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Maya Kerstetter’s buzzer-beater lifts Northampton in quarterfinals

  • Anna Moore of Northampton, middle, fights for a rebound against Rachel Hunt of Pittsfield, front, during the Western Massachusetts basketball quarterfinals held at Northampton High School on Friday, March 1, 2013. <br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Anna Moore of Northampton, middle, fights for a rebound against Rachel Hunt of Pittsfield, front, during the Western Massachusetts basketball quarterfinals held at Northampton High School on Friday, March 1, 2013.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Anna Walther of Northampton, center, moves the ball down the court during the Western Massachusetts basketball quarterfinals held at Northampton High School on Friday, March 1, 2013. <br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Anna Walther of Northampton, center, moves the ball down the court during the Western Massachusetts basketball quarterfinals held at Northampton High School on Friday, March 1, 2013.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • The crowd cheers after Northampton defeated Pittsfield at the Western Massachusetts quarterfinals game held at Northampton High School on Friday, March 1, 2013. <br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    The crowd cheers after Northampton defeated Pittsfield at the Western Massachusetts quarterfinals game held at Northampton High School on Friday, March 1, 2013.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Anna Moore of Northampton, middle, fights for a rebound against Rachel Hunt of Pittsfield, front, during the Western Massachusetts basketball quarterfinals held at Northampton High School on Friday, March 1, 2013. <br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Anna Walther of Northampton, center, moves the ball down the court during the Western Massachusetts basketball quarterfinals held at Northampton High School on Friday, March 1, 2013. <br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • The crowd cheers after Northampton defeated Pittsfield at the Western Massachusetts quarterfinals game held at Northampton High School on Friday, March 1, 2013. <br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

NORTHAMPTON — Maya Kerstetter capped the best game of her basketball life with the biggest shot of her career.

The Northampton junior knocked down a 10-foot jumper from the left baseline with 1.7 seconds left to lift the Blue Devils to a 48-46 win over Pittsfield in the Western Massachusetts Division 1 Tournament quarterfinals Friday.

“I was feeling pretty confident in my shot,” she said. “I can’t say anything was going through my mind. I just let it go and it went in. I was just ecstatic.”

Kerstetter finished with a career-high 25 points to go with 12 rebounds and eight steals as the No. 1 Blue Devils (17-4) completed a furious fourth-quarter comeback at home.

“She played super,” coach Perry Messer said. “She kept us in the game because she took those mid-range shots. She’s been trying to take everything all the way to the basket and we keep talking about knocking down the 3, knocking down the 18-footer. Open the game up a little bit.

“She trusted herself, started hitting those elbow jumpers and then got herself to the free-throw line, too.”

Kerstetter scored nine of her points in the fourth, as the Blue Devils finished on a 16-2 run to win the game.

“We never stopped believing,” Kerstetter said. “There was never a doubt in my mind that we would come back.”

The Blue Devils play No. 4 Central (14-7) in the semifinals at American International College in Springfield on Tuesday at 8 p.m. The Golden Eagles defeated No. 5 West Springfield 46-35 Friday.

The quarterfinal win was the first tourney victory for the Blue Devils since 2009. They missed the tournament in 2010 and were ousted in the quarterfinals by Amherst in each of the past two seasons.

“I thought the hardest thing for us would be getting that first win,” said Messer, who didn’t have a player on the roster with a tourney victory before Friday. “I don’t think we could play any uglier than we did in the first three quarters. We threw the ball all over the court. We stood around and made it easy for them to play up on us. Then we go on the other end and start scrambling and forgetting what our duties are down there.”

No. 9 Pittsfield (14-8) controlled play for the first 27 minutes, 27 seconds and led 44-32 when Trinity Cookis banked in a 3-pointer from the left wing with 4:33 left.

But Northampton turned up the defensive intensity and dominated the glass from that point, which slowed down the Generals’ fast break.

“I don’t think a team in western Mass. plays better defense than we do,” Messer said. “We had times where guys didn’t do that tonight, but Susan (Bell) and Khaila (Ramirez) did a fantastic job on (Pittsfield star guard Courtney) McLaughlin. If she got a shot, she had to work for it.”

After scoring 35 points in a triple overtime win over Agawam on Tuesday, McLaughlin was limited to seven against Northampton.

“I knew I had to do everything I could to keep her from scoring. I had to play her hard, especially forcing her to her left and stay with her,” Bell said of guarding the sharpshooter. “I definitely felt like I had to play her closer than I would most people I would guard on other teams. She’s a really good player. I just had to keep pushing and contain her as much as I could.”

Dominique Satrape (15 points) and Allie Hunt (12) picked up enough offensive slack to allow the General to lead by nine at halftime and 10 heading into the fourth quarter.

But Kerstetter and Anna Walther (14 points) combined for 13 points down the stretch.

Walther went to the line twice in the final 1:22 and made all four attempts, including two with 33.8 seconds left to even the score.

Satrape and McLaughlin each missed a basket on the ensuing possession and Northampton came up with the ball and called timeout with 11.7 seconds left.

The inbound pass was supposed to go to Walther, but defensive pressure forced the Blue Devils to adjust and Bell brought the ball up.

She found Kerstetter on the left baseline, where she knocked down the game winner.

“There’s definitely pressure on me to score,” Kerstetter said. “I knew I had to put up points tonight. But I trust my teammates. Whoever gets the ball has to take the shot and hit it. Tonight, it was my turn.”

Jim Pignatiello can be reached at jpignatiello@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @GazetteHS.

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