Hopkins Academy too much for Smith Academy in Chase Your Dreams Classic

Last modified: Wednesday, January 22, 2014
NORTHAMPTON — Grabbing an early lead and increasing it are keys to success on the basketball court.

The Hopkins Academy girls basketball team knows this firsthand as it claimed its third double-digit win in as many games by defeating Smith Academy 59-27 at the Chase Your Dreams Basketball Classic at Northampton High on Friday night.

“Basketball is a game of runs and we talk about that a lot,” Hopkins head coach Fred Ciaglo said. “Smith works hard and I give them credit. They don’t have a senior on that team, but they came out and they played hard. They put the pressure on us that I was hoping to get ... we just did a nice job running the offense and doing the little things we need to do to pull out the victory.”

Ciaglo said it was another team win as the bench saw good minutes, but both teams’ top scorers from a season ago really shined.

“We just had too much for them,” he said. “Smith’s a young team and I’ve got a lot of weapons this year so I’m intrigued to see how far we can go and what we can do.”

The Sullivan twins combined for 32 points. Kate Sullivan’s 17 points for Hopkins earned her team’s most valuable player award.

Mackenzie Sullivan put up 15 points and Madi Stevens added nine.

Smith’s MVP award went to Ashley Higgins, who scored a game-high 17 points in the loss.

Kate Sullivan started the game on the wrong foot, missing baskets and getting into foul trouble in the first quarter before erupting for her season-high performance.

“I told her she had to make the adjustment, stop reaching if she wanted to stay on the court,” Ciaglo said. “(Kate) missed some early bunnies and I thought she might get down on herself, but she picked it up and she had a great second half for us.”

The offense might have powered the victory, but the defense stepped up and prevented the Falcons from getting their offense going, which Ciaglo said will be important as the season gets tougher.

“The kids are really digging in there and playing tough defense and that’s going to win us games,” Ciaglo said.

Down 14-3 to open the second quarter, the Falcons charged out on a 6-0 run, forcing Ciaglo to call a timeout with 5:50 on the clock to regroup his team.

The refocused Golden Hawks came out of the stoppage and closed the half on a 15-4 run. Kate Sullivan settled in and had the last three Hopkins buckets for eight points in just over a minute.

Sullivan continued her solo tear after halftime with two quick scores. She opened by hitting a jumper in the lane and followed with a steal for a fast-break layup to put the Golden Hawks up 35-17.

Mackenzie Sullivan followed her sister’s lead, grabbing a steal for a breakaway layup 41 seconds later. She drew contact to earn the foul and converted the three-point play to lead into another Smith run.

The Falcons hit back-to-back jumpers, but four consecutive Hopkins field goals gave them a 46-21 lead at the end of the third.

Ciaglo split the fourth quarter between his starters and the bench, letting them play as two units. The bench protected the lead, allowing only two points in roughly five minutes of time on the floor. The starting five, powered by the Sullivans, outscored the Falcons 9-4.

“The bench came in, got some minutes in, gained some confidence, did a lot of good things,” Ciaglo said. “I have to go with the best five at the time and play to win, but any minutes I can get them as a group or mixing them in with the starters, I’ll do what I can. The more I can get the bench in, the more they are going to help us.”

Sarah Moomaw can be reached at smoomaw@gazettenet.com.