BILLERICA, Mass. –- The Billerica Indians turned up the defensive intensity on Friday night as they held the North Andover Scarlet Knights to just 19 first half points on their way to a 67-55 victory.
“We have been trying to stress our defense because we have not been playing that well offensively,” Billerica head coach Chris Doneski said after the game. “I thought we did a great job coming out and defending in the first half.”
Billerica (6-1) jumped out to an early 11-1 lead with two minutes remaining in the first quarter. The Indians’ full court defensive pressure and half-court traps caused numerous turnovers and created frustration for the North Andover offense early in the contest.
Billerica led 13-6 after the first quarter and 27-19 at the half. The Indians held star senior guard Morgan Lumb to just five first half points. Seniors Brittany Lomanno and Danielle Nickerson each scored six points to lead Billerica at the half.
North Andover (6-1) and Lumb came out of the half with renewed energy and an extended full court defense of their own. Lumb was amazing in the third quarter as she scored 10 points, nabbed three steals and dished out two assists as North Andover came all the way back to earn their first lead of the game, 40-38, with 53 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
“You do the best you can with players like her (Lumb),” Doneski said. “We just tried to slow her down and even if you jump out on her she just does such a great job getting to the basket. She makes moves that you see a lot of guys making in game.”
Lomanno and guard Katie McGinnis would answer back with big shots to conclude the third quarter to give Billerica the 43-40 lead heading into the final quarter of play.
The fourth quarter would belong to Billerica as they executed crucial possessions, crashed the offensive glass and outscored North Andover 24-15 in the quarter to pull away with the win.
Billerica was led by Lomanno, who did a great job of controlling the game and also came up with big shots when Billerica needed them. The UMass Lowell-bound point guard scored nine of her game team-high 15 points in the second half to go along with four steals and two assists.
The University of Hartford-bound Lumb led North Andover with 19 points on the night. Senior guard Pam Coufos (10 points) and sophomore guard Leah Chittick (12 points) also played well for North Andover
Nickerson steps up: Nickerson had 14 points and 10 rebounds for Billerica. The senior forward was relentless on the offensive glass in the second half, pulling down four offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter alone.
“That’s her M.O.,” Doneski said. “She does not get a lot of credit but the last two years she has been a double-double for us every time she shows up. She was really aggressive and tough down the stretch and I really thought that pushed us over the edge.”
Balanced effort: Billerica received strong contributions from all nine players who logged minutes. Seniors Kayla Leverone (eight points, six rebounds), Joslyn King (five points, six rebounds) and junior Alexa Napoli (six points, five rebounds) all did a great job controlling the glass for the Indians on the night.
Juniors Shannon Hayes (eight points), Lilly Coppinger (four points) and sophomore Caroline Gillis (four points, three assists) also played well for Billerica on the night.
Bouncing back: Billerica bounced back on Friday after suffering their first loss of the season to Pentucket on Wednesday night, 59-39.
“Pentucket and John McNamara have a very good team,” Doneski said. “They play defense at another level. We hung in and just ran out of gas down the end. Tonight we tried to turn the tables and apply our defensive pressure to them and it worked for the most part.”
Billerica’s tough early season schedule continues next week as they take on Westford Academy and Methuen at home on Thursday and Friday night respectively.
North Andover hosts Chelmsford on Tuesday night and travels to Lowell on Friday night.