(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.
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) 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.
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.”
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.
“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.
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: “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.”
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.)