hogan said. “She took it to the basket real strong. She's unbelievable.”
Both teams entered ranked in the top 12 and will be among the top three seeds in Division 1 North when the brackets are released.
With that in mind both coaches said they knew last night's game might not be the only time these teams play.
“Masco is an unbelievable basketball team and we could probably see them somewhere down the road in a big place,” Hogan said.
“Both teams are going to benefit from this game,” Romeo said. “That's a great way to ready for the tournament. Now we'll get to sit back until the seedings come out.”