(Hamilton MA) Both coaches raved about the atmosphere, and it deserved to be raved about.
“It’s what high school basketball is about,” said Pingree coach Dave Latimer afterwards. “It was Friday night lights with the whole school cheering you on.”
“I loved the atmosphere,” said Governor’s coach Ceci Reyes post-game. “It was incredible. Pingree definitely came out for their Senior Day. It was great to see some of the Govs’ red out there.”
There weren’t a lot of points to cheer about but plenty of scrappy play to excite the large crowd as Pingree defeated Govs, 33-29, on Friday night.
The tenacious defense played by both teams had a serious impact on the attempts at organized offense by both teams. Open shots were few and jump balls were in abundance.
Governor’s (3-10) had leads in the first, second, and final quarters. In fact, the visitors from Byfield were only down a point in the last minute of the game (30-29) after a three by Fiona Neilon (10 points).
The Govs had the ball twice after that. One time a shot was blocked, and another time had a near-miss three by Anique St. Laurent.
Down the other end, junior Sam Jones hit two free throws with thirty seconds left and another one with eight seconds to go. Sam’s free throws sealed the win for the Highlanders (10-6).
“It was stressful shooting those free throws with the crowd being so intense,” said Sam afterwards. “But we had practiced yesterday with super-loud music on.”
“Sam is a coach on the floor,” said Coach Latimer. “She is a true point guard who facilitates everyone. It was huge to see her make those shots down the stretch.”
The key to the win for Pingree may well have been the return to action of Bella Vaz. The sophomore drained three 3’s and in a low-scoring game her nine points were large.
“Bella injured her ankle twice and we haven’t had her since mid-December,” said Coach Latimer. “She had nineteen points in two of the three games she was able to play in before the second injury. We know she can put points on the board, and it was great to have her back today.”
“I am so glad to have Bella back,” added Sam. “We are kind of a dynamic duo out there. She definitely makes everyone better.”
“It has been hard watching from the bench,” said Bella. “I am so happy to be able to play.”
Bella’s second three-pointer gave the Highlanders their largest lead (22-15) in the last minute of the first half.
Credit Governor’s, they had that lead reduced to a point (25-24) at the end of the third quarter. Gracie Augustine had a rebound basket and a layup while teammate Fiona Nielon made a free throw and added a three during the comeback.
Neither team could gain separation in the final quarter until Sam Jones drained three free throws in the last thirty seconds.
“I always say that we need to turn losses into lessons,” said Coach Reyes. “Tonight, we needed to do a better job of committing to our defensive assignments and knowing where the shooters are.”
Sam Jones regarding the crowd: “I know that all of us were really nervous before the game. I honestly didn’t expect so many people to come. I actually had tears in my eyes when we first came running out because it was so overwhelming.
“Govs plays so hard,” explained Coach Latimer. “I give their coach a lot of credit. We’re friendly rivals.”
“Our student body really came out,” added Coach Latimer. “They don’t usually do that unless it’s Govs or a very big game. I think that there is mutual respect on both sides.”
Pingree seniors Lexi Garcia and Avery Robillard were honored before the game.
Pingree 9 13 3 8 = 33
Govs 8 8 8 5 = 29
(The pictures will enlarge.)