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Granby girls hoop gets early lead, beats Belchertown

  • Jillian Cavanaugh of Belchertown, left, Kiley Baran of Granby, and another Belchertown player reach for a rebound Thursday in Belchertown.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Jillian Cavanaugh of Belchertown, left, Kiley Baran of Granby, and another Belchertown player reach for a rebound Thursday in Belchertown.
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  • Briannah Mercier of Granby, right, reaches in as Kelsey Shea of Belchertown comes down with a rebound Thursday in Belchertown.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Briannah Mercier of Granby, right, reaches in as Kelsey Shea of Belchertown comes down with a rebound Thursday in Belchertown.
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  • Tea Spellacy of Belchertown, right, passes as Brooke Labrie of Granby defends Thursday in Belchertown.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Tea Spellacy of Belchertown, right, passes as Brooke Labrie of Granby defends Thursday in Belchertown.
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  • Marissa Kopacz of Belchertown, left, and Briannah Mercier of Granby reach for a rebound beside Jillian Cavanaugh of Belchertown Thursday in Belchertown.JERREY ROBERTS

    Marissa Kopacz of Belchertown, left, and Briannah Mercier of Granby reach for a rebound beside Jillian Cavanaugh of Belchertown Thursday in Belchertown.JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Casey Emelio of Granby, center, shoots between Belchertown defenders Marissa Kopacz, left, and Jillian Cavanaugh Thursday in Belchertown.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Casey Emelio of Granby, center, shoots between Belchertown defenders Marissa Kopacz, left, and Jillian Cavanaugh Thursday in Belchertown.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Meghan Sullivan of Granby goes to the basket between Belchertown defenders Jillian Lund, top, and Tea Spellacy Thursday in Belchertown.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Meghan Sullivan of Granby goes to the basket between Belchertown defenders Jillian Lund, top, and Tea Spellacy Thursday in Belchertown.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Briannah Mercier of Granby, right, drives between Belchertown defenders Marissa Kopacz, top, and Jillian Lund Thursday in Belchertown.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Briannah Mercier of Granby, right, drives between Belchertown defenders Marissa Kopacz, top, and Jillian Lund Thursday in Belchertown.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Tara Mikalchus of Granby, right, keeps the ball from Belchertown defenders Jillian Cavanaugh, left, and Jessica Zalucki Thursday in Belchertown.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Tara Mikalchus of Granby, right, keeps the ball from Belchertown defenders Jillian Cavanaugh, left, and Jessica Zalucki Thursday in Belchertown.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Meghan Sullivan of Granby, top, drives to the basket against Tea Spellacy of Belchertown Thursday in Belchertown.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Meghan Sullivan of Granby, top, drives to the basket against Tea Spellacy of Belchertown Thursday in Belchertown.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Rebecca Sapoukey of Granby, center, reaches for a rebound beside teammate Briannah Mercier, front right, and Belchertown defenders Jillian Cavanaugh, top, and Marissa Kopacz Thursday in Belchertown.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Rebecca Sapoukey of Granby, center, reaches for a rebound beside teammate Briannah Mercier, front right, and Belchertown defenders Jillian Cavanaugh, top, and Marissa Kopacz Thursday in Belchertown.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Tea Spellacy of Belchertown, front, goes to the basket against Noelle Menard of Granby Thursday in Belchertown.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Tea Spellacy of Belchertown, front, goes to the basket against Noelle Menard of Granby Thursday in Belchertown.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Jillian Cavanaugh of Belchertown, left, Kiley Baran of Granby, and another Belchertown player reach for a rebound Thursday in Belchertown.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Briannah Mercier of Granby, right, reaches in as Kelsey Shea of Belchertown comes down with a rebound Thursday in Belchertown.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Tea Spellacy of Belchertown, right, passes as Brooke Labrie of Granby defends Thursday in Belchertown.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Marissa Kopacz of Belchertown, left, and Briannah Mercier of Granby reach for a rebound beside Jillian Cavanaugh of Belchertown Thursday in Belchertown.JERREY ROBERTS
  • Casey Emelio of Granby, center, shoots between Belchertown defenders Marissa Kopacz, left, and Jillian Cavanaugh Thursday in Belchertown.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Meghan Sullivan of Granby goes to the basket between Belchertown defenders Jillian Lund, top, and Tea Spellacy Thursday in Belchertown.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Briannah Mercier of Granby, right, drives between Belchertown defenders Marissa Kopacz, top, and Jillian Lund Thursday in Belchertown.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Tara Mikalchus of Granby, right, keeps the ball from Belchertown defenders Jillian Cavanaugh, left, and Jessica Zalucki Thursday in Belchertown.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Meghan Sullivan of Granby, top, drives to the basket against Tea Spellacy of Belchertown Thursday in Belchertown.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Rebecca Sapoukey of Granby, center, reaches for a rebound beside teammate Briannah Mercier, front right, and Belchertown defenders Jillian Cavanaugh, top, and Marissa Kopacz Thursday in Belchertown.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Tea Spellacy of Belchertown, front, goes to the basket against Noelle Menard of Granby Thursday in Belchertown.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

BELCHERTOWN — Having lost two games in a row, the Granby girls basketball team made sure in the early minutes Thursday night that short skid would come to an end.

