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Granby comeback falls short as Rams lose to Sabis in girls basketball

SPRINGFIELD — A terrific final four minutes wasn’t enough for the Granby girls basketball team to spoil Sabis’ perfect record against western Massachusetts teams Thursday night.

The Rams battled back from an 17-point deficit with 4 minutes, 1 second remain to get within six late, but never got over the hump in a 52-45 loss.

In the comeback effort, “we definitely showed that we can play with them and that we are competitive with them,” said sophomore Meghan Sullivan, whose team has limited the Bulldogs (19-1, 7-0 Bi-County Central) to their two lowest point totals in games against WMass this season. “On a neutral court, things could go either way. We showed a lot of heart.”

Granby fell to Sabis 48-41 at home on Jan. 21. The Bulldogs clinched the league title outright with Thursday’s win.

“We didn’t do as good a job taking care of the ball (Thursday) as we did last time,” Granby coach Tom Burke said. “They do a nice job of turning turnovers into layups and they got a lot of them today.”

Sullivan led Granby with 11 points, seven rebounds, four assists, three blocks and three steals while Brianna Mercier and Rebecca Sapoukey (nine rebounds, four blocks) added nine points each.

Sabis senior guard Jazmine Collins, who is headed to Smith College in the fall, added to her school record career point total with a game-high 21 points. Shyanne Wellington added 15 in the win.

The Rams (15-3, 3-3) trailed 15-12 after the first quarter, but Sabis forced 10 second-quarter turnovers to push the lead to 30-15 late in the first half. Only late baskets by Mercier (a 3-pointer) and Sullivan (a drive through the lane) salvaged a 30-20 contest at halftime.

“We practice against seven (players on the court). That’s the best way to try to simulate what they do on defense,” Burke said of preparing for the Bulldogs’ pressure. “But none of those seven is as fast, quick or big as any of the Sabis players.”

Granby committed 22 turnovers, including six in the third quarter as the Bulldogs pushed their advantage as high as 40-23 with 1:35 left.

“They have so many people who are athletic and long,” Sullivan said. “They make it difficult to make good passes and move the ball the way we usually do.”

Over the first 6:38 of the second half, the Rams managed just a Noelle Menard 12-footer from the baseline. They finally settled down enough in the fourth quarter to make things interesting down the stretch.

The Granby defense turned the tables on Sabis, caused eight fourth-quarter turnovers and found a rhythm on offense.

“If we don’t turn it over and give them layups, we can play good defense against them,” Burke said. “Our half-court defense did well. We were making them use up a lot of the shot clock and then, a lot of the time, having to settle for a tough shot before the clock ran out.”

Trailing 47-30 midway through the fourth, Casey Imelio and Sullivan scored on consecutive fast breaks. Brooke Labrie then drew a foul and made both free throws for a 47-36 deficit with 3:04 left.

After another Sabis turnover, Kate Sullivan made her second 3-pointer of the game from the left wing to cap a 9-0 run and force a Bulldog timeout.

Sabis’ Kelsie Jacobs then made a deep jumper as the shot clock ran out to end the run and push the lead back to 10 at 49-39.

Granby kept coming, however, as Labrie made a free throw, and Sullivan grabbed a defensive rebound and went coast-to-coast for a layup with 1:18 left.

Bulldogs center Casie Thurber made a pair of free throws to push the lead to nine, but Sapoukey knocked down a 3-pointer for a six-point deficit with 37.5 seconds left. Wellington responded with a free throw on the ensuing possession and Granby couldn’t score again.

“We got better moving the ball as the game went on,” Burke said. Before the late run, “I told the kids we would see Sabis again (in the postseason) and that we wanted to keep fighting all game. The kids responded well and fought hard all the way.”

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

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