(Billerica) Billerica won their thirteenth straight home game as they defeated Masconomet, 64-42, in Division 1 North quarterfinals action on Saturday afternoon.
The #2 seed Indians (20-2) move on to the semifinals on Wednesday (7PM) at Woburn HS against the Lexington/Westford winner.
The Chieftains (16-6) struggled to score after a nice (14-12) first quarter. Billerica’s half-court defense caused few turnovers but it did limit where Masco could shoot from (mostly outside) and also limited second shots.
The outcome of this game was still in doubt with two minutes left in the third quarter with Billerica holding a, 40-33, lead. 5 ½ minutes of playing time later, stretching into the final quarter, the outcome mystery had been solved.
The Indians rolled up a remarkable sixteen straight unanswered points during those 5 ½ minutes and #7 seed Masco was down and out, 56-33, with 4 ½ minutes to play.
Caroline Gillis started the big run of points with a three and later on Lexie Mattar stuck a jump shot. The rest of it was free throws and what free throw shooting the packed house at BHS saw. The Indians missed their first attempt (Danielle Nickerson) but never missed again in the fifteen attempts covering the rest of the game.
The Indians had eleven free throws in the sixteen-point outburst that decided this game.
The Indians had four players in double figures. Joslyn King (14 points) paced Billerica. The 6-1 senior also had plenty to do with preventing Masco from gaining easy access to close-in shots.
Danielle Nickerson (13), Shannon Hayes (12), and Kayla Leverone (10) were the other Indians in double figures.
Junior Nicole Femino (17 points) led the Masco scorers. Nicole had twelve of those points in the first half. Claudia Marsh closed out her Masco basketball career with eleven points getting nine of them in the first half.
The Chieftains had a great start zipping ahead, 8-2, as Claudia tallied a layup and converted a rebound. She had another layup later in the quarter and Masco led, 14-12, when it was over.
The visitors from the Cape Ann League fell behind in the second quarter but a three by Nicole Femino had Masco one possession away (25-24) with two minutes until the half.
Billerica answered with two layups by speedy Shannon Hayes and a three by Kayla Leverone. Meghan Collins hit a free throw to stop the bleeding before halftime but the Indians started the second half with two more baskets (Danielle Nickerson and Joslyn King) and led by eleven (36-25).
On this day, Masco just could not get the stops needed to give them space to catch up. And then when they were hit with the sixteen point run their season was over.
I had seen both teams lose to Division 3 Pentucket. What the Sachems were able to do was to disrupt both teams into costly turnovers.
In the Billerica/Masconomet game, the solid defense of the Indians and their amazing free throw shooting carried the day.
Masconomet made six-of-seventeen free throws.
Continuing with free throws, I saw Billerica lose at Andover last season to Nicole Boudreau’s team by a point in a game where the Indians missed four free throws in the last 1 ½ minutes of that game. And today they made 15 straight! Go figure.
The Billerica gymnasium was just the right size for the crowd that showed up. BHS Athletic Director Dave Lezenski did a wonderful job of monitoring the behavior of the Indians student section. Several students were informed that their comments should only be directed at the home team.
(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)