Girls basketball: Tessa Kawall, Amherst hold off Wahconah, 47-43 (PHOTOS)

  • Amherst’s Tessa Kawall (25) dribbles down the court on a breakaway against Wahconah in the third quarter Tuesday night in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Amherst’s Tessa Kawall (25) drives to the hoop for a breakaway layup past Wahconah’s Olivia Gamberoni (2) in the third quarter Tuesday night in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Amherst’s Tessa Kawall (25) drives to the hoop over Wahconah’s Anna Doyle (13) in the third quarter Tuesday night in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Amherst’s Audrey Bowen puts up a three-point shot over Wahconah’s Grace Wigington (23) in the fourth quarter Tuesday night in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Amherst’s Audrey Bowen (3), lef, drives the ball against Wahconah’s Emma Belcher (5) in the third quarter Tuesday night in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Amherst’s Audrey Bowen (3) puts up a shot over Wahconah defenders Olivia Gamberoni (2), left, and Olivia Mason (24) in the second quarter Tuesday night in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Amherst’s Tessa Kawall (25) drives to the hoop for a layup defended by Wahconah’s Grace Wigington (23) in the fourth quarter Tuesday night in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Amherst’s Tessa Kawall (25) goes in for a layup over Wahconah defenders Olivia Mason (24) and Emma Belcher (5) in the fourth quarter Tuesday night in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Amherst’s Zola Higham (11), left, puts up a shot over Wahconah defenders Olivia Mason (24) and Emma Belcher (5) in the fourth quarter Tuesday night in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Amherst’s Niyama Adadenoh (13) dishes a pass against Wahconah in the second quarter Tuesday night in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Amherst’s Tessa Kawall (25) goes in for a breakaway layup over Wahconah’s Emma Belcher (5) in the second quarter Tuesday night in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Amherst’s Tessa Kawall (25) takes a three-point shot over Wahconah’s Grace Wigington (23) in the second quarter Tuesday night in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Amherst’s Tessa Kawall (25) drives the ball against Wahconah’s Emma Belcher (5) in the second quarter Tuesday night in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Amherst’s Sara Hastie (33) takes a three-point shot over Wahconah’s Grace Wigington (23) in the third quarter Tuesday night in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 1/24/2023 9:30:17 PM
Modified: 1/24/2023 9:29:51 PM

AMHERST — It wasn’t that long ago that the Wahconah and Amherst girls basketball teams played each other – the two teams had battled just a week prior, where the Hurricanes eked out a 51-49 victory. There was every reason to believe that Tuesday night’s rematch would be another nailbiter, and the top two Suburban League squads didn’t disappoint.

The Hurricanes walked away with a 47-43 win, thanks in part to some strong second quarter play that gave them a five-point lead heading into halftime. That margin proved just enough to hold off any Wahconah comeback efforts.

Tessa Kawall led the Hurricanes’ offensive effort with 21 points, while Olivia Gamberoni put up 26 points for the Warriors. The ‘Canes also limited Wahconah’s Grace Wigington to just 10 points.

It wasn’t Amherst’s best outing – too many turnovers and missed free throws down the stretch marred the team’s fifth consecutive victory. But ultimately, it was the win that counts – everything else can be improved upon later.

“I told the girls not every game is gonna be a work of art. That certainly wasn't, but I thought for the most part down the stretch, we executed pretty well,” Amherst head coach Ralph Loos said. “I think Wigington certainly didn't get too many open looks and that's sort of the goal. She’s a good shooter.”

The first half was a very back and forth contest between both squads. Neither team had more than a three-point lead in the opening frame, and the Warriors held a slim 9-8 edge going into the second.

After a back-and-forth start to the second, the Hurricanes ended the first half on a 9-0 run, including an impressive last second dish from Nany Mares to Audrey Bowen to give the hosts a 23-18 lead at intermission.

“Based off last game, we kind of knew better how to deal with their really strong defense. So we worked on some strategies on how to get around it and knew how to further enforce our strengths in the game,” Kawall said. “Plus, being on home court always feels a bit nicer.” 

Home court has been a big factor for the Hurricanes over the last few seasons – the ‘Canes have dropped just three contests at home over the last four seasons. No team wants to face Amherst on its home turf, and it makes things easier for the players as well. 

“It feels really important,” Kawall said on playing at home. “We feel a lot safer being here and we feel better energy thanks a lot to our amazing fans that come out a lot of games. It feels really great to be here.” 

Kawall’s play was crucial to the Hurricanes’ success, not just because of the number of points she scored, but how she did it. The Canes took a lot of shots on Tuesday that didn’t go down the first time, but if the shot didn’t go in, Kawall was there in the paint to clean up the rebound and put it back for an easy (or not so easy) layup.

“Basically for the three years I’ve had her before this, she’s probably averaged about four to five boards a game. She's averaging 11.6 this year. She has absolutely been a dominant force on the boards,” Loos said on Kawall. “I could not be more proud of the effort that kid has put in. She’s always been a great offensive player, she's always been a freak of an athlete… but every day in practice this year, she's worked her butt off and she rebounds like a demon.”

Down nine heading into the final frame, Wahconah attempted to complete the comeback in the fourth, but the Hurricanes’ defense staved them off late.

It was Amherst’s fifth consecutive victory, and the club will look to extend that streak in its next contest at South Hadley on Friday at 7 p.m.


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