Monthly Archives: March 2022

Springfield Central takes D1 girls state title 43-40 over Andover

Springfield Central hangs on to get Division 1 state title
Amany Lopez (16 points)

(Lowell) Andover didn’t score a point in the first 5 ½ minutes of the game.

Springfield Central didn’t score a point in the last 5 ½ minutes of the game.

Were they both flirting with disaster?  You bet.

But that’s how it went in the girls Division 1 state finals between Andover and Springfield Central on Sunday at the Tsongas Center.

Springfield Central prevailed, 43-40.

The Eagles (21-1) had to hold their collective breaths at the end as the Warriors (21-2) had several possessions to earn a tie in the closing seconds.

Possible Andover tying three on the way from the corner late in the game.

“I thought that we had a good look on the second-to-last possession (three from the left corner),” said Andover coach Alan Hibino afterwards.

Anna Foley (22 points)

“I also thought that the last shot was going to fall,” he added. “It was right on line, just a little short.”

Springfield Central put on a basketball clinic for the first nine minutes.  They scored from the inside and outside (four 3’s) as well as defending Andover into mistakes and missed shots.

Before the Warriors could put a stop to this avalanche of misfortune, the Eagles had a 24-2 lead one minute into the second quarter.

The finish of the first quarter was incredibly exhilarating for Springfield Central.  Near to a shot-clock violation, Jordyn Robinson drained a three with four seconds left.  Andover almost immediately committed a violation setting SC up for a final, long-range desperation heave by Amany Lopez.  In it went as the buzzer sounded.  That’s six points in four seconds!

Amany Lopez’s first quarter buzzer beater on the way
Julie Bahati up for a rebound

“Their pressure, length, speed, and athleticism were hard for us to simulate in practice,” explained Coach Hibino.  “I knew that in the game we would have to adjust to it, but I didn’t imagine it would take the first ten minutes to do it.”

The terrible start had Andover fast approaching the “Warm up the bus,” and/or “It’s all over” scenarios but they managed to stop the downward slide and make a game of it.

“We were resilient,” said Coach Hibino.  “The team never lost hope.”

The rest-of-the game math will tell you that Andover outscored Springfield Central 38-19 from that 24-2 start.

Amany Lopez breaks in

The Warriors were methodical (one 3-pointer) in their chase for the lead.  Anna Foley registered twenty-two points during the comeback.

Springfield Central coach James Gee said afterwards that fouls were a factor.  “We got called for a lot of fouls in the second quarter.  It slowed our game down and our aggressiveness.”

Andover tightened the game at halftime to 28-15.  Morgan Shirley hit a jump shot and Anna Foley added three free throws for the Warriors in the last 1 ½ minutes.

Tess Gobiel and Jordis Taulatatasi

Andover lessened the Springfield Central lead to 39-30 after three quarters.  Anna Foley finished the last minute with a traditional 3-point play and a jump shot.

The Eagles seemed to regather themselves early in the final quarter.  Junior Amany Lopez turned a steal into a layup and seconds later broke in for another layup. 

Springfield Central now led 43-30 with 5 ½ minutes left.  Shockingly, they would never score again but be able to hold on and win the D1 championship.

“We had some tough battles in the state tournament that prepared us,” said Coach Gee.  “We were down by eleven at halftime in one of them.  We’re used to fighting and battling.”

Marissa Kobelski

Andover scored ten straight points over the next five minutes to get within three points (43-40) with 1 ½ minutes left.  Marissa Kobelski, Amelia Hanscom, Michaela Buckley, and Ann Foley all contributed.

But that was the best Andover could do. 

Springfield Central missed front ends of two one-and-one’s in the final thirty seconds to give Andover extra opportunities.

“We got it down to one possession, but they made a couple more plays at the end,” said Coach Hibino.

“As coach told us, sometimes you dig a hole too deep and even if you fight back there isn’t enough time to get fully out of it,” said junior Amelia Hanscom post-game.

Tie up

“These girls have been wanting this so bad,” said Coach Gee.  “This is what we’ve been talking about all season.”

Junior Amany Lopez led the Eagles with sixteen points including the teams last four points in the final quarter.  She had steals and deflections and didn’t turn the ball over.

“Amany loves to make the big shot,” said Coach Gee.  “She’s not scared of it.  She wants to do it for her team.”

“Winning feels so good right now,” said Amany.  “Playing AAU I’m used to playing against tough competition.  We thought that their weakness might be dribbling so we played good tight defense.  We came together as a team in the close moments at the end.”

Anna Foley blocks

The Eagles finished the season with nineteen straight wins.

The Warriors did themselves no favors at the foul line making just nine of twenty attempts.  Several of the misses were front ends of one-and-one’s. 

“This one will sting for a few days but then we’ll move on,” concluded Coach Hibino.  “Life goes on.”

Both teams return most of their players for next year.  Could there be a rematch next March?

Springfield Central     20    8    11     4   =   43

                  Andover       2   13   15   10   =   40

(The pictures will enlarge.)    


Game ending
Michaela Buckley pressures Amany Lopez as Coach Gee watches
Amany Lopez jumps into a passing lane
Michaela Buckley and Jordyn Robinson
Amany Lopez alone in the corner
Rebound battle
Amelia Hanscom (9 points)
Amany Lopez over Michaela Buckley
Springfield Central box
Andover box

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Hopedale never trails defeating Hoosac Valley 55-45 for Division 5 girls state title

The Hopedale team in front of their student section
Bri Frongillo (23 points)

(Lowell) Every time Hoosac Valley got close, Hopedale had answers.

In each of the first three quarters, the Hurricanes got within one point but never led.

