TMHS Girls Hang Tough, Fall to Middies, 51-46
Underdog girls basketball team battles Dracut to the wire.
Having graduated one of the best players in the school's history and having lost their senior captain to a broken leg, there's no denying that the 2010-2011 season is going to be a difficult one for the Tewksbury High girls basketball team.
But if Tuesday night's home opener against Dracut is any indication, the TMHS girls aren't going down without a fight.
Starting two freshmen and a sophomore, the Redmen stayed within striking distance of the Middies for all four quarters before losing, 51-46.
Tewksbury falls to 0-2 with the loss, but coach Mark Bradley was clearly impressed with is team's overall effort, especially considering that if followed a season-opening 40-point loss to Central Catholic last Friday evening.
"I think our girls showed a lot of improvement tonight," Bradley said. "They stepped up their game and worked harder. I envision good things for this team as the season goes on. We know we're gonna take our lumps but with time we're gonna play better basketball, too."
Bradley knew he had his work cut out for him this season after graduating Danielle DiPierro, a four-year starter at point guard and a 1,000-point scorer over her career. DiPierro now plays at UMass-Lowell.
But the second-year coaches' job got even tougher this fall when his lone returning senior starter, Liz Marchand, broke her leg playing soccer for TMHS. Marchand was the team's captain coming into the season.
"We knew we were going to be a young team this year, and we got even younger when Liz got hurt," Bradley said. "And you don't just go out and replace a four-year starting point guard like Danielle. "
Worse, Tewksbury's December schedule is as difficult as it gets, with games against league powers Central Catholic and Andover sandwiched around Tuesday night's Dracut game.
"December is going to be a brutal month for us," Bradley said. "We're gonna learn the hard way, but we'll compete. We showed that tonight."
Tewksbury trailed the talented and senior-laden Middies by five points after one quarter, but the Redmen battled back to pull within two points at halftime on the strength of some strong second-quarter defensive play from junior guards Sherri Ligiero and Michelle Gavin.
Freshman center Chelsee Porcaro took charge in the third quarter scoring six points and grabbing five rebounds as Tewksbury tied the game at 31. But when Porcaro sat down with her third personal foul of the game, Dracut surged back ahead, 35-32, at the end of three quarters.
The fourth quarter was a fast-paced, back-and-fourth battle as Tewksbury sophomore Nicole Chaet went to work and practically willed the Redmen into the lead with her trademark combination of hustle and superior athleticism. Chaet led TMHS with 16 points on the night.
Chaet's efforts were supported by freshman point guard Sara Semenza, who scored four points and had several beautiful assists in the game. Liggiero added nine points, Gavin chipped in three while senior Kim Fairweather and sophomore Sam Laferierre had one each.
In the end, though Dracut's experience won out as junior guards Jami Marquez (22 points) and Rachel Ledbetter (10 points) made the plays and the free throws for the Middies down the stretch.
"We played them tough," Bradley said. "We're a young team and it's clear that we have some things to work in if we want to compete and finish off games. But we're already showing improvement. We've just got to keep working and look to get better every day."