One team came in undefeated and the other winless, but it was hard to tell which one was which as the girls basketball team nearly came away with a gigantic upset in a 44-43 road loss to North Reading on Tuesday night.
The score was tied at 16 before the Hornets went on a run to start the second half that gave them a nine point lead at the end of the third quarter. As both teams traded free throws almost continuously throughout the final five minutes of the game, the Generals edged back until a steal with two seconds left by sophomore guard Elise Makowski sealed North Reading's victory.
Senior center and co-captain Kirsten Morrison led all Hornets with 20 points while Generals sophomore forward Cassandra Fibbe topped Hamilton-Wenham with 18 points.
Despite the team record, the Generals gave a performance that met the expectations of North Reading coach Karla Sullivan, who believes they'll be a tough challenge when the Hornets travel to Hamilton on Feb. 15.
"It was a really good game, it was close and they were aggressive all night," said Sullivan. "We knew it was going to be a tough game, so it was pretty much what we expected and both teams fought hard, and we expect them to do the same when we travel to their gym later this season."
While Sullivan believes the close victory helped buoy the confidence of her young squad, Hamilton-Wenham head coach Bill Burridge thought the game almost equaled a fresh start for his struggling club.
"It was a game that I thought we could have won, but coulda,' woulda,' shoulda'. They were just one point better than us I guess, and we're playing with a lot of younger kids that are coming along very well so we could have had it," said Burridge. "It will take some time to get the team together, but if we keep on playing like this we'll get there."
Despite the loss, the close result may have resulted in what could become some invaluable experience for the Generals later on in the season.
"We gained a lot of confidence, even though we lost. I think my kids are ready to turn the corner," said Burridge. "They've improved with every practice, we've improved together and we've done well together and I think we'll do better later as the season goes on."
With the loss, Hamilton-Wenham drop to 0-3 and hopes to break the slide with a visit to Rockport on Thursday night while North Reading will travel to Manchester-Essex before finishing off the year with an appearance in the Marion Mustang Classic in Framingham.