The result was a 55-45 Hopedale win and ownership of their first Division 5 state girls title on Sunday afternoon at the Tsongas Arena.

“They’re a good team,” said Hopedale coach Jason Rojee of Hoosac Valley afterwards.  “You couldn’t keep them down.  They kept fighting.”

Averie McGrath (16 points)

“We never got over the hump and actually took the lead,” explained Hoosac Valley head coach Holly McGovern.  “If we had, you never know what could have happened.”

There was a well-known player in the game, and it was Hopedale’s Bri Frongillo.  Her 28 points-per-game average and recruitment by D1 Bryant University prevented her from coming into this one unnoticed. 

Bri collected twenty-three points this afternoon and had a heavy hand in Hopedale responses to Hoosac Valley rallies. She also became the all-time leading scorer at Hopedale.

Battle for control

“They were a tough team,” said Bri afterwards.  “They didn’t give up and kept coming back.”

Seniors Rylynn Witek (15 points) and Averie McGrath (16 points) paced the team from Cheshire.

After Averie brought Hoosac to 7-6, Phoebe Carroll (11 points) and Bri scored consecutive baskets.  Bri’s came off a steal.

In the second quarter it was a steal and a layup by Rylynn that had Hoosac near to the lead (24-23).  But the Raiders responded with three’s from Nora Hodgens and Lilah Casey (14 points), plus a Phoebe Carroll layup, and separation was restored.

Lilah Casey (14 points)

But not for long.

A three by Averie and two free throws from Gabby Billetz and once again Hoosac was close (31-30), this time it was in the third quarter. 

Tell me you haven’t heard this before, Hopedale responded.  This time it was with the long ball, as both Lilah Casey and Bri Frongillo cashed in from beyond the arc.

“We played good defense,” said Coach McGovern, “but they made timely shots.”

The Hurricanes trailed by eleven (45-34) with six minutes to go and chipped away to cut their deficit to five (50-45) with 1:38 remaining.

Tie up between Phoebe Carroll and Taylor Garabedian

Big play alert!  The Raiders missed their next shot, but eighth-grader Phoebe Carroll got the offensive rebound, scored and was fouled.

Rylynn Witek (15 points)

“We had a couple of big rebounds,” said Coach Rojee, “but that rebound and putback by Phoebe at the end was phenomenal for an eighth-grader.”

One source reported that Phoebe had twenty-three rebounds.  Good luck to opponents when she gets a little older!

Hopedale (22-3) is from the Dual Valley Conference while Hoosac Valley (22-4) plays in the Suburban Division of the Pioneer Valley Conference.

Coach Rojee: “The key to our win was perseverance. We had to play good defense for thirty-two minutes.  It has been so nice to have Bri Frongillo on the team.  She’s awesome.”

Bri Frangillo goes baseline

Lilah Casey: “We came in with confidence and we worked as a team.  We kept telling ourselves that we had to stay together, and we did.”

Bri Frongillo: “This win was the result of a lot of hard work during the season.  We put in the time behind the scene.”

Coach McGovern: “Rylynn (Witek) and Averie (McGrath) have been a heckuva one-two punch for teams to contend with.  They have also been wonderful role models for our younger players.”

Bri Frongillo was capable of scoring from anywhere.  Single coverage didn’t work.  She could get to the basket with either hand and make layups with either hand.  Her best feature, in my opinion, was her excellent passes to teammates.  She should do well at Bryant.

Hopedale   15   14   12   14   =   55

Hoosac       13   10   11   11   =   45

(The pictures will enlarge.)

Hopedale behind the banner
Bri Frongillo at the line
Phoebe Carroll and Rylynn Witek
Nora Hodgens takes a shot
Lilah Casey takes a shot
Bri Frongillo surrounded
Alyssa Garabedian shoots
Lilah Casey and Averie McGrath
Rebound battle
Averie McGrath
Bri Frongillo
Hoosac Valley box
Hopedale box

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Amesbury girls win D4 title defeating Millbury 57-31

Amesbury wins the Division 4 girls title
Amesbury players in front of the student section afterwards

(Lowell) Mission accomplished.

“This was our goal and we worked so hard this season to get here,” said Amesbury senior Liv DeLong afterwards.

The Amesbury Indians are the Division Four girls’ champs for the 2021-22 season.

They made it happen this afternoon at the Tsongas Arena by defeating Millbury, 57-31.

Ashleigh Lagor (13 points)

After a close first quarter (7-6), the Indians found their scoring touch and continued with a persistent man-to-man defense.  That combo enabled Amesbury to outscore the Woolies 50-25 over the last three quarters.

“After the first quarter they were better than us in each quarter after that,” said Millbury coach Steve Reno post-game.  “To be fair, that was probably accurate.”

“We’re not that disappointed with the result,” Coach Reno added.  “We needed a perfect game to beat them.  We needed to make every shot and every free throw and hope they had a rough night.  That didn’t happen.”

The key to the Indians point production was patience. 

“We worked together passing as much as we could and found the open shot,” said McKenna Hallinan.

Gabby Redford (14 points)

Gabby Redford (14 points) broke open a 16-13 game hitting three 3’s and adding a layup assisted by McKenna Hallinan.

Gabby’s hot shooting gave Amesbury it’s first ten-point lead (27-17) four minutes into the second half.

That lead would grow.  As Millbury’s 2-3 zone got stretched to cover outside shots, Avery Hallinan took over the inside.

“Once we started making shots, it opened up Avery inside,” explained Amesbury coach Dollas. 

Layce Hermans connected from long range to get the Woolies inside of ten points (29-20) with three minutes left in the third quarter. 

