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Defense a hallmark for Newburyport girls – Boston Herald

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As the high school basketball season barrels towards the halfway point, Newburyport’s dominance is impossible to ignore.

Led by the senior trio of MaKenna Ward, Emma Foley, and Deirdre McElhinny and stalwart defense, Newburyport is 10-0 and 7-0 in Cape Ann League play.

That includes a 17-point win over perennial contender and league foe Pentucket.

“We have three seniors in MaKenna, Emma, and Deirdre that have just done the work to get better,” Clippers head coach Karen Grutchfield said. “They play really hard and inspire the younger kids.”

Ward has developed into a standout point guard, leading the team in assists and steals. Foley is the team’s leader in points and rebounds as one of the premier forwards; she had 20 points against the Panthers. And McElhinny helps the Clippers stretch the floor with her outside shooting.

Olivia McDonald has emerged as a premier defensive player, often checking the opponent’s best scoring option. Newburyport has only given up 30 points or more in a game twice and is allowing 24 points per game on average.

“I love defense. I get so inspired by our girls and the way they play at that end of the floor,” Grutchfield said. “Olivia McDonald’s effort has a lot to do with that. She’s relentless. If you play really good defense in women’s basketball you can get transition baskets and layups and we’ve done that.”

Potential roadblocks remain for the Clippers. In addition to a second time through the league they are set to take a trip to Div. 1 state title contender Wachusett on Friday and may face off with St. Mary’s Lynn at the end of the season.

“We try to emphasize that every day is important. Every game you have to find ways to improve,” Grutchfield said. “It’s arrogant to take anyone for granted. We have to get better if we want to get to where we want to get to by season’s end.”

Looking ahead

On Friday, the MIAA released its first slate of winter power rankings covering largely the first half of schedules. While the format for the tournament remains the same as a year ago the venues used for the state semifinals are expected to change. During Wednesday’s MIAA Basketball Committee meeting, tournament director Jim Quatromoni confirmed that a number of sites both at the college and high school level are under consideration depending on matchups across the five divisions.

The Tsongas Center in Lowell is expected to once again host the state finals.

Talbot’s milestone

The week provided plenty of reason to celebrate for Dracut’s Ashlee Talbot. On Monday night, Talbot scored her 1,000th career point as part of a 36-point barrage to lead Dracut past Central Catholic, 60-45. Her 1,000th point came with seven minutes left in the game when her left-handed finish gave the Middies a double digit advantage. Talbot will continue her playing career at St. Michael’s in the fall.

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