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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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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.

Why?

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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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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