Avery Hallinan (20 points)

After that a steady flow of Amesbury’s multi-passes led steadily to Avery Hallinan finishes around the basket.

“They played a zone, so you need ball movement to get it inside for a one-on-one,” said Avery (20 points). 

“You know what happens when it’s one-on-one inside,” Avery added with a smile afterwards.

“The zone worked for a while, but they kept isolating Avery (Hallinan) down on the block,” recalled Coach Reno.  “Ash (Lagor) did a good job on her for three quarters, but she had eleven points in the last quarter.”

McKenna Hallinan defends

While the Woolies defense wavered, the Amesbury defense didn’t.  That combination transformed a 29-20 game into a 44-22 game over the next 4 ½ minutes of playing time extending into the fourth quarter.

“We got up by twenty and got to chill out for the end of it,” said McKenna Hallinan.  “It was a lot less stressful.”

“What Gabby and McKenna did defensively on #10 (Bianca Vincequere) and #11 (Ashleigh Lagor) was great,” said Coach Dollas.  “Those two young Millbury players were terrific with a bright future.”

The biggest cheer of the game?  It wasn’t when the game was over, although that was loud.  It was when the coach’s daughter (Emma) banked in a three-point shot in the last moment.

Emma Dollas 3-pointer excited the Amesbury faithful
Layce Hermans heads for the hoop

“It was her first points of the season,” said Coach Dollas afterwards with a smile.

Sophomore Ashleigh Lagor led #10 Millbury with thirteen points.  The Woolies (19-6) are in the Southern Worcester County League.

Sami Kimball (10 points) joined teammates Avery Hallinan and Gabby Redford in double figures for the #4 seed Amesbury.  The Indians (21-4) are in the Cape Ann League.

Sami Kimball blocks a shot

Coach Dollas had nothing but praise for his four seniors (Avery Hallinan, McKenna Hallinan, Gabby Redford, Liv DeLong): “They are competitive in everything.  They came to play every time.  For them to be healthy after all the games and minutes they put in shows that they were taking good care of themselves.”

Coach Reno: “We wanted to drive-and-kick and make three’s.  However, we couldn’t get to the paint, and we knew that if we did their size would be trouble.”

Sami Kimball: “We put it together.  All our practicing paid off.  It’s a really big moment for us and the school.”

Gabby Redford: “I’m so happy we did it.  I knew we could do it.  We passed the ball and we worked as a team.  Our defense was really good.”

Avery Hallinan

Avery Hallinan: “It is probably the best feeling I’ve ever had.  It was great to bring the championship home.  We settled down in the second half.  We realized that it was our game if we moved the ball around and hit our shots and layups.”

Liv DeLong: “To win a championship has been the goal of the four of us since second grade.  It’s bittersweet now however because basketball is over.”

Coach Dollas: “I don’t ever expect to have four seniors like our four.  They are truly extensions of the coach.”

AHS seniors Liv DeLong, Avery Hallinan, McKenna Hallinan, Gabby Redford
Katelyn Gasco surrounded

Avery Hallinan scored at least twenty points in all five of Amesbury’s tournament games.  She will be playing at Endicott next year.

Gabby Redford will be playing basketball at Framingham State.  McKenna Hallinan will play soccer for UMass Boston.  Liv DeLong is committed to play softball at BU next year.

A foursome truly blessed with athletics skills and a commitment to get better.  They combined to deliver a state championship to Amesbury on this happy afternoon for the town.

Amesbury   7   15   16   19   =   57

Millbury      6     8      8     9   =   31

(The pictures will enlarge.)

Millbury Woolies post-game
Late-game battle on the boards
Gabby Redford goes baseline
Sami Kimball (10 points)
Ashleigh Lagor looks for a passing lane
Bianca Vincequere guarded by McKenna Hallinan
Avery Hallinan in from the left side
Avery Hallinan looks to pass
Millbury box
Amesbury box

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St. Mary’s gains D3 title with 46-44 win over Rockland

Coach Jeff Newhall with captains Abby Constine and Liv Abbott
Yirsy Queliz (17 points) hits the game winner with 24 seconds left

(Lowell) There were seven lead changes.

The score was tied in all four quarters.

Rockland had two possessions after the final tie (44-44 with 1:28 left).

But it was St. Mary’s making the outcome-deciders thereafter to slip away with a 46-44 win in the Division 3 girls title game on Friday night at the Tsongas Arena.

Yirsy Queliz (17 points) gave the Spartans the lead with a jump shot over two defenders with twenty-four seconds left.

Then it was Kellyn Preira blocking the tying basket as time ran out for the Lady Dogs.

Kellyn Preira blocks Julia Elie’s final shot
Maggie Elie and Yirsy Queliz

“What a heckuva game,” said Rockland coach Diane Mitchell afterwards.  “It was an absolute battle.  We didn’t come away with the win but no way was it from lack of effort.”

“Give Rockland credit,” said St. Mary’s coach Jeff Newhall post-game.  “They were excellent.  Emotionally, we were a little bit spent from the other night (against Bishop Fenwick).  We had just enough, and Kellyn made a huge play at the end.”

In each of the first three quarters, high-scoring St. Mary’s looked ready to gain significant separation from Rockland (21-4).  But persistent half-court defense and consistent rebounding by the Lady Dogs wouldn’t allow it.

Ball on the floor

“To hold that team to forty-six points was doing our job defensively,” said Coach Mitchell.

Down 15-8, Rockland rallied around baskets by Sydney Blaney, Maggie Elie (11 points), and Julia Elie to begin the second quarter even (15-15).

