(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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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.”
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.”
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.)