(Haverhill) Two free throws by Meghan Kibblehouse and a steal by Catherine Sennott, all in the last twenty-eight seconds, enabled Westford Academy to hold off Billerica, 53-49, in the North Division 1 semifinals at Whittier Tech on Thursday night.
The Grey Ghosts (20-4) will face Central Catholic at the Tsongas Center on Saturday (6PM) for the D1 North title.
Westford has now won fourteen straight games. Last loss? To Billerica, at Billerica, on January 17th (57-53).
Billerica (#2 seed) started slowly (8-0) and fell behind by thirteen (27-14) to the #3 seed in the second quarter. The Indians (20-3) came all the way back in the third quarter to get the lead (37-36) before falling back by nine (48-39) with 4:48 remaining in the game. Once again Billerica rallied back with a run of eight to close to one (48-47) with 1:45 left and later, 50-49, with twenty-eight seconds left.
BHS coach Chris Doneski opted to foul right away and that gave Meghan Kibblehouse a chance to get her first two points of the game………and she did.
Billerica had twenty-five seconds to do something about their three-point deficit. However, when Brittany Lomanno tried to get the ball to teammate Shannon Hayes, Catherine Sennott (15 points) jumped the passing lane and stole the ball.
Catherine was immediately fouled, made the first free throw giving WA a 4-point lead and enough room to withstand three Billerica shots in their last possession.
Junior Sam Hyslip (21 points) led all scorers and was very strong around the basket. She also made 7-of-9 free throws and had the layup in the last quarter that put the Ghosts in front, 50-47, with 1:08 left.
Junior Shannon Hayes (13 points) was key in the 10-point run the Indians put together in the third quarter to take their only lead (37-36) with a minute left in that quarter. Shannon scored the first six points in the run and teammate Brittany Lomanno (11 points) picked up the other four with a layup and two free throws.
In the rally back from the 48-39 deficit in the 4th quarter, it was Danielle Nickerson (10 points) getting six of the eight unanswered points Billerica collected. Joslyn King converted a rebound for the other two points.
Joslyn would later make two season-on-the-line free throws with twenty-five seconds left before Meghan Kibblehouse and Catherine Sennott starred in the next two possessions to get WA to the finals.
Despite the tight defense, both teams handled the ball very well. I had them both for only eight turnovers each.
Hannah Hackley (11 points) was fouled in the first quarter attempting a 3-point shot and made all three free throws.
Westford was able to get inside for easier shots. However, the athleticism of Billerica allowed them to make some tough outside shots.
Both teams brought active student sections.
Coach Bob Romeo of Masconomet (lost to Billerica earlier in the tournament) took this one in. Also saw Coley Viselli of Pentucket on hand after leading the Sachems past Ipswich last night in the Division 3 North semifinals.
(All of the pictures above and below enlarge considerably if you click on them.)