Behind 26-19 at the half, Maddy Hermenau and the two Elie sisters, generated points to even the score at 28-28.

After a drive and a free throw from Kellyn Preira (16 points) was followed by a three from Niya Morgen, Rockland trailed by six points but once again rallied into a tie (34-34) to start the 4th quarter.

Yirsy Queliz sees lane to hoop

Then the lead changes started, and the excitement built.  Both teams and their active student sections had plenty of highs and lows the rest of the way.

No one play ever wins or loses a team game.

“She could have made the two free throws and we wouldn’t have had the problem at the end with my heart rate,” said Coach Newhall.

Julia Elie and Kellyn Preira

“We missed free throws and had turnovers before the final play,” added Coach Mitchell.

Coach Newhall: “Yirsy (Queliz) is a scholarship guard.  I am grateful to have her for another year.  She lives for basketball.  She was our steadying presence all night on offense while everyone else was pretty much helter-skelter. She makes that (final) shot more often than not.”

Coach Mitchell: “Maggie (Elie) reached a new level in the tournament.  She turned the page and realized that beyond bringing the ball up she could be a facilitator.  She could take over.  She could get to the hoop.  She could get points and still get assists.”

Great setting at Tsongas.  Great views and well managed.  I was impressed with the lighting.

St. Mary’s   15     11    8   12   =   46

Rockland     13      6   14   11   =   44

(The pictures will enlarge.)

St. Mary’s celebrates
Rockland double-team
Yirsy Queliz to the basket
Charlie Kelleher and Niya Morgen
Kellyn Preira block in the first half
Kellyn Preira sets to block on the final play
St. Mary’s lines up post-game
St. Mary’s behind the banner
Rockland box
St. Mary’s box

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Amesbury reaches D4 state final after defeating South Hadley 61-57

Amesbury advances to the Division 4 state final
Avery Hallinan (29 points)

(Framingham MA) How would Amesbury handle adversity?

For all three tournament games, the comfortable leads came early, and the game endings were anti-climactic.

Then there was tonight!

Amesbury was down by nine (28-19) one minute into the second half and then in the fourth quarter Avery Hallinan fouled out with five minutes left.

But Amesbury showed comeback skills and survival skills and defeated South Hadley, 61-57, to gain the Division 4 state finals to be held this weekend at Tsongas Arena (Lowell).

Kacie Levrault (17 points)

Avery Hallinan (29 points) was the key piece in Amesbury’s turnaround third quarter.

South Hadley played man-to-man defense so Amesbury responded by spreading the court keeping Avery close to the lane.  Avery started to take advantage of the inside coverage and put a 16-point quarter together.

Her traditional 3-point play with 1:50 left in the quarter put the Indians in the lead (35-33) and completed a comeback from a 28-19 deficit at the start of the quarter.

“My first half wasn’t good at all,” said Avery, “but in the third quarter we pulled it together.”

Avery Hallinan had 16 points in the 3rd quarter

“Our third-quarter run was key,” said Amesbury coach Gregg Dollas.

After the Tigers (17-8) tied the score at 37-37 on two Olivia Marion free throws, Avery was able to pick up a remarkable six points in the final nineteen seconds.

To get the points Avery spun into a layup and made two free throws on Amesbury’s next possession. When the Tigers tried a last-second shot from the other end there was a traveling call with 1.5 seconds left.  That gave McKenna Hallinan time to get a pass in close to her sister near the basket for another layin.

The Indians (20-4) led, 43-37, after three quarters.

Liv DeLong

Things got even better for Amesbury in the first two minutes of the final quarter.  A three by Avery and a left-all-alone layup by Liv DeLong and the Amesbury lead was ten points (48-38).

The margin started feeling a bit comfortable but that comfort was short-lived.


With five minutes left Amesbury’s 29-point scorer fouled out. Where would the Amesbury offense come from the rest of the way?

Junior Sami Kimball was twice set up for layups, first by Gabby Redford and then by McKenna Hallinan.  After McKenna added two free throws Amesbury had increased its lead (54-43) by a point without Avery and there were less than two minutes left.

Olivia Marion (14 points)

Comfortable lead now?  Hardly!

The team from the Suburban Conference began to drain three’s and send Amesbury to the foul line.

Two of the three-pointers were Kacie Levrault’s (17 points) and the other two came from Alex Jackson and Olivia Marion.

But the Indians had answers.  They made free throws.  In the final 1:44, Amesbury made nine-of-ten from the line.  McKenna was seven-for-eight in the final quarter.

“It was a little nerve-wracking without Avery out there,” said McKenna (10 points). “I was really focusing on my foul shots.”

McKenna Hallinan (10 points) was 7-for-8 from the line in the final quater
Loose ball

“Everyone stepped up without Avery,” said Coach Dollas.  “Maybe doing that will help us in the next game.”

The Tigers ran off twelve unanswered points starting at the end of the first half and extending into the third quarter.  Amesbury’s 19-16 lead turned into a, 28-19, deficit.

This collection of good offense and defense featured three’s by Alex Jackson and Kacie Levrault as well as inside scores by Drew Alley, Talia Uribe, and Kacie Levrault.

Drew Alley (9 points)

“We got beat by a good basketball team,” said South Hadley coach Paul Dubuc afterwards.  “There was a three-minute span where it got dicey.  Some things went against us, and we didn’t turn the tide.”

In fouling out, Avery did get a five-minute rest but it wasn’t one she enjoyed at all.  “It was NOT fun getting a rest,” she said.  “I like being on the court better.  It was stressful.  I think I almost had a heart attack!”

“But my teammates did a great job,” she added.  “McKenna hit some big free throws at the end.”

