By Jeff Hamrick
---- — TOPSFIELD – There’s never a good time to lose your best player to injury, but it especially hurts when you’re already thin in the depth department. And playing a pair of arch rivals back-to-back makes it especially painful.
North Andover dropped its second straight decision without the services of leading scorer and top ball handler Morgan Lumb in a 52-41 loss to former Cape Ann League rival Masconomet yesterday afternoon.
The defeat came three days after the Knights (9-3) dropped a three-point decision to new MVC foe Andover and five days after Lumb sprained an ankle that has her in a cast and out of the lineup for maybe as many as six weeks. It also marked the first time North Andover suffered consecutive losses since opening last season 0-2.
“(Lumb) goes back to the doctor this week,” said North Andover coach Sue Breen, whose squad remains one victory shy of earning a postseason berth with eight games left. “So we’ll find out a little bit more. They put her in the cast (Wednesday) the day after (suffering the injury Tuesday against Dracut). They want to take a look again a little bit later.”
Missing Lumb, arguably the best distributor of the ball in the region, the Knights struggled to get into their offense early. Turnovers on 10 of its first 13 possessions put North Andover into a hole.
“I think Masco’s defensive pressure was (heavy), and I think it rattled us,” Breen said. “They were playing fast and hard, but we had a lot of difficulty. We just turned the ball over so many times.”
North Andover, however, managed to stay within striking distance the remainder of the half, trailing 26-19 at intermission as Megan Collins came off the bench to score eight points in the first two periods. But with only seven players in the rotation, fouls proved to be the Knights’ undoing as Christina Castaldo, who replaced Lumb in the starting lineup, and Michaela Mello each fouled out.
“We got into foul trouble across the board, so we’re playing with different kids out there,” Breen said. “Not having Pam (Coufos), who had three fouls in the first half, is difficult for us.”
After falling behind by 19 points (45-28) with 5:28 left in the game, North Andover cranked up its defense, forcing turnovers on seven straight Masconomet possessions. Coufos and Collins, who finished with a game-high 17, spurred a rally that saw the Knights cut their deficit to seven with 96 seconds remaining.
“This was a game where nothing was really going our way,” Breen said. “Yet we found a way to battle to the end. But it was too little too late.”
North Andover 41
agateText:North Andover (41): Pam Coufos 2 0-0 4, Leah Chittick 2 4-4 8, Mackenzie Mello 2 1-2 5, Christina Castaldo 1 0-0 3, Michaela Mello 0 0-0 0, Abbie Karalis 2 0-0 4, Megan Collins 7 0-0 17. Totals 16 5-6 41
Masconomet (52): Nicole Femino 4 4-5 12, Meghan Collins 2 6-6 10, Hannah Kiernan 4 5-9 13, Claudia Marsh 4 1-2 9, Lexie Nason 1 0-0 2, Katie Kitsakos 0 0-0 0, Abi Rose 2 2-2 6, Lauren Sorel 0 0-0 0. Totals 17 18-24 52
3-pointers: NA — Collins 3, Castaldo; M — none
North Andover (9-3): 9 10 7 15 — 41
Masconomet (10-2): 13 13 15 11 — 52