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Division 3 girls basketball: Wahconah holds off South Hadley to reach finals, 48-44

  • Alexa Blaney, center, of South Hadley, shoots between Wahconah defenders Suzanne Stefanik, front, and Maria Gamberoni, Thursday, March 8, 2018 at Curry Hicks Cage. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Mikhaila Edge, left, of South Hadley, drivs to the basket against Wahconah, Thursday, March 8, 2018 at Curry Hicks Cage. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Mia Kelly, center, of South Hadley, shoots after getting past Wahconah’s Suzanne Stefanik, from left, Kelly McMahon and Cassie Tobler, Thursday at Curry Hicks Cage. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS



For the Gazette
Friday, March 09, 2018

AMHERST — Four free throws in the final seconds of the fourth quarter from Wahconah freshman Maria Gamberoni put the game out of reach for South Hadley, which fell 48-44 in the Western Massachusetts Division 3 Tournament semifinals, Thursday at the Curry Hicks Cage.

“I thought about calling a timeout at the end there,” South Hadley coach Paul Dubuc said. “But we had the ball in Mia (Kelly’s) hands, I mean that’s where I want the ball. Anything that happens after that if it’s a mistake or whatever, she’s aloud to make them.”

The Tigers struggled to slow down Gamberoni, who had 15 points, including 8-for-8 from the free-throw line. Senior Julia O’Connor hurt South Hadley in the paint with 12 points.

“I think we all kind of had the motivation, it was a huge game,” Gamberoni said. “They were a really good team and we just knew that we had to come out really strong to get the win.”

South Hadley struggled early in the game offensively with multiple turnovers and missed free throws in the first half.

“I thought turnovers and foul shots killed us in the first half,” Dubuc said. “Then we came back and battled, that’s what we do.”

Wahconah forced South Hadley to take low-percentage shots, instead of moving the ball around and creating quality opportunities. On defense, South Hadley allowed Wahconah to rebound and score second-chance points. As a result, Wahconah took a 24-17 lead into halftime.

“I told them we had to take better care of the ball, we had to hold them to one shot in the second half,” Dubuc said. “I thought in the first half we gave up going to help, we were leaving them too wide open to get offensive rebounds.”

At the start of the second half, South Hadley came out with a 3-pointer from Bella Earle, who finished with a team-high 14 points. South Hadley kept rallying and took the lead for the first time with 5:17 remaining in the third quarter.

South Hadley moved the ball better and forced turnovers throughout the third quarter. But Wahconah went on a 5-0 run late to lead 34-29 entering the fourth.

South Hadley answered and scored six unanswered points for a 35-34 lead. The fourth remained close as both teams exchanged leads, until Wahconah made its free throws to advance.

Sixth-seeded Wahconah (20-3) will play No. 1 Hampshire Regional (20-2) at 2:15 p.m. Saturday in the championship at Curry Hicks Cage. Hampshire beat Greenfield, 63-59, in overtime.

No. 2 South Hadley finished 17-5. It was the final game for senior Abby Edge, Mikhaila Edge and Kera Murphy.

Kelly finished with 10 points.

“We’re still young. We’re just going to reload and we’re going to come back at it,” Dubuc said. “We aren’t giving up our dream. We want one of these, so we’re going to figure out how to do it.”

Wahconah 48, South Hadley 44

Wahconah (20-3)

Steinman 4-3-11, Gamberoni 3-8-15, Furlong 5-0-11, O’Connor 5-1-11. Totals: 17-12-48

South Hadley (17-5)

A. Edge 2-3-7, M. Edge 3-0-6, Kelly 4-2-10, A. Blaney 3-1-7, Grochowalski 0-0-0, T. Gawron 0-0-0, Zatowski 0-0-0, O. Blaney 0-0-0, Earle 3-5-14. 15-11-44

Wahconah

16

8

10

14

—48

South Hadley

8

9

12

15

—44

3-Pointers—South Hadley 3 (Earle 3) Wahconah 2 (Furlong, Gamberoni)