Liv DeLong: “I’m so proud of our team.  I had to keep my hands down because they were calling a lot of fouls.  I was confident that we’d be okay after Avery fouled out.  We were going to get the win for her.”

Alex Jackson

Gabby Redford: “We played together as a team.  Our defense had to be solid to beat them.  Avery had a very good game, but I was confident that we could do it without her.”

Sami Kimball: “My nerves were going on those layups I had.  I was afraid that I would miss them, but I didn’t.  South Hadley was short but very quick.”

Coach Dubuc: “We’re very proud of our kids.  We’re just sorry that we don’t have another game.”

Coach Dollas: “We had to play with a lot of guts at the end of it.  We just didn’t shoot well for the majority of the game.  We needed all of that ten-point lead at the end.”

Sami Kimball (9 points)

Senior Olivia Marion (14 points) had all of her points in the second half.

The Tigers were very good at running organized offense against Amesbury’s man-to-man defense and turning up quality inside shots.

Amesbury had the size and passing skills to keep South Hadley’s full-court pressure from bothering them too much.

There was plenty of active crowd support for both teams.  And both sides had things to cheer about.

Amesbury   13   6   24   18   =   61

South Hadley   10   13   14   20   =   57

(The pictures will enlarge.)

Gabby Redford
Sami Kimball layup assisted by McKenna Hallinan
Avery Hallinan
Defensive coverage
McKenna Hallinan
Gabby Redford and Talia Uribe
CC Gurek
Angie Bessone
Celebrating a win
Amesbury box
South Hadley box

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Amesbury reaches D4 Final Four with 56-37 win over Hamilton-Wenham

Amesbury reaches the Final Four in Division Four
Avery Hallinan (25 points)

(Haverhill MA) On January 21st, Hamilton-Wenham defeated Amesbury, 51-45.

That result transformed both teams.

The Generals realized that if they played their best, they could knock off a very good team.

For Amesbury, it alerted them to what can happen if they don’t play very well.

This afternoon at Whittier, the Indians were on their game and never gave Hamilton-Wenham a chance.

Jane Maguire (15 points)

Amesbury won, 56-37, and are now in the Division Four Final Four. They will face South Hadley on Tuesday at Framingham at 5PM.

“We thrive on man-to-man defense, but Amesbury is absolutely the worst team for us to try to match up with,” said HW coach Mark Cole afterwards.  “They’re big and they can shoot.”

Senior Avery Hallinan continued her post-season dominance with twenty-five points matching her total in Amesbury’s previous game with Frontier.  In the tourney opener vs Cape Cod Academy, Avery collected thirty-three points.

In transition Avery has been gathering points driving.  In Amesbury’s half-court offense, she has set up down low and feasted on single coverage.

Avery Hallinan in close to the basket with single coverage
AHS coach Gregg Dollas

“Our loss to them earlier made me anxious about this game,” explained AHS coach Gregg Dollas afterwards.  “Our girls, though, always come to play and I knew that they weren’t going to let another loss happen.”

“We said coming in that we can’t get behind,” explained Coach Cole.  “We’ve got to come out of the first quarter even.”

Just the opposite happened.  Amesbury rolled off to a 12-1 lead (14-4 after a quarter) and it was clear that the HW defense was in trouble.

“The big thing was ball movement,” recalled Avery Hallinan.  “In the loss to them, we were forcing too many shots and passes.  Today we worked it in, and we worked it out and got shots from everywhere.”

HW coach Mark Cole

While Avery had a ten-point first quarter, the Amesbury defense concentrated on talented HW senior Jane Maguire.

Jane had five three’s in the win over Amesbury in January.

“We focused on covering the three because that’s their specialty,” said McKenna Hallinan.  “Jane (Maguire) is a great player.  We play her in soccer too.”

Gabby Redford covered Jane most of the game.  “I tried to stop her from getting off three’s,” said Gabby. 

Jane led the Generals (17-6) with fifteen points and did make three 3’s.  However, many of those points came in the second half when Hamilton-Wenham already had a twenty-point deficit.

Avery Hallinan goes baseline

The Indians (19-4) doubled up HW in the second quarter (24-12) on a Liv DeLong triple.

McKenna Hallinan’s two free throws in the third quarter increased the margin to twenty points (44-23) with 1 ½ minutes left in that quarter.

The rest of the game saw bench clearings for both squads.

Junior Sami Kimball had eleven points to go with shot blocks and rebounds.  “It’s such a great moment,” she said, “to get to the Final Four.  I’ve been dreaming about this since I was in middle school.  We learned from our loss to them and really played as a team.”

Kailee Whelan

Liv DeLong added ten points.  “We worked the ball to each other and spread the court.  They had trouble guarding Avery and Sami.”

McKenna: “We focused on getting the ball inside because when we beat them, they couldn’t cover our bigs.”

Coach Dollas: “We played defense from start to finish.  All five of our starters were phenomenal.  Cali (Catarius) came off the bench and held her own.”

McKenna Hallinan

Coach Cole: “The one team I didn’t want to play until the finals was Amesbury.  I think that the winner of today’s game will win the whole thing.”

An active crowd attended supporting their respective schools. 

Amesbury has now won ten of their last eleven games.

HW finished winning ten of their last twelve games.

“If anyone had told me that at the start of the season that we would win seventeen games, I would have told them that they were nuts,” said Coach Cole.  “But we got better and after our Amesbury win, we gained the confidence that took us three rounds into the post-season.  I’m very proud of what we accomplished.”

Amesbury   14   13   19   10   =   56

              HW   4   10   10   13   =   37

(The pictures will enlarge.)