The Rams jumped out to a 10-point lead in the first three minutes and rode a suffocating defense the rest of the way to earn a 38-31 victory over Belchertown.

“It was certainly key for us to get back on track,” sophomore guard Meghan Sullivan said. “Belchertown’s a very good Division 2 team, so it’s a good test for us and always nice to come out on top. I think we’re in good shape as a team, we’re working as hard as we can to get ready for the tournament.”

Sullivan used her slashing ability to lead all scorers with 17 points, including three quick baskets at the start. Two of those three hoops came directly off steals caused by Granby’s full-court pressure.

“We wanted to push them hard and get some early baskets, and it worked,” said Sullivan, who also had five steals. “On the offensive end, we’re looking to drive more. We think we maybe pass it around too much and that slows us down.”

The Orioles (8-4) endured a difficult night on the offensive end and trailed by as many as 14 points twice in the second half, but a Téa Spellacy hoop closed the deficit to 36-29 with just over a minute left.

After a Granby miss, Spellacy had a good look at a pull-up 3-pointer from the right wing that would have cut it to four, but the shot rimmed out and the Rams closed it out at the free-throw line.

“We left a lot of points on the court, but we’re focusing on the positive,” said Belchertown coach Jason Woodcock. “We spotted them 10 points in the first few minutes and couldn’t overcome our poor start. From that point on we outscored them and allowed only 28 points over the final 29 minutes, so we showed we can play some defense. But an off shooting night and too many turnovers equals a loss to a good team.”

Spellacy finished with a team-best 14 points, including 10 in the second half.

“We knew that (Spellacy) is probably their best offensive threat, so trying to limit her was extremely important to winning the game,” Sullivan said. “And having Rebecca (Sapoukey) there in the middle certainly helps out our team defense. We’re not a tall team in general, but she takes away a lot of the inside.”

Kelsey Shea scored nine points and grabbed a team-high nine rebounds for Belchertown. Seven of her nine points came in the second half when the Orioles outscored the Rams 19-16.

“We seem to get off to good starts lately, then not play as well through the middle parts of games,” said Granby coach Tom Burke. “At the ends of games, we’re also making some questionable decisions. We always seem to throw in a quarter where we don’t score. But Belchertown is a tough defensive team and they threw some man at us, which we didn’t expect. I don’t remember them playing that in years.”

At halftime, Belchertown switched from a zone look to man-to-man, which was effective in holding Granby to just four points in the final quarter.

“The switch to man worked well for us,” said Woodcock. “We talked about doing that earlier, but defense wasn’t our problem. We made some bad passes early that led to their transition hoops. And when we started to break the press, we were slow to make that final pass for an easy basket. Both teams played hard. Granby deserves credit, they managed the game well.”

Jillian Cavanaugh (two points, eight rebounds) and Marissa Kopacz (four points, six rebounds) limited Sapoukey to just four points, but the Orioles struggled to produce any offense in the paint.

“Sapoukey’s a tough matchup down low, especially on defense,” said Woodcock. “She wares on you, tires you out. But Marissa did a really good job on her when Granby had the ball. She, Jill Cavanaugh and Kelsey Shea all have had a part recently in limiting some of the best inside threats in the area.”

Following Sullivan’s final basket early in the fourth, the Orioles went on a 7-0 run to pull within 36-29. Belchertown though couldn’t get enough shots to fall down the stretch to seriously challenge.

“Our defense keeps us in every game, that’s always the case for us,” Burke said. “I tell the girls to hold the opponent under 40 and that should be enough to win. We don’t score a ton, but we should get over 40.”

Burke credited junior Tara Mikalchus for providing key minutes off the bench.

“Tara did a solid job guarding Spellacy, who’s a tough player to defend,” he said. “We had some tired legs, so her performance was very important. Overall I was very pleased with our defensive effort.”

Brie Mercier added six points and Brooke Labrie had five assist for the Rams, who lost 39-38 to South Hadley last Friday at the HoopHall Classic and were defeated by Sabis 48-41 at home on Tuesday.

“We played three really tough games in a week’s time,” said Burke. “I keep telling them that we have to get better, especially in close and late situations. We’re going to play tight games in the tournament, so we want to be playing our best at that point. And our league games should help us because we’ll see those situations.”

Michael Wilkinson can be reached at mwilkinson@gazettenet.com.

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