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Lee too strong for Granby girls in basketball semifinals

  • Granby players Noelle Menard, from left, Briannah Mercier, Meghan Sullivan and Tara Mikalchus endure their loss to Lee during the final minute of their game in the Division 3 Western Massachusetts semifinal Tuesday at Curry Hicks Cage.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Granby players Noelle Menard, from left, Briannah Mercier, Meghan Sullivan and Tara Mikalchus endure their loss to Lee during the final minute of their game in the Division 3 Western Massachusetts semifinal Tuesday at Curry Hicks Cage.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Rebecca Sapoukey of Granby, top left, shoots amid Lee defenders Tuesday at Curry Hicks Cage.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Rebecca Sapoukey of Granby, top left, shoots amid Lee defenders Tuesday at Curry Hicks Cage.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Meghan Sullivan of Granby, center splits Lee defenders Stephanie Young, left, and Megan Gaul Tuesday at Curry Hicks Cage.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Meghan Sullivan of Granby, center splits Lee defenders Stephanie Young, left, and Megan Gaul Tuesday at Curry Hicks Cage.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Briannah Mercier of Granby, left, shoots against Hadley Cook of Lee Tuesday at Curry Hicks Cage.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Briannah Mercier of Granby, left, shoots against Hadley Cook of Lee Tuesday at Curry Hicks Cage.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Noelle Menard of Granby, front, drives to the basket against Courtney Picard of Lee Tuesday at Curry Hicks Cage.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Noelle Menard of Granby, front, drives to the basket against Courtney Picard of Lee Tuesday at Curry Hicks Cage.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Brooke Labrie of Granby, front, drives to the basket beside Meghan Cook of Lee Tuesday at Curry Hicks Cage.JERREY ROBERTS

    Brooke Labrie of Granby, front, drives to the basket beside Meghan Cook of Lee Tuesday at Curry Hicks Cage.JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Granby players Noelle Menard, from left, Briannah Mercier, Meghan Sullivan and Tara Mikalchus endure their loss to Lee during the final minute of their game in the Division 3 Western Massachusetts semifinal Tuesday at Curry Hicks Cage.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Rebecca Sapoukey of Granby, top left, shoots amid Lee defenders Tuesday at Curry Hicks Cage.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Meghan Sullivan of Granby, center splits Lee defenders Stephanie Young, left, and Megan Gaul Tuesday at Curry Hicks Cage.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Briannah Mercier of Granby, left, shoots against Hadley Cook of Lee Tuesday at Curry Hicks Cage.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Noelle Menard of Granby, front, drives to the basket against Courtney Picard of Lee Tuesday at Curry Hicks Cage.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Brooke Labrie of Granby, front, drives to the basket beside Meghan Cook of Lee Tuesday at Curry Hicks Cage.JERREY ROBERTS

AMHERST — The initial possession of the fourth quarter summed up Tuesday’s Western Massachusetts Division 3 semifinal for the Granby girls basketball team.

A strong defensive series by the Rams led to an inbounds play by Lee with just four seconds remaining on the shot clock. Stephanie Young received the inbounds pass well beyond the 3-point line and buried the shot as the buzzer sounded.

“It seemed like she took that shot halfway between the 3-point line and half court,” Granby coach Tom Burke said. “Those types of plays are beyond your control, and my hat’s off to Lee. They shot the ball so well.”

The Rams were the latest team to run into the Lee girls basketball machine in a 70-56 loss at the Curry Hicks Cage.

Young, the Wildcats star senior forward, scored 30 points after having just two in the first quarter. She poured in 20 in the second half as Lee steadily pulled away.

“It’s so hard to keep her down,” Burke said. “We’ve played man defense all season, so I thought she’d try to post up a little more. But she shot the ball very well, as did their entire team.

“Our defense wasn’t bad at all,” he added. “It was a 3-point game at the half, right where we wanted to be, but they made a ton of shots in the second half.”

No. 3 Granby (18-4), playing at the Cage for the first time since 2009, was not at all intimidated by the big stage and raced out to an early 14-9 advantage. However, the lead was short-lived as the Wildcats closed the first on a 9-0 run to go up 18-14.

“I told the girls that we were beaten by a better team,” Burke said. “Our girls played fairly well overall, but it turned into their type of game and we had to play a running style. We aren’t used to that pace.”

Senior guard Brooke Labrie scored a team-high 15 points for Granby. She also had three steals and a pair of assists.

“It’s a great experience (to play at the Cage). I’m glad I got this opportunity my senior year,” Labrie said. “We played our very best, so we’re not too disappointed. They made all their shots and we tried to keep up, but we just couldn’t make enough to stay with them.”

No. 2 Lee (17-5) advanced to the sectional title game for the 11th time in 12 years after losing in last season’s semifinals. The Wildcats can win their fifth championship in six years at the Cage at 10:45 a.m. Saturday against either top-seeded Sabis (22-1) or No. 4 Lenox (14-8). That semifinal is at 5 p.m. today at the Cage.

The Rams saw the contest slip away in the third quarter, especially over the final few minutes. After a Rebecca Sapouckey basket drew Granby within 39-32, Lee outscored the Rams 15-5 to take a 17-point advantage into the final eight minutes.

Senior point guard Eileen Dooley picked up the scoring slack for the Wildcats in the first. She had 10 of her 20 points before Young cracked the scoreboard at the tail end of the opening quarter.

“I hadn’t played against (Dooley) in a couple years, so I really wasn’t aware of how good a shooter she turned out to be,” Labrie said. “We had to devote enough attention to her that it opened things up for the rest of them. It’s hard to help (against Young) when all their players can hit shots.”

The Rams pulled to within a point on three separate occasions in the second quarter but could never regain the lead. After halftime, Young took full command of the game as she scored 12 in the third and eight more in the fourth.

With junior forward Tara Mikalchus unable to play because of a shoulder injury, Burke brought just two players off the bench. A solid defender, Mikalchus would have been an option to guard Young.

Granby fought to the final buzzer and got to within 65-53 on Labrie’s second 3-pointer of the fourth with 1:22 left. Following a Granby steal, Young blocked Meghan Sullivan’s 3-point attempt to seal the victory.

Sullivan had a solid all-around game for the Rams, finishing with 13 points, eight rebounds, four assists and two steals. Sapouckey scored 11 points and Brie Mercier added 10.

Standout center Sapouckey, who saw a constant double-team for the entire game, scored just a pair of field goals

“We tried to get it down low, it just wasn’t available,” Burke said. “In the second half, we went with four outside and one inside to try to open it up. Maybe we tried a little too hard early to get the ball to Rebecca.”

It was the final high school game for Granby seniors Labrie, Mercier, Noelle Menard and Melissa L’Heureux.

“Every year this group has gotten a little better and the team got a little farther,” Burke said. “I told my younger players to take the example from these seniors. I can’t say enough about them, they’ve accomplished so much in all the sports they play. This season was very enjoyable for us, and getting to the Cage is great.”

Labrie said, “This is my favorite team I’ve ever been on. We get along so well. It’s hard to leave the program, but I think they’ll do great in the future.”

Michael Wilkinson can be reached at mwilkinson@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter@mjwilk1237.

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