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Mascoma Girls Hoop Wins Sloppy Opener

  • Mascoma’s Alex VanZandt, right, looks to the basket after a steal from Inter-Lakes’ Lydia Swedberg, left, during Mascoma’s 29-22 season opening win in Canaan last night. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Mascoma’s Alex VanZandt, right, looks to the basket after a steal from Inter-Lakes’ Lydia Swedberg, left, during Mascoma’s 29-22 season opening win in Canaan last night. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Mascoma’s Aleah Judd of changes direction as Inter-Lakes’ Mikaela O’Neil of steps into her path. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Mascoma’s Aleah Judd of changes direction as Inter-Lakes’ Mikaela O’Neil of steps into her path. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Danielle Jones of Mascoma breaks out of the Inter-Lakes defense after a steal during their game in Canaan last night. Mascoma won the season opener 29-22. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Danielle Jones of Mascoma breaks out of the Inter-Lakes defense after a steal during their game in Canaan last night. Mascoma won the season opener 29-22. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Mascoma’s Alex VanZandt, right, looks to the basket after a steal from Inter-Lakes’ Lydia Swedberg, left, during Mascoma’s 29-22 season opening win in Canaan last night. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Mascoma’s Aleah Judd of changes direction as Inter-Lakes’ Mikaela O’Neil of steps into her path. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Danielle Jones of Mascoma breaks out of the Inter-Lakes defense after a steal during their game in Canaan last night. Mascoma won the season opener 29-22. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

— With the return of an experienced back court and the loss of a pair of productive forwards to graduation, the Mascoma girls basketball hopes to increase its production in transition this season.

Opening night left big openings for improvement.

The Royals ran the floor slowly at times and struggled to make shots as Mascoma trudged to a 29-22 win over visiting Inter-Lakes last night.

Mascoma shot just 11-for-45 (24 percent) from the floor and 7-of-19 from the free throw line, struggles surpassed only marginally by the Lakers (6-for-39 field goals; 9-of-22 free throws).

The Royals didn’t register their 20th point until there was a minute left in the third quarter as neither team registered a field goal in the period. The 29 points were Mascoma’s fewest since it beat Winnisquam 26-24 in February 2010.

“We’ll take any win, but it’s what you would call an ugly win,” said Mascoma coach Mike Neily. “It wasn’t good defense (keeping the score low). We weren’t boxing out, we got in foul trouble and we weren’t hitting our shots.”

After losing 5-foot-10 Nicole DeBalsi (11.5 points per game) and 5-8 Amy Brock (10.3 ppg) from last season’s team, the Royals hope to attack from the perimeter and on the run this season behind stalwart guards Kori Kosiorek (10.8 ppg in 2011-12) and Erin Tevere.

Mascoma found success early against Inter-Lakes as new contributors got in on the mix. Junior Lindsey Thompson (four points, eight rebounds) and senior Kayla Larocque (four rebounds) each had a pair of steals, while five players who were on the Royals’ jayvee team last season scored at least one basket in the first half.

The Royals led 10-4 after the first period on 5-of-10 shooting, but their momentum fizzled from there as the Lakers’ man-to-man defense began to exert adequate pressure.

Normally a zone team defensively, Mascoma switched to man coverage for part of the second half and seemed disorganized in transition.

The teams combined for 15 fouls (nine by Mascoma) and nine turnovers in the third quarter.

“We just came out a little slow in the second half, and it got a little worse when we switched to man,” Kosiorek said.

“We know we have better skills than that. We caused our own problems.”

Mascoma held a 29-27 advantage on the boards, but were beaten to a number of 50/50 balls after shots that failed to hit the rim. With Larocque — Mascoma’s tallest player at 5-11 — in foul trouble, the Royals couldn’t salt the game away until Thompson and Kosiorek each made 1-of-2 free throws to make it 28-19 with 1:05 remaining.

“(Officials) were letting us play in the first half, so I told the girls to be more physical (at halftime),” Neily said.

“So we came out and tried to be more aggressive in the second half and (foul calls) got a lot tighter. We got hurt on the boards. When Larocque had to go to the bench, there went all of our size, but you don’t have to be big to box out, and we weren’t doing that.”

Kosiorek said she would like the team to execute more shooting drills in practice heading into Tuesday’s game at Kearsarge.

“We’ve got a young team, a new team, and we’ve been working on a lot of other stuff, just trying to get organized,” she said.

Free Throws: Inter-Lakes junior Reilly Donovan had a game-high eight points, all on free throws. Kosiorek netted seven for Mascoma. ... It was the teams’ first meeting since a 35-29 Royals win in the first round of the 2009-10 playoffs. ... Alex VanZandt (five points), Thompson and Amanda Guerin (four points each) and Catie Kondi and Danielle Jones (two points each) all scored for the Royals after helping their jayvee team go 20-1 last season. Six of Mascoma’s 12 players were on that team.

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.

To see more photographs from the game, go to the Photo Gallery.