(Lynn MA) This game was hardly smooth.
Sixty-four free throws and fifty turnovers.
Amesbury rode their accurate free throw shooting (29-for-35) to a 68-63 win over Fenway in the First Round of the Division 3 Spartan Classic.
Amesbury will face St. Mary’s in the title game Monday night. It is not a reach to think that one of these two teams will be playing at the TD Garden on March 9th or 10th in the D3 state semi-final game.
Fenway has two six-footers (Janyah Gulley & Kayana Armbrister) but Janyah fouled out in the third quarter and Kayana in the fourth quarter with five minutes left.
“Their big girls getting into foul trouble certainly helped, “said Amebury coach Gregg Dollas afterwards. “His subs, however, did a good job of keeping them in the game.”
This was a one-possession game (62-59) going into the last minute. Then an Alli Napoli (21 points) layup, assisted by Sadie Kermelewicz, raised the lead and Avery Hallinan (27 points) sealed the deal with four straight free throws.
Avery struggled from the floor tonight, but at the line? Wow! The sophomore made 17-of-19.
Avery also had several steals and took three charges.
“We focused on taking charges and making our free throws,” added McKenna Hallinan.
“We scored sixty-eight and we didn’t shoot well,” said Amesbury coach Gregg Dollas. “Avery on the line was huge. Our free throw shooting saved us because our outside shots weren’t falling at all early on.”
The Panthers (11-6) got off to a terrific start.
In the first twenty seconds, senior Imani Terry (16 points) hit a three, stole the ensuing inbounds pass and made a layup.
The next points after that were on a rebound basket by sophomore Wynter Neal (14 points).
Coach Dollas immediately went for a timeout after the 7-0 beginning. “I’ve never seen a start like that,” he said.
“That timeout settled us down,” recalled McKenna.
Amesbury (18-1) has not been behind very often, or for very long, this season but against a quality team like Fenway there was no quick recovery.
The Indians put a run of eight straight points together in the second quarter to get to within two (22-20) but D4 Fenway was still ahead (29-26) at halftime.
Amesbury got the unanswered run of eight off a successful inbounds play (Alli Napoli) and a full-court Alli drive. Avery Hallinan made two free throws and then took a steal in for a layup for the other four points.
Alli drained Amesbury’s only three, 1 ½ minutes into the second half, to tie the score at 31-31.
Shortly after the score was tied, the first of Fenway’s two tallest players (Janyah Gulley) fouled out.
It would have been easy at this point to think that Amesbury would take advantage but Fenway’s Kayana Armbrister (20 points) had other plans. Kayana made free throws and started the final quarter with an old-fashioned 3-point play. Fenway led, 43-40.
Amesbury then made their run to the front for good.
Free throws (Avery Hallinan), a layup (Gabby Redford) assisted by Alli Napoli, and a drive (Avery) put the Indians ahead, 46-43, with six minutes left.
A minute later, Kayana Armbrister was gone on fouls after Avery Hallinan took the charge.
The Panthers were in trouble and down, 59-51, with 2:20 left. But they weren’t out.
Consecutive three’s (Wynter Neal & Imani Terry) vaulted the team from the Boston City League to within a possession, 59-57, with 1 ½ minutes left.
Alli Napoli got a point back on a free throw before Fenway committed their 28th turnover.
Two free throws by McKenna Hallinan were answered by two from Wynter Neal….62-59.
Amesbury tallied six points in their next three possessions while Fenway picked up four points. The Panthers had another free throw point but lost it on a lane violation.
“It cost us not having our six-footers late in the game,” said Fenway coach John Rice post-game. “You’ve got to play the game. You’ve got to do the best you can with the players you’ve got.”
Fenway was missing starter Omariah Ashley.
The Panthers have won the Boston City League three straight years.
Fenway’s 11-6 record is misleading. Three of their losses were to D1 schools.
Amesbury’s only loss was to D2 defending champs Pentucket on January 28th.
Pentucket’s coach John McNamara picked up his 300th win tonight. He’s reached that total in fifteen seasons. That’s a 20-wins-per-season pace!
Avery Hallinan: “The game was interesting. We started really, really, really bad. Then we slowed it down and got fouls on their best players which we like to do. We started to hit our shots and passed to get layups.”
(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)