South Hadley girls basketball outruns Hampshire Regional despite Sophie Gatzounas fouling out

Published: 1/20/2017 11:08:02 PM

SOUTH HADLEY — Sophie Gatzounas covered her mouth with both hands, her eyelids wide with disbelief.

She’d never, to her recollection, fouled out in a high school basketball game. That changed Friday for the South Hadley girls basketball senior. A charging foul gave her five for the game, and she needed to sit out with 4 minutes, 52 seconds left.

It couldn’t have occurred at much worse a time. The Tigers led Hampshire Regional by five and were battling a Raiders team intent on taking the lead.

They never could.

“I think, unfortunately, they thought when she fouled out it was going to happen for us,” Hampshire coach Amy Cyr said. “We still needed to work for it.”

South Hadley responded with two free throws by Mia Kelly and a banked-in 3-pointer from Marley Medina to quell the drama. The Tigers held on for a 71-57 win, their 11th straight to start the season.

“I never doubted it. I was a little scared because that had never happened to me. I knew it was a very tight game,” Gatzounas said. “I trust my teammates. My teammates will go to war for me, I’ll go to war for them.”

Gatzounas led South Hadley (11-0, 2-0 Central) with 24 points despite not playing the game’s final 4:32.

Those minutes belonged to Kelly and Abby Edge. Edge had eight points, including seven in the fourth quarter. Kelly scored all nine of her points in the fourth, returning to the starting lineup after missing time following an ankle injury against Hoosac Valley.

“When (Gatzounas) was out, I had to try and take on more responsibility because she’s our star player, and when she’s out we all need to step up,” Kelly said.

Hampshire (8-3, 0-1 Central) lost momentum when its leading scorer sat with foul trouble.

The Raiders had cut a 16-point second-quarter deficit to 47-46 on two free throws by Katy O’Connor with 6:44 left. O’Connor, who had 32 points and 18 rebounds, picked up her fourth foul 13 seconds later.

Bella Earle made two free throws to stretch the lead to 49-46. While O’Connor was out, Hampshire missed the front end of a one-and-one and turned the ball over. She came back in after the turnover.

Gatzounas’ disqualification provided an opportunity for the Raiders, but the Tigers’ press took it away.

“It’s going to eventually wear because physically and mentally they have to be able to do it. We’re going to be able to press the whole time whether we’re in foul trouble or not,” South Hadley coach Paul Dubuc said. “These kids are ready.”

The Tigers press also built their lead in the second quarter. They stretched an 18-15 lead after the first intermission to 43-30 at halftime. Gatzounas scored 13 points in the second quarter alone.

“Our press worked really well. We were talking on defense, we were playing Tiger basketball,” Gatzounas said.

The Tigers had seven players score at least six points each. Hampshire had four players on the board. Caroline O’Connor had 12 points, while Katelyn Pickunka put in 11.

Turnovers became a problem once the pace of the game reached South Hadley’s blistering comfort zone.

“I think we are a team that likes to run, unfortunately they did it better than us,” Cyr said.

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at

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