Game ends
Ellie Marden
Michaela DeSimone
Christa Coffey pressured by Avery Hallinan
Gabby Redford
Lily Cassidy
Sadie Gamber and Gabby Redford
Avery Hallinan in alone
Jane Maguire and McKenna Hallinan
Battle for control
Sami Kimball blocks a shot
Final Four banner

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Andover reaches D1 Final Four with 56-33 win over Newton North

Captains Hailey Doherty, Tess Gobiel, and Morgan Shirley with trophy
Amelia Hanscom (25 pts)

(Andover MA) “They’re the #1 seed for a reason,” said Newton North coach Mo Hamel afterwards.

The NN coach had just seen her team lose, 56-33, to Andover on Friday night in the Division One Elite Eight.

The Warriors will now face Central Catholic, a familiar Merrimack Valley Conference opponent that they have beaten twice in close games this season.

The Warriors, “came out well,” was the way Coach Alan Hibino described his team’s breakaway first half in tonight’s game.

Hard to argue.  Andover scored the first twelve points of the game and the last nine points of the first quarter.  The Warriors were off 23-5 after one quarter and the Tigers never recovered.

Abby Wright (15 points)

Coach Hibino, however, described his team’s 33-14 lead at halftime as, “uncomfortable,” for good reason.

“Newton North (24th seed) had been down by nineteen points and eleven points in their two previous tournament games and had come back to win,” he explained.

“We made sure that we focused on the next play and forgot about the lead we had,” Coach Hibino added.

The approach worked in the second half.  The Warriors raised their lead to the twenties in the third quarter and held it there in the final quarter.

Michaela Buckley heads to the hoop

The Tigers (12-12) had been down before, but this was different.  “We’ve dug ourselves holes all year,” said Coach Hamel, “but you can’t beat a good team digging the hole we did tonight.”

The Warriors were able to get inside shots from the get-go.  Andover didn’t score from the outside until Ari White did it was a three-pointer 3 ½ minutes into the second period.

The Tigers were determined to keep the ball away from 6-3 Anna Foley but concentrating on denying her opened things up for other Warriors.

Amelia Hanscom (25 points) was the chief capitalizer notching twelve points in just the first quarter.  Amelia had eight of the Warriors first fourteen points.  Two of her early layups were assisted by Anna Foley.

Andover coach Alan Hibino

“They ran their sets so quickly and efficiently,” said Coach Hamel.  “We knew what was coming and we were prepared for it, but it didn’t matter.”

The Warriors’ offense started well and so did their defense.  A key to their fine beginning was holding the Tigers’ Abby Wright scoreless in that breakaway first quarter.

Credit Marissa Kobelski with some tough defense on the 6-2 NN junior.  “It was a physical game,” said Marissa.  “Abby is a very good player.  It helped me prepare for her because I play against Anna (Foley) every day in practice.”

Marissa Kobelski defends

“Marissa is an amazing defender,” explained teammate Michaela Buckley.  “She’s done it through the year for us.”

“We had seen Abby (Wright) have a fantastic game against Chelmsford,” said Coach Hibino afterwards.  “We also saw her score thirty on Central Catholic in the Comcast Tournament. She was every bit as good as advertised.  It was a team effort against her.”

Despite the heavy pressure Abby did finish with fifteen points and plenty of rebounds.

Tigers’ coach Mo Hamel

“We’ve been led by Abigail all year,” said Coach Hamel.  “She did what she could out there.  We needed some supporting contributions and didn’t get them today.”

Maggie Scanlon was the Tigers second highest scorer with five points.

Anna Foley finished with twelve points getting ten of them in the first half.

Newton North’s best run of offense was early in the second quarter.  Maggie Scanlon and Abby Wright tallied layups and Abby converted a rebound. 

Anna Foley drives

This streak of scoring put the Tigers within twelve (23-11).  Ari White, however followed with a triple (assisted by Anna Foley) and then Anna hit a foul line jumper on an inbounds play. 

“We had a lot of people step up in the first half,” said Coach Hibino.

“We came into this year inexperienced and with low expectations from many people,” said Coach Hamel, “but we had a good run.”

Freshman Devon Burke

“We want to win for our seniors,” said Marissa Kobelski.  “We want the longest season possible.”

Plenty of vocal support on hand for both teams.  Andover also had an excellent pep band.

Andover   23   10   13   10   =   56

Newton North   5   9   10   9   =   33

(The pictures will enlarge.)

Andover box
Newton North box
Andover bench celebration
Sophia Beatrice sees an opening
Amelia Hanscom and Abby Wright
Battle for a rebound
Nadia Briggs and Michaela Buckley
Denying a pass
Abby Wright and Anna Foley
Tess Gobiel and Abby Wright
Andover reaches the Final Four

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Avery Hallinan (25 points) leads Amesbury past Frontier 50-39 in D4 Round of 16

Avery Hallinan (25 point)
Avery Hallinan drives

(Amesbury MA) Even the referee wanted to know who was covering her!

His reason was that he had given the wrong number at the scorer’s table for the Frontier girl who had committed the foul.

So he asked the Frontier team, “Who was covering #11?”

That was a new one on me.

Avery Hallinan (#11) was the one who was fouled. She was indeed well covered most of the night yet still carried Amesbury to the Round of 8 with her 25-point performance against the Redhawks.

Kylie Laford (14 points)

The final was 50-39.

The Indians (18-4) play Hamilton-Wenham at Whittier on Saturday at 3PM.

The visitors from South Deerfield went down by double figures in the first quarter and briefly recovered.

