Belchertown wins overtime thriller, beating defending champ Longmeadow in Division 2 girls semifinal



Last modified: Friday, April 03, 2015

AMHERST — On Tuesday, Belchertown girls basketball players sat tucked into the stands of the Curry Hicks Cage at UMass.

The Orioles were on a scouting mission, not of their opponent for Wednesday’s Western Massachusetts Division 2 semifinal game, but for the Cage’s atmosphere and a possible sectional final matchup.

Almost exactly 24 hours after watching the No. 2 Pittsfield girls celebrate a victory on the same court, the fifth-seeded Belchertown team swarmed at center court to celebrate its 75-70 overtime win over No. 1 Longmeadow, the defending sectional champions.

“I love this team and I’m so proud of everyone and how they played,” senior captain Téa Spellacy said. “We came this far and we’re playing the No. 1 seed and we are in the game. I knew we could pull it off. We played with way more heart and intensity I think than they did.”

Belchertown (14-8) will take on Pittsfield (19-3) in the Division 2 sectional final at the Cage at 5:45 p.m. Saturday — playing for the school’s first Western Massachusetts basketball title. The defending champion Lancers finished the season at 15-7.

The Lancers’ Kayla Mokwuah hit a layup for the fourth tie of the fourth quarter, 63-63, with 31 seconds left.

With 2 seconds on the clock, Spellacy set up in the right corner and put up a 3 before the buzzer. It hit the glass, then the far edge of the rim and lipped out to force overtime.

“We were like, ‘We came this far, there is no way we are losing this game now,’” Spellacy said of their pre-overtime pep talk. “We just pushed and pushed and just played with a ton of heart to pull off the win.”

Cara McKenzie opened overtime with a quick floater for the Orioles and Spellacy gave Belchertown a 69-65 lead off a steal and breakaway layup with 1 minute, 1 second to go. Kelsey Shea hit two foul shots and Kayla Henry went 4-for-4 from the line in the final minute as the Orioles led 75-67 with 15.7 seconds left. The Lancers’ Olivia Shapiro drained a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from the right corner, but it only cut the deficit.

The Orioles dropped the last four games of the regular season and did not want to just enjoy the first trip to the Cage by the senior class, but make it memorable.

“We’re kind of peaking,” Oriole coach Jay Woodcock said. “We lost four down the stretch all to D-1 tournament teams, but that made us strong. We had a good game last week. This is the best game we’ve played in years. All the credit goes to them. They really rose to the occasion. It was a total team effort.”

A six-point Oriole deficit late in the third was the largest in either direction as strong defense and hot shooting was the name of the game for both sides. Longmeadow quickly took Spellacy out of the Orioles’ offensive game, but sophomore Kayla Henry filled the void with a career-high 22 points and eight assists.

“They were playing pretty good D on me, so I knew it was more an assist kind of game for me,” Spellacy said. “When I’m out of a game, I know I can count on Kayla. She’s great under pressure, she makes the big shots.”

Spellacy entered the game averaging 20.8 points per game and was held to 16 points, and only had six before the fourth quarter and overtime. Jackie Johnson also had 16 points for the Orioles. Shea had 10 rebounds and eight points.

Allison Mishol had a game-high 23 points for the Lancers.

Henry’s presence was felt just as strongly on defense, as she forced Longmeadow turnovers and created stops, while Cara McKenzie, also a sophomore, had an equally well rounded game with eight points, eight blocks and eight boards.

“I just focus mainly defensively because that’s what I’ve been told is my strength because I take up a lot of space,” said McKenzie, who is 6-foot-2. “I had to make sure they didn’t score, so that was my main focus.”

Belchertown took its first lead of the game as Johnson hit a 3-pointer on the left wing to make it 5-4 with 4:56 left in the first. Henry added back-to-back buckets, including a 3 of her own from the same spot off the glass, and followed with a floater, to make it 10-4 with 2:56 to go. Longmeadow closed the quarter on a 6-0 run to take brief lead.

Spellacy corralled a long rebound and drove to the basket for her first points of the game to open the second. McKenzie followed with a floater to give the Orioles a 14-11 lead with 7:10 on the clock in the half.

The two sides traded buckets and the lead until a McKenzie floater made it 27-24 with 37.3 seconds left, which held until the buzzer.

The third quarter opened quickly with eight alternating scores in the first 2:16. A layup by Spellacy capped the neck-and-neck sprint to make it 36-31, before the Lancers took over. Longmeadow went on an 11-0 run over the next 5 minutes. Spellacy hit a floater from the left side to end the quarter with Belchertown trailing 42-38.

Henry opened the fourth with a 3 from the top of the key. After a Lancer miss, she grabbed the long rebound and sprinted down court. Mishol followed and made a hard block, throwing Henry into the hoop’s base, and was called for a intentional foul. Henry hit the second of two free throws and off the ensuing inbound, drained a 3 from the left wing for a 45-42 lead with 7:04 left in regulation.

“It hurt at first but I shook it off. I was just wide open and I knew I had to shoot it. I just put it up and it went in,” Henry said.

The Orioles maintained the lead until Mishol hit a floater and knotted the game, 57-57, with 2:40 left. The game was tied twice more, including 63-63 at the end of regulation.

“I did nothing,” Woodcock said. “I did nothing. I didn’t make a basket. I didn’t play defense. The girls were incredible tonight. ... No Belchertown basketball team, boys or girls, has ever won Western Mass., which is kind of amazing.

“We live in a soccer town. We win soccer (titles) every other (year), you know. It’d be nice to do that. We know we are going to have our hands full with Pittsfield, but we’ll take our best shot.”

Sarah Moomaw can be reached at smoomaw@gazettenet.com.



Belchertown 75, Longmeadow 70 (OT)

Orioles (14-8)

Jopson 0-1-1, Henry 6-6-22, Johnson 5-2-16, Birks 0-0-0, McKenzie 4-0-8, Cavanaugh 2-0-4, Spellacy 7-1-16, Shea 3-2-8. Totals: 27-12-75.

Lancers (15-7)

Barrett 1-0-2, Mishol 9-3-23, Shapiro 3-1-9, Mokwuah 5-2-12, Robin 2-4-9, Shubrick 3-7-13, Fydenkevez 1-0-2. Totals: 24-17-70

Belchertown 10 17 11 25 12—75

Longmeadow 11 12 19 21 7—70

3-pointers: Belchertown 9 (Henry 4, Johnson 4, Spellacy), Longmeadow 5 (Mishol 2, Shapiro 2, Robin)


 

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