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Elizabeth Whitney falls short of 1,000-point milestone

  • Easthampton's Ali Dabek, left, battles Caitlin Muzzy of Athol for a loose ball Friday night at their matchup in Easthampton.

    Easthampton's Ali Dabek, left, battles Caitlin Muzzy of Athol for a loose ball Friday night at their matchup in Easthampton. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Easthampton Girl's Basketball coach Jay Fortier rallies his team during a timeout Friday night in their matchup against Athol in Easthampton.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS

    Easthampton Girl's Basketball coach Jay Fortier rallies his team during a timeout Friday night in their matchup against Athol in Easthampton.
    JOSH KUCKENS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Easthampton's Courtney Urban (R) breaks away from trouble Friday against visiting Athol.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS

    Easthampton's Courtney Urban (R) breaks away from trouble Friday against visiting Athol.
    JOSH KUCKENS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Easthampton Girl's Basketball coach Jay Fortier rallies his team during a timeout Friday night in their matchup against Athol in Easthampton.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS<br/>

    Easthampton Girl's Basketball coach Jay Fortier rallies his team during a timeout Friday night in their matchup against Athol in Easthampton.
    JOSH KUCKENS
    Purchase photo reprints »

  • Easthampton's Ali Dabek, left, battles Caitlin Muzzy of Athol for a loose ball Friday night at their matchup in Easthampton.
  • Easthampton Girl's Basketball coach Jay Fortier rallies his team during a timeout Friday night in their matchup against Athol in Easthampton.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS
  • Easthampton's Courtney Urban (R) breaks away from trouble Friday against visiting Athol.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS
  • Easthampton Girl's Basketball coach Jay Fortier rallies his team during a timeout Friday night in their matchup against Athol in Easthampton.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS<br/>

EASTHAMPTON — Easthampton senior Elizabeth Whitney entered Friday night’s girls basketball game within reach of the career 1,000-point milestone, but it was her namesake and opponent at center who led visiting Athol to a 48-35 victory.

In a contest revolving around the matchup in the middle, Athol’s Alexa Whitney outscored Elizabeth Whitney 16-11 and spearheaded a dominant defensive performance by the Red Raiders.

“Athol’s one of the best Division 2 teams in the area, so to play them within four of five points most of the game is pretty good. That really wasn’t a 13-point game,” said Easthampton coach Jay Fortier. “I honestly didn’t think we’d be really competitive early in the season because we had holes to fill from the graduated players. We don’t have a point guard yet, which we knew would be an issue. But we’ll get there, we’re going to be fine.”

Needing 26 points going into Friday, Whitney is now 15 away with Easthampton’s next game at home Monday night at 7 against Turners Falls. In the first two games of the season, Whitney scored 29 and 21 points in Eagles’ wins.

“It’s good for us to have a couple home games back-to-back,” said Easthampton coach Jay Fortier. “She should be able to get there Monday night.”

Whitney dealt directly with starting starter Alexa Whitney, then backup center Julia Salmond off the bench. Both players matched up physically and limited Elizabeth Whitney’s effectiveness on the offensive end. On every touch, she was met by a triple-team of help defenders.

“She sees that every night, and this was a pretty physical game,” said Fortier. “But we’re used to it, that’s what happens when you have such a good player.”

Athol (3-0) outscored the Eagles 27-14 over the final quarter-and-a-half to break open a 21-21 deadlock midway through the third. Six different players scored points over that stretch, with Caitlin Muzzy hitting a pair of key 3-pointers. The first gave the Red Raiders the lead for good at 24-21, the second extended their advantage into double digits at 40-30 roughly midway through the fourth.

Easthampton (2-1) held the lead twice and only once after Whitney made a pair of free throws for the first two points of the game. Athol scored 10 consecutive points and led 10-4 after one quarter.

The Eagles responded with a 9-0 run of their own over a five-minute stretch. Kelly Avard hit her first shot with just under six minutes left in the half to make it 11-10 in favor of Easthampton.

The offense ran through Whitney most of the game, and the Eagles started to get some rhythm when Whitney found open teammates on the weak side. But Athol quickly adjusted.

“As soon as we saw the schedule, we knew this would be a tough one but a good early season test,” said Fortier. “I thought we defended well, and in streaks we looked OK on offense. But for too much of the night we just couldn’t get into our offense.”

Avard and Dabek finished with eight points apiece. Avard’s putback layup after an offensive rebound made it 21-19 early in the second half, then Courtney Urban knocked down a jumper to even things at 21-21.

Elizabeth Whitney’s final basket and a 3-pointer from Kristen Windoloski brought the Eagles to within 40-35 with a few minutes left, but Alexa Whitney scored the final eight points to put it away for Athol.

Elizabeth Whitney finished with 11 points, 12 rebounds and five assists.

As part of the pregame festivities for the Eagles home opener, the senior members of last season’s Franklin South champions helped Fortier unveil the league championship banner.

“That was cool for them to come back from school and be here for that,” said Fortier. “They didn’t have to do that, so that’s a nice moment.”

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

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