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Division 2 girls basketball: Amanda Mieczkowski, defense lead Northampton to sectional final

  • Amanda Mieczkowski, left, of Northampton, moves the ball against Natasha Shade, of Pittsfield, Monday, Mar. 5, 2018, at Western New England University. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Amanda Mieczkowski, left, of Northampton, moves the ball against Natasha Shade, of Pittsfield, as Bailey Maurer blocks, Monday, Mar. 5, 2018, at Western New England University. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Amanda Mieczkowski, left, of Northampton, moves the ball against Kendra Buda, of Pittsfield, Monday at Western New England. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Kolbie Jones, right, of Northampton, draws a foul from Bella Aitken, of Pittsfield, Monday, Mar. 5, 2018, at Western New England University. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Kolbie Jones, left, of Northampton, begins a pass against Alexis Garvey, of Pittsfield, Monday, Mar. 5, 2018, at Western New England University. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Emma Tanner, left, of Northampton, tries to steal the ball from Taea Bramer, of Pittsfield, Monday at Western New England University. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Bailey Maurer, front center, of Northampton, looks fro a shot against Pittsfield defenders Alexis Garvey, second from left, and Taea Bramer, Monday, Mar. 5, 2018, at Western New England University. Looking on are Northampton players Alesandra Campedelli, left, and Jillian McGrath. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Sydney Lewandowski, left, of Northampton, passes against Bella Aitken, of Pittsfield, Monday, Mar. 5, 2018, at Western New England University. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Kolbie Jones, right, of Northampton, drives to the basket against Bella Aitken, of Pittsfield, Monday, Mar. 5, 2018, at Western New England University. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Emma Tanner, center, of Northampton, drive to the basket ahead of Pittsfield defenders Kendra Catagna, left, and Alexi Sondrini, Monday, Mar. 5, 2018, at Western New England University. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Northampton players Jillian McGrath, from left, Olivia Kesin, Sydney Lewandowski, Emily Sledzieski and Anna Kerwood cheer for their team during its win against Pittsfield, Monday at Western New England University. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Amanda Mieczkowski, right, of Northampton, drives to the basket against Taea Bramer, of Pittsfield, Monday, Mar. 5, 2018, at Western New England University. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Emma Tanner, right, of Northampton, shoots against Alexis Garvey, of Pittsfield, Monday, Mar. 5, 2018, at Western New England University.

  • Claire Babbott-Bryan, right, of Northampton, tries to win a rebound against Jordyn Lummus, of Pittsfield, Monday, Mar. 5, 2018, at Western New England University. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Claire Babbott-Bryan, left, of Northampton, moves the ball against Jordyn Lummus, of Pittsfield, Monday, Mar. 5, 2018, at Western New England University. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Northampton players Bailey Maurer, from left, Amanda Mieczkowski and Olivia Kesin celebrate their win against Pittsfield, in the Division 2 Western Massachusetts semifinal, Monday, Mar. 5, 2018, at Western New England University. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • The Northampton girls basketball team celebrates its 53-44 win against Pittsfield, in the Western Massachusetts Division 2 Tournament semifinal, Monday at Western New England University in Springfield. Visit gazettenet.com for more photos. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Northampton coach Perry Messer talks to his team during their win against Pittsfield, Monday, Mar. 5, 2018, at Western New England University. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Northampton players Olivia Kesin, right, Amanda Mieczkowski, second from right, and others, celebrate their win against Pittsfield, in the Division 2 Western Massachusetts semifinal, Monday, Mar. 5, 2018, at Western New England University. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Northampton players Bailey Maurer, from left, Amanda Mieczkowski and Olivia Kesin celebrate their win against Pittsfield, in the Division 2 Western Massachusetts semifinal, Monday, Mar. 5, 2018, at Western New England University. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS



@kylegrbwsk
Tuesday, March 06, 2018

SPRINGFIELD — Amanda Mieczkowski snapped the Northampton girls basketball team out of a daze.

