Masconomet senior Brooke Stewart scored a game-high 24 points with 10 rebounds, and the Chieftains shot better than 50 percent to beat the visiting Somerville Highlanders, 80-41, in Thursday’s opening round of the MIAA girls’ basketball playoffs. Senior teammate Danielle Davis scored 19, while Somerville’s Indira Evora and Melissa Baptista each scored 12.
The Chieftains’ prolific and accurate shooting set a pace early in the game that the Highlanders just couldn’t match. Already down 9-3, Highlander Maria Koutsoubaris grabbed an early offensive rebound and scored it, but the Chieftains responded with a 12-0 run that ended in a 21-5 lead.
“We came out of the gate really shooting the ball well tonight,” said Masconomet coach Bob Romeo. “Seemed like we hit everything we threw up in the first half.”
Falling behind 27-12 after the first quarter, the Highlanders couldn’t get closer than 11 points. Evora began the second with a steal and a layup, then hit a runner following a basket from Koutsoubaris to make it 29-18, but the Chieftains scored the next eight, highlighted by a long pass from senior Julia Simonetti to Stewart for a layup at 35-18 lead.
The Highlanders had no answer for Stewart, who next year will play for the College of William and Mary. She paced the Chieftains, scoring in all four quarters from just about everywhere on the court.
“You got to see a little bit of everything tonight,” Romeo said. “She can go to the basket, she can pull up, she can stick threes. She can pretty much score anyplace.”
To the Highlanders’ credit, they never caved beneath the Chieftains’ ever-increasing lead. They ran on every play, boxed out on rebounds and did their best to execute the strategies that helped them tie for a Greater Boston League title this season.
“Our kids try hard,” Somerville coach John DePasquale said. “Our kids want to do well. So yes, the effort was there. I have zero complaint with how much they were trying.”
Though DePasquale added that he wished the defense had played smarter on the ball, the Highlanders allowed the same or fewer points in every subsequent quarter. After allowing 27 in the first, they allowed 20 in the second and third, then just 13 in the fourth.
And though the Chieftains were taller and lengthier across the board, the Highlanders recorded just four fewer total rebounds, and they tied the Chieftains with 12 offensive boards. Baptista and senior Lorenza Etienne each grabbed eight total, with six of Baptista’s coming on the offensive end.
Baptista’s offensive boards played a big role in her 10 second-half points. She gave the Highlanders their best threat inside, often stepping around defenders in the paint for layups. She even grabbed and scored a rebound off her own missed shot a few times.
“For a team that didn’t have a size advantage on us, they got a lot off offensive rebounds, a lot of second chances that against other teams would definitely have hurt us more,” Romeo said. “They didn’t finish some of those put backs, [for] which we were fortunate.”
Three Somerville seniors have now finished their high school basketball careers: Etienne, Koutsoubaris (seven points, five rebounds) and Ashley Auciello (five points, including a three-pointer).
“Ashley and Maria and Lorenza, they play with a lot of heart,” DePasquale said. “They try to be leaders for us.”
“Their attitudes were outstanding from first day to last day, all the way through. There wasn’t one day when any of those three gave me a problem. Not one day.”
The loss also marked the end of DePasquale’s first year with the Highlanders. He said his goals for the self-described “rebuilding season” were to bring “stability” and support.
“They needed to know that they were going to be treated respectfully,” DePasquale said. “They were going to be pushed, but treated respectfully. We did that, and our players responded. Attitudes, for the most part, great. Work ethic, good.”
DePasquale also said that the “magnificently talented” Masconomet squad, which featured seven seniors with excellent chemistry and experience, could be a model for his still-young squad.
“Masco is exactly what Somerville is trying to get back to,” he said.
With the loss, the Highlanders finished their season 10-11. The Chieftains went 17-3 in the regular season and will play the Woburn Tanners on Sunday.