In the second quarter, Avery’s jump shot (assisted by her sister McKenna) extended the lead back to double figures (19-8).  Frontier couldn’t break inside of ten points the rest of the way.

“We were a little jittery coming off the bus,” said Frontier coach Dave Machon afterwards.  “When we got our feet under us it was a little too late.”

Avery had a sixteen-point first half carrying Amesbury to a 25-12 first half lead.

Liv DeLong (14 points)

Liv DeLong (14 points) started the second half with three consecutive inside scores.  Liv’s strong game around the basket boosted the AHS advantage to nineteen points (31-12) just 1 ½ minutes into the second half.

Credit Frontier.  They “won” the rest of the game with organized offense and better defense.

“They figured out our defense and hit more shots,” said Avery post-game.

Kaitlyn Mackin (13 points)

Frontier senior Kaitlyn Mackin scored eleven of her thirteen points in the second half.

Amesbury’s Sami Kimball was assigned to cover Kaitlyn.  “Coach told me that I had to really clamp her up tonight,” said Sami, “because she’s one of their better players.  She reminded me of Ali (Napoli) because she was tall and tough on the boards.”

“Our first-half defense was everything we practiced,” said AHS coach Gregg Dollas.  “In the second half they were setting screens all over the place and we were getting lost.”

“There weren’t many substitutions,” he added, “so our defense may have had tired legs in the second half.”

Frontier coach Dave Machon

Junior Kylie Laford paced Frontier with fourteen points.  She had two 3’s in the first half.

Going into the game, teams had been averaging only thirty-three points per game against the (17-5) Redhawks.

Amesbury got fifty points.  Avery had half the points.  There were no successful 3’s from Avery.  Tonight, it was drives and free throws with a couple of jump shots in the lane for the Endicott commit.

Avery took on one defender and on several occasions two defenders on her way to inside scores.

McKenna Hallinan

“She was too much to handle tonight,” said Coach Machon referring to Avery.  “She was a huge factor.”

“It feels great to play further than we were able to last year,” said Avery referencing Amesbury’s next game.  “We love Whittier.  We played there our freshman year.  They have the great Bulls’ intro there.”

This was the last Amesbury home game for their talented senior quartet (Avery Hallinan, McKenna Hallinan, Gabby Redford, Liv DeLong) that have keyed years of Indians’ successes.

Gabby Redford

“This is what we’ve been working for since we were freshmen,” said Liv DeLong.  “It is really sad that this is our last game.  We’re made a lot of memories here.”

Amesbury   12   13   15   10   =   50

Frontier         4     8    11   16   =   39

(The pictures will enlarge.)

Kaitlyn Mackin looks for an opening
Kaitlyn Mackin and Sami Kimball
Alena Maes-Polan
Liv DeLong (14 points) and Kaitlyn Mackin (13 points)
Sami Kimball looks for a place to pass
McKenna Hallinan tied up
Avery Hallian shoots through two Redhawks defenders
Avery Hallinan lines up a shot
Scramble on the floor
Kylie Laford (14 points) shoots over Avery Hallinan
Amesbury box
Frontier box

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UNH exits American East tourney after 72-69 loss to Binghamton

The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat
Jake Falko (21 points)

(Durham NH) UNH nearly tied the game twice in the closing seconds.

But they didn’t and Binghamton escaped with a 72-69 win in the quarterfinals of the American East Tournament on Sunday afternoon.

Great crowd with plenty of things to react to.

Twelve lead changes and six ties kept the excitement going to the end.

The Bearcats took the lead for good (57-55) with 6:49 left.  The excitement thereafter was over the desperate chase the Wildcats undertook trying to win or force overtime.

Jayden Martinez (17 points)

They came close.

A tying triple by senior Nick Guadarrama with fifteen seconds left was negated by an illegal screen (Nick Johnson).

“With fifteen seconds left in the game, that’s a pretty tough call,” said UNH coach Bill Herrion afterwards, “but I’ll have to look at the film.”

The Wildcats (15-13) got another chance after Jake Falko missed the front end of a one-and-one with eleven seconds left. 

Blondeau Tchoukuiegno launched a three-pointer before the buzzer with John McGriff defending which rimmed out.

Blondeau Tchoukuiegno guarded by John McGriff

“I personally thought it was going in,” said a disappointed Blondeau afterwards.

The #6 Bearcats were improbable winners.  They had lost three straight and six of their last seven games.  The Wildcats had beaten them twice this season. 

But it didn’t matter.

“The key to the win was limiting UNH to eight offensive rebounds,” explained Bearcats coach Levell Sanders post-game.  “The other two games with us they had double-digits.”

“We also were able to cut back the number of points we gave up off of turnovers,” he added.

Coach Levell Sanders

The actual key may well have been the return of Jake Faldo to the Binghamton lineup.  The scoresheet certainly suggests it strongly with Jake totally twenty-one points.

“Jake came in and gave us a spark,” said Coach Sanders.  “He gives our team confidence just by being on the court.”

Jake has worked hard to get back on the court after missing two games.  “I was doing therapy (on his ankle) for hours a day,” Jake said. “Yesterday, I was finally able to do everything full speed.”

Ogheneyole Akuwovo (10 points)

Jake had a rough final minute of the game with a turnover and a missed free throw but the points he gave the Bearcats from long and close range were crucial.

Coach Herrion: “We did a good job of containing him (Jake Falko) in the game at Binghamton.  Coming into this one he was 19-for-70 on three’s.  Today he made four (of seven).  Many of the three’s were at the end of shot clocks.  He is a great driver and scorer to the basket.”

Coach Herrion faulted his team’s inconsistent defense and poor foul shooting for the loss.

