Northampton seniors put away Amherst Regional

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  • Northampton senior guard Jill McGrath, left, watches a pass sent by Amherst freshman guard Daizany Mares, right, in the first half of the Blue Devils' 57-48 win over the Hurricanes on Friday, Feb. 14, 2020, in Northampton. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton senior guard Jill McGrath, left, protects the ball from Amherst freshman forward Sara Hastie in the first half of the Blue Devils' 57-48 win over the Hurricanes on Friday, Feb. 14, 2020, in Northampton. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton's Caroline Tanner, left, drives the lane past Petua Mukimba of Amherst in the first half of the Blue Devils' 57-48 win over the Hurricanes on Friday, Feb. 14, 2020, in Northampton. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton coach Perry Messer, squatting center, watches his senior guard Emily Sledzieski, foreground right, and Amherst junior guard Mayouri Yath chase a loose ball in the first half of the Blue Devils' 57-48 win over the Hurricanes on Friday, Feb. 14, 2020, in Northampton. Amherst coach Ralph Loos is at left, foreground. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton senior guard Amanda Mieczkowski, left, gets around a press by Amherst freshman guard Daizany Mares in the first half of the Blue Devils' 57-48 win over the Hurricanes on Friday, Feb. 14, 2020, in Northampton. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Amherst junior Petua Mukimba, left, defends Northampton freshman Chloe Denhart in the first half of the Hurricanes' 57-48 loss to the Blue Devils on Friday, Feb. 14, 2020, in Northampton. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton senior guard Emily Sledzieski, left, is pressed by Amherst freshman guard Tessa Kawal in the first half of the Blue Devils' 57-48 win over the Hurricanes on Friday, Feb. 14, 2020, in Northampton. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 2/14/2020 11:05:15 PM
Modified: 2/14/2020 11:05:02 PM

NORTHAMPTON — The test: a tight rivalry girls basketball game in front of a large, vocal crowd.

Northampton’s seniors passed because they’ve taken it many times before. Amherst Regional’s underclassmen studied in a valuable environment.

The Blue Devils used a 17-3 run around halftime to put the Hurricanes away, 57-48, on Friday.

“We began to run in transition really well,” Northampton senior Amanda Mieczkowski said. “I think that got them a little tired.”

Amherst’s Aubrey Bowen hit a free throw to tie the game at 19 with 4 minutes, 40 seconds to halftime. The Hurricanes (14-5) didn’t score again until a Petua Mukimba layup 2:50 into the second half.

In the interim, Northampton sophomore Riley Allen converted a layup off a laser feed from Mieczkowski to go up 22-19. Caroline Tanner and Olivia Dubuque each added a field goal, and Mieczkowski made a free throw to put the Blue Devils (14-5) up 27-19 at the half, capping an 8-0 run.

“We’re a freshman-based team, for the most part, they’re a senior team. It showed in moments,” Amherst coach Ralph Loos said. “There were moments we got a little ahead of ourselves. Six seniors is a nice luxury.”

Only five of Northampton’s seniors can play after Sydney Lewandowski injured her knee last month, but the remaining five put the game out of reach in the third quarter. Seniors accounted for all 18 of Northampton’s points in the third frame. Emily Sledzieski hit two 3s and added a layup in the first seven minutes of the period.

By the time Mukimba ended the run, Northampton led 37-21.

“Little better execution in the third quarter,” Northampton coach Perry Messer said. “It’s tough to play on senior night, a lot of emotions, a lot of focus on stuff they’re not used to. It was a little tough to mentally get out of that.”

Mieczkowski, the Blue Devils’ senior point guard, kept her hand on the tiller and her foot on the gas. She scored a game-high 19 points and contributed at least three points in every quarter. She also made Amherst’s No. 1 option Erin Klaes a minimal factor. Klaes put the game’s first points on the board with a steal and an and-one layup, but Mieczkowski kept her off the board until 1:12 left in the third quarter. She finished with five points.

Northampton pushed the lead to 20 in the fourth quarter after Dubuque sank a layup off an inbounds play to go up 51-31. Amherst could have folded and let the score balloon completely out of control. Instead, the Hurricanes reined Northampton back in behind Bowen (nine points) and Mukimba (17 points). They combined for 13 of Amherst’s 21 points in the fourth quarter.

The Hurricanes outscored Northampton by nine in the final frame and cut the deficit to 10 when a Bowen free throw made it 51-41 with 2:24 left.

“You’re mostly freshmen competing in a tough environment, senior night with a loud crowd and intimidating coach, and they fought to the end,” Loos said. “One or two shots fall at the end there, and it’s a different ball game.”

Northampton never let Amherst cut the deficit to single digits until a Bowen heave at the buzzer made a 12-point margin nine for the scorebook.

“A lot of the stuff happened at the end of the game was mental,” Messer said. “Little bit of being tired, little bit of not focusing.”

Both teams have one game remaining on Tuesday before the postseason. Northampton travels to Longmeadow, while Amherst visits Palmer. They could see each other again in the Division 2 tournament. There are seven teams currently qualified, while Pittsfield has nine wins and two games left.

“Any tournament-style games, that’s what you’re looking for,” Loos said.

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.



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