Division 3 girls basketball: Top-seeded Sabis fights off South Hadley in semifinals

Last modified: Saturday, March 08, 2014
AMHERST — After snapping a seven-year Curry Hicks Cage drought, the South Hadley girls basketball team couldn’t extend the appearance, falling 65-57 to No. 1 Sabis in the Western Massachusetts Division 3 Tournament semifinal on Wednesday.

The loss came in a back-and-forth game that saw lead changes in three of the four quarters and ended the season for the No. 4 Tigers (17-6).

“We’re not happy today, we’re not taking any consolation out of this, but we’re happy with how far the program has come,” South Hadley coach Paul Dubuc said. “We’re going to get it a little further eventually. ... We finished (the regular season) at 15-5 and we got the home games to try and get us here, we were ecstatic. I wrote down at the beginning of the year 14-6. ... I thought we met our expectations.”

Dubuc brought with him an experienced team, even if it hadn’t played in the Cage before. Kara Callahan (four points) was a four-year starter and Meg Ginley was a three-year starter.

On Wednesday, they pushed the Tiger offense up and down the court trying to gut out the win and continue their season. Kelly Pouliot led the Tigers with 15 points, Ginley added 14 and freshmen Sophie Gatzounas had 11 off the bench.

Seventh-grader Jaliena Sanchez led Sabis (19-5) with 15 points. The Bulldogs will face No. 2 Hoosac (21-1) in the Division 3 final on Saturday at 2:15 p.m.

“It’s tough for (the seniors) but they left it all out there,” Dubuc said. “We had our chances. I thought we played pretty good for our first time on this court. It’ll give the younger kids something to shoot for, maybe we can make a habit of it.”

The Tigers spent the game nipping at Sabis’ heels, but failed to hold a lead larger than one possession from tipoff to final buzzer.

“We didn’t get a stop when we had to. I thought we put ourselves in great positions and we didn’t get crucial stops,” Dubuc said. “They’re a good team. They’re bigs hurt us down low, they were able to push us around a little on the blocks.”

The Tigers took their first lead of the game from the stripe. Callahan followed a 3-pointer by Pouliot with two foul shots to go up 8-6 with 4:36 left in the first.

Sabis matched it, but Pouliot hit her second 3 of the quarter to push South Hadley back up 11-8. The Bulldogs called timeout and rolled on a 10-2 first-quarter closing run that included a five-man Tiger substitution with 1:31 left, but it only lasted 40 seconds.

“I’ll take the hit on the loss,” Dubuc said. “We mixed up some defenses and we weren’t all in it.”

Ginley grabbed a steal and fed Vicky Mielnikowski for an easy layup to halt the Bulldogs run with 17 seconds to go and end the quarter trailing 18-13.

South Hadley then came back in the second. Ginley cut the lead to 20-16, laying in a feed from Callahan with 6:37 left before halftime.

Gatzounas later hit her first bucket near the left post to pull the Tigers within 22-21. Pouliot then hit a floater to give the Tigers a 23-22 lead with 4:16 left.

Sabis turned the ball over and Gatzounas went to extend the lead but Sanchez got up for a clean block with 3:38 to play, returning the favor from a few drives earlier.

Kelsie Jacobs (14 points) put the Bulldogs ahead 24-23 on a layup and the lead held through the end of the quarter.

Ginley took an inbound pass from Callahan and put up a jumper before the buzzer to make it a one-possession Sabis game at halftime, 27-25.

“At halftime, we thought we’re right where we wanted to be. Every big game we’ve had, that’s pretty much where we’d been,” Dubuc said.

The Tigers quickly tied the game 27-all to open the third, forcing a Sabis timeout with 6:55 left. The Bulldogs ran out of the break with a 5-0 run before fouling Gatzounas shooting a 3.

She made all three shots to pull the Tigers to 32-30 with 3:58 left in the third. The two sides then matched each other bucket-for-bucket, free throw-for-free throw as Sabis took a 40-38 advantage into the fourth quarter.

Sam Gawron (six points) hit a 3-pointer 17 seconds into the frame to give South Hadley the lead, but Sanchez matched it to reverse the lead, 43-41, with 7:09 to play.

The game remained close when South Hadley came out of its own timeout with 3:45 to play. Pouloit hit her fourth 3-pointer to pull her team within one and Ginley hit two free throws to give the Tigers a brief 56-55 lead with 2:06 on the clock.

Despite the Tigers being in the double bonus the entire fourth quarter, it was the Bulldogs who made free throws to ice the game as Sabis went 6 for 8 in the final minute.

“It’s a tough one but they are great kids, they are fighters,” Dubuc said. “I love my team. I wouldn’t want to be coaching any other team here. They don’t quit. We were undersized all year and we battle, we battle.”

It was the final game for Callahan, Ginley, Pouliot, Abby Lukasik, Delaney Duprat, Maddie Gaztounas and Mielnikowski.

Sarah Moomaw can be reached at smoomaw@gazettenet.com

Sabis 65, South Hadley 57

Tigers (17-6)

L. Gawron 0-0-0, Mielinkowski 2-0-4, Callahan 0-4-4, Williams 0-0-0, Lukasik 0-0-0, S. Gawron 2-0-6, Pouliot 5-1-15, Bainbridge 0-0-0, S. Gaztzounas 3-4-11, Ginley 3-8-14, Duprat 1-1-3, M. Gatzounas 0-0-0, Medina 0-0-0. Totals: 16-18-57

Bulldogs (19-5)

Jal. Sanchez 4-6-15, Sinkfield 6-1-13, Jacobs 5-4-14, Jan. Sanchez 4-2-11, Latham 1-0-2, Linzana 3-0-6, Ako-Brew 1-0-2. Totals: 25-13-65

South Hadley 13 12 13 19—57

Sabis 18 9 13 25—65

3-pointers: Sabis 2 (Jal. Sanchez, Jan. Sanchez), South Hadley 7 (Pouliot 4, S. Gawron 2, S. Gatzounas)