John McGriff (8 points/6 assists)

“Our defense wasn’t good enough to win this game,” he said.  “It has been a problem for us this season off-and-on.”

The UNH foul shooting was a serious problem.  When you go 10-for-22, you’re asking for trouble.  When you lose a game by three points you know where to look back to for an explanation.

“The big thing in the loss was the missed free throws,” admitted Jayden Martinez, who missed four of them.  “You try not to let it get to you during the game.”

With the win, #6 Binghamton moves on to visit #1 Vermont in the semifinals. Good luck to them…….and they’ll need plenty!  The Catamounts will be in the semifinals for the 20th time in the last 21 seasons.  They have also won twenty of their last twenty-two games and have won the AEC championship six years in a row.  They’re good, very good.  The winner gets an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Christian Hinckson scored Binghamton’s first nine points and never scored again.  He did take in a game-high twelve rebounds.

The UNH band

The UNH band never fails to impress me.  They can play, are timely, and are loud. 

“It was a great crowd,” said Coach Herrion.  “We would love to have them here on a nightly basis.”

Binghamton   36   36   =   72

UNH                 34   35   =   69

(The pictures will enlarge.)

Controversy in the last minute
Close game
Coach Bill Herrion
John McGriff
Marco Foster defends
Jake Falko to the rim
Blondeau Tchoukuiegno and John McGriff
Christian Hinckson (9 points/12 rebounds)
Jake Falko
Blondeau Tchoukuiegno (15 points/4 assists)
Jake Falko puts up a three

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Newburyport moves on after 57-43 win over Shepherd Hill

Emma Foley (21 points)
Clippers deny an inbounds pass

(Newburyport MA) The Clippers (19-2) advance after defeating Shepherd Hill, 57-43, in the Round of 32 on Saturday afternoon.

The #21 Rams (15-7) trailed the entire game but impressed Newburyport coach Karen Grutchfield.

“We had seen them on film,” she said, “but they were much better than we thought.”

The Rams handled the ball well and knew where to concentrate their defense.  The issue was scoring.

Aryanna Sheehan guarded by Makenna Ward

“We’ve had an issue scoring all year,” said Shepherd Hill coach Maura Hackenson afterwards. 

Neither team shot very well although there were plenty of attempts.  There was only one three made the entire game. The Clippers scored only five points in the final quarter, yet the Rams were only able to take three points off their deficit at the start of the quarter.

“If we don’t play good defense in the backcourt, it’s a close game at the end,” said Coach Grutchfield.

Anna Seidel on defense

But the good non-stop pressure sent the Rams into several scoring droughts that opened opportunities for the Clippers to establish separation.

SH went through a two-point, three-minute segment in the second period.  Newburyport took advantage.  The Clippers recorded twelve points and turned a 19-18 one-possession game into, 31-20, with two minutes left in the quarter.

Makenna Ward (15 pts) and Deirdre McElhinney each had four points during this successful segment.  Olivia McDonald and Emma Foley had a basket each.

Olivia McDonald

The Rams did not go away.  They made the first two baskets of the second half (Emery Mullen and Heidi Jarosz), and the visitors were quickly within seven (33-26) as things got interesting.

But then the Newburyport defense kicked in again and shut down the Rams completely for the next three minutes.

While the visitors struggled, the Clippers went on a 9-0 run and their lead rose to, 42-26, and back into something of a comfort zone.

Emma Foley defended by Heidi Jarosz (11 points)

The highlight makers for Newburyport in this good section were Olivia McDonald, Makenna Ward, and Emma Foley.  Olivia hit a jump shot and the only three of the game.  Makenna broke full-court for a layup while Emma spun into the lane for two points.

Emma (21 points) ended up with a ten-point quarter dashing Shepherd Hill’s hopes for getting closer to Newburyport.  The Clippers had a seventeen-point lead after three quarters.

“Emma (Foley) has great moves down there,” said SH coach Maura Hackenson.  “She keeps the ball really high, and we didn’t have the height to match up. We tried to front her.”

Emma often had 2-3 defenders whenever she had the ball but still found ways to supply badly needed scoring.

Shaylan Cashman looks to pass

“Emma thrives on offense,” said Coach Grutchfield.  “She needs a lot of touches.  She also did a good job of rebounding.”

The Rams from the Mid-Wach League were tough on the glass scoring on six offensive rebounds.

Newburyport’s next game will be on the road against Whitman-Hanson.

Quiet crowd at Newburyport this afternoon. 

Newburyport   15   19   18   5   =   57

Shepherd Hill   12   10   13   8   =   43

(The pictures will enlarge.)

Brela Pavoa guards Emery Mullen

The MIAA this year has arranged the tournament based on power rankings.  The North, South, Central, and West are history.  And with the new arrangement, regional games are gone.  Who around here even knew where Shepherd Hill was located?  But they were seeded #21 and the matchup was against #12 Newburyport. 

What has been interesting (to me) has been that so far the higher seeds almost always win.  This suggests that the rankings have been accurate.

I do, however, wonder about the excessive travel the new arrangement necessitates.  The Amesbury boys had to travel to western Massachusetts to play South Hadley this week on a school night.  The Frontier girls’ team (Deerfield) will be traveling to Amesbury for a 5:30PM game on a school night. 

Olivia McDonald
Heidi Jarosz gets a block
Sydney Turner
Emery Mullen guarded by Anna Seidel
Sydney Fitzgerald guarded by Emma Foley
Sydney Fitzgerald on defense
Scramble on the floor
Deirdre McElhinney on defense
Raegan Peck
Makenna Ward (15 points)
Shepherd Hill box
Newburyport box

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