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New Leadership pulls away from Holyoke Catholic in girls Division 3

SPRINGFIELD — First quarter foul trouble combined with New Leadership’s dominance on the boards prevented Holyoke Catholic from ever getting comfortable.

The No. 10 Gaels fell behind early and never quite recovered and fell to the No. 7 Wildcats 46-32 in the Western Massachusetts Division 3 Tournament first round at Emma J. Williams Gymnasium at Commerce.

“They outplayed us,” Holyoke Catholic coach Terry Murphy said. “They were fast. They were bigger than us and that hurt.”

New Leadership (16-5) will play at No. 2 Lee, Friday at 7 p.m. Catholic finished its season at 9-12.

Danielle Easton banked in a layup 12 seconds into the game to give Catholic an early lead, but the Gaels didn’t make another field goal for the next 7 minutes, 14 seconds as NLCS went on a 10-1 run to lead 10-3. Easton and Katie Klejna picked up two fouls during that stretch, wrecking Murphy’s player rotation before the game was even six minutes old.

“I had two kids that typically play 27 minutes that sat for seven or eight minutes in the first half,” Murphy said. “That never helps.”

New Leadership D’Nasia Nichols scored the first basket of the second quarter, but the Gaels answered with a 7-1 run that brought them within three at 15-12 with 4:47 left in the half and gave them life.

But at the other end, Catholic’s Julia Hiney knocked down Nichols on a play that appeared to be more the result of her momentum than malice, but she was called for an intentional foul, stunning Murphy. Nichols made both free throws to start a 10-0 run that put Catholic on the ropes as the Wildcats coasted to a 25-14 halftime edge.

“I didn’t think it was a good call,” Murphy said. “It was a very touchy-feely flagrant foul. That was pretty mild.”

New Leadership ended any suspense early in the second half with a 10-1 run that swelled their edge to 35-15.

Catholic chipped away at the lead getting within 10 late in the fourth quarter, but never really threatened as its 9-for-24 free-throw shooting helped prevent them from climbing back.

Kyra Robins finished with 10 points, six rebounds and six steals for the Gaels. Tamar Gervais had 18 to lead NLCS.

With no seniors on his roster, Murphy hoped his team could build off the experience.

“For some of them it was their first major experience in the tournament,” Murphy said. “It’s a chance to grow. We talked about working together in the summer. We need to play more together. These kids all come from different towns. Getting that coordination is not easy. If they could play more in the summer and get a little better bond, they’ll get that instinct that you only get from playing and playing together. It’s something we need to get.”

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com.

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