Live by the three-ball, die by the three-ball.
Peabody’s Jared McCarron hit a three-pointer with seconds remaining in regulation to tie the game at 59 and force overtime, where the Tanners overwhelmed Swampscott.
The loss was the Blue’s most heartbreaking of the season. Like Friday against Revere, it played it best basketball in one half – and its weakest in the other.
Swampscott held a 13-point lead at halftime and was thriving off its three-point offense. Joey Ragusa was on fire, connecting on five three-pointers in the first half. The Big Blue scored 44 points in the half, its most efficient offensive performance yet.
Ragusa wouldn’t score again after halftime, as Peabody placed McCarron at the top of the key on defense. Ragusa rarely attempted to shoot in the second half as he received most of the attention. The Tanners outscored the Big Blue 15-4 in the third quarter, and with 2:40 remaining in the fourth quarter, Peabody took a 54-52 off a Matt D’Amato basket.
Swampscott wasn’t done yet. Both teams made free throws that resulted in a 55-54 Peabody lead with 1:13 remaining. With 33 seconds left in regulation, Mark Variste nailed a corner three-pointer that gave the Big Blue a 57-55 advantage.
After more free throws (freshman Andre Reeves hit two key free throws with eleven seconds remaining), the Big Blue was up by three points. The Tanners inbounded with 6.8 seconds left, finding McCarron who found himself open off a double pick. McCarron fired away, and the game headed to overtime after a brief celebration by the Peabody bench in the soon-to-be Dick Lynch Field House.
In the fifth quarter, Swampscott only scored once – a John King basket, which was the first of the overtime period. The Tanners ended the game on an 8-0 run, with four points as a result of free throws.
Chad Nelson scored every point for Swampscott in the second half (9 points) until he fouled out with 1:59 left in the fourth quarter. Nelson finished with 20 points total.
The Tanners attempted 35 free throws on Tuesday night, while the Big Blue shot 10. Fortunately for Swampscott, Peabody only made 19 of its free throws.
Last Friday against Revere, the Big Blue lost because of its poor performance in the first half. On Tuesday, it lost because of its second half execution, or lack thereof.
In a season full of losses, this one hurt the most. Swampscott’s been right there in its last four games. The first half provided hope to the Big Blue faithful, but it couldn’t repeat its performance in the second half. More than anything, the Peabody Tanners should be given credit for its halftime adjustments. Swampscott didn’t blow this game – Peabody won it.
Swampscott plays rival Marblehead next for the second time this season. This time, it’ll be at Swampscott High – this Thursday at 7 P.M.