The St. Mary’s High girls basketball team defeated a 20-win Amesbury High contingent, 59-45, in the Division 3 North final Saturday at Tsongas Center in Lowell.
Though St. Mary’s had beaten Amesbury handily in their first meeting in the Spartan Classic, coach Jeff Newhall and his staff expected a tough test and the No. 2-seeded Cape Ann League powerhouse made things interesting in the rematch of last year’s North final.
In the end, the trio of senior Olivia Matela (14 points), junior Maiya Bergdorf (12 points) and senior Gabby Torres (11 points) led the Spartans to a solid victory and a matchup with Rockland in the state semifinal Wednesday at the TD Garden.
Junior Alyssa Grossi made a huge contribution off the bench with six points and some terrific defense.
Starting guards YirsyQueliz and Nicolette D’Itria performed well against Amesbury’s defensive pressure. Jannise Avelino also played a key role off the bench.
Newhall said adjustments were made during the game against a relentless Amesbury defense.
“Amesbury deserves a lot of credit, we played them two weeks ago and it was not that competitive of a game – they’re a good high school basketball game that won 20 games,” said Newhall. “You’re playing for a chance to go to the Garden, so you know you’re going to get everyone’s best shot.”
St. Mary’s ability to create baskets off of inbounds and set plays was a difference-maker in the game. Newhall and his staff are known for their creative installations on offense, producing unimpeded drives and high percentage scoring opportunities.
While it wasn’t the Spartans’ best performance of the season, Newhall knew the goal on this day had been accomplished: another ticket to the TD Garden.
“At this point, there are no pictures on the scoreboard – one team moves on and one goes home, and we’re going on and we’re happy about that,” said Newhall.
Grossi comes off the bench to spark St. Mary’s
When St. Mary’s coach Jeff Newhall called on Alyssa Grossi in the Division 3 North final, Grossi was ready.
The talented junior from Wakefield had some key baskets and one noteworthy sequence in which she made a clutch two-pointer and stole a pass at the other end of the court.
Grossi turned in one of the finest performances of her career and the Spartans used that boost to pull away from a stubborn Amesbury team in the second half.
“We just really came together at the half and pushed through like we’ve doing all season,” said Grossi. “We made the extra pass.”
Grossi saw that players were in foul trouble and knew her minutes will likely be extended.
“I knew it was my time to step up and I was ready to help the team and obviously win, because that’s all we wanted to do,” said Grossi.
The Spartans’ super-dependable reserve guard and forward, Grossi said her teammates executed their plays well to set her up for baskets.
“We run those plays in practices and I was just in the right spot at the right time,” said Grossi humbly.
She said that coach Newhall and the staff has prepared the team well for the postseason. “He’s a great coach who really pushes you and he’s really there for you, especially in games like this – he wants to win as much as you do, so it’s really great. I’m so happy we’re going back to the Garden.”