The Blue Devils sophomore point guard brought the ball up on their first possession of the second quarter then took two hard dribbles into the lane. She was passive up to that point, and Northampton struggled offensively in the Western Massachusetts Division 2 Tournament semifinals. Mieczkowski broke through two defenders with a jump stop and finished over a third to cut Northampton’s deficit to 1 at Western New England, Monday.

“Going into games like these I really focus on defense,” Mieczkowski said. “I think that click just came from wanting us to get a push of momentum because we were really low.”

She scored eight of her game-high 15 points in the second quarter, as the top-seeded Blue Devils built a lead they never relinquished. They beat No. 5 Pittsfield, 53-44, to reach the sectional finals for the first time since 2013. They’ll play the winner of Tuesday’s semifinal between No. 2 Tantasqua and No. 3 East Longmeadow. The championship is at 5:45 p.m. Saturday at the Curry Hicks Cage.

“Throughout all of the seniors’ four years here we’ve gotten really close but never actually gotten a title,” Northampton senior Claire Babbott-Bryan said. “So that would be really exciting.”

The Blue Devils (18-3) opened Monday’s win looking like a team that hadn’t played in nearly two weeks. Northampton ended its regular season Feb. 21 then scrimmaged West Springfield last Wednesday. They committed three traveling violations in the first quarter and trailed Pittsfield 11-7.

“I knew we’d be out of rhythm offensively, and I knew there’d be some nerves to start the game,” Northampon coach Perry Messer said. “One thing we’ve gotta be able to hang our hat on is defense.”

The Blue Devils got the message. They held Pittsfield to 3 points in the second quarter and increased the tempo of the game with their pressure.

“They were in our face the whole night, I think that bothered us,” Pittsfield coach Joseph Racicot said. “Between their defense and the fact that we might have rushed some things, I think that might have made the difference.”

Mieczkowski gave Northampton the lead for good, 12-11, with a fast-break layup from Emma Tanner 1:06 into the second.

“There were some offensive lulls throughout the game, but we ended up finding Emma (Tanner), finding Mitch (Mieczkowski) in breakaways,” Babbott-Bryan said.

Northampton built a 20-14 halftime lead and kept adding to it in the third quarter. Mieczkowski hit a jumper 1:10 into the second half to give the Blue Devils their first double-digit lead, 40-30.

Babbott-Bryan made a layup with 3:29 left in the third that gave the Blue Devils their biggest lead at 45-33.

Junior center Kolbie Jones took two charges during the frame that fired up Northampton’s bench.

“We all get hyped,” Mieczkowski. “She’s strong when taking it to the hoop, couldn’t ask for more from her.”

Pittsfield didn’t go quietly. Bella Aitken brought the Generals’ deficit to single digits by hitting a 3 with 1:18 left. They pulled as close as 7 after Taea Bramer made the score 49-42 with 39.9 seconds remaining, but Northampton closed the game at the free-throw line.

“We channel our nervousness into hard defense,” Babbott-Bryan said.

Pittsfield pressed nearly to the end of the game. Mieczkowski directed Northampton’s press break smiling cheekbone to cheekbone. Last season she and Northampton lost to eventual state champion Central in the Division 1 semifinals on the same floor, and she faced the same situation against the Golden Eagles with a different score and different approach.

“I just looked back on that, and now I’m like, ‘we’re here, let’s do it,’” Mieczkowski said.

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com.

Northampton 53, Pittsfield 44

Pittsfield (14-8)

Shade 2-0-7, Bramer 4-2-14, Perkett 1-0-2, Aitken 3-3-10, Buda 1-0-2, Garvey 3-1-7, Lummus 1-0-2. Totals 18-4-44

Northampton (18-3)

McGrath 1-0-2, Mieczkowski 7-1-15, Tanner 5-2-12, Babbott-Bryan 2-5-9, Kerwood 1-2-4, Maurer 1-2-4, Jones 1-3-5, Campedelli 0-0-0, Lewandowski 1-0-2. Totals 19-15-53

Pittsfield

11

3

14

16

—44

Northampton

7

13

15

18

—53

3-Pointers—Pittsfield 4 (Shade, Bramer 2, Aitken)