Nashoba’s Season Ends in State Semifinals
SPRINGFIELD -- It’s not how you start; it’s how you finish.
Well, unless the start is so rough that there’s no coming back.
Central Mass. champion Nashoba Regional fell squarely into that scenario Wednesday night, struggling mightily against a buzzsaw in Western Mass. champion Northampton in a state tournament Division 2 girls’ basketball semifinal. In the end, the Blue Devils advanced to the state final, topping the Chieftains 56-43 on the campus of American International College.
Northampton (19-4) will face Pentucket on Saturday for the D2 crown, with a time and site in Worcester yet to be determined.
Nashoba’s season comes to a close with a record of 21-4.
“Credit to Northampton; they came out and wanted it. They were after every loose ball, they were physical with us and they executed a game plan,” said Nashoba head coach Tina Seabury, whose team found some success down the stretch with its press after scoring just a dozen points in the opening 16 minutes. “It’s a credit to them. They’re a good team and they deserved it tonight.
“Shots just weren’t falling tonight. The game plan was there, but it just wasn’t our night.”
Caylie McMahon led the way for the Chieftains with 13 points, while Abby McNulty added 12 points in the loss.
Tied at 8 after the first quarter, things fell apart for the Chieftains, who missed myriad layups and struggled against Northampton’s quick and aggressive defense. Open looks were rare for Nashoba and nothing came easy.
“We had a game plan and wanted to go backdoor, but they came up on us and were physical,” Seabury said. “We got in foul trouble early when we fell behind and that limited us in what we could do.”
Northampton held a 12-10 advantage when it embarked on an 8-0 run over a 1:41 span in the second to take control. Amanda Mieczkowski (game-high 21 points) drained a 3 before Kolbie Jones (7 points) converted an old-fashioned three-point play and Caroline Tanner sunk a pair from the free-throw line.
By the break, the Blue Devils held a 23-12 lead.
Nashoba had cut the lead to 10 with 2:45 left in the third following an Abby McNulty jumper, but Riley Allen (9 points) answered with a 3-pointer and Tanner followed with an offensive rebound and putback to push the lead to 36-19.
“We had to look to make one basket at a time, play good defense and make stops, but unfortunately, we just couldn’t chip away,” Nashoba senior Julia Roth said.
Even with some successful pressure in the fourth quarter, the Chieftains struggled to drain shots and Northampton cruised to the win. Four straight points from Alexis Richard (8 points) cut the Northampton lead to 10 with 5:30 left in the fourth, the Blue Devils had an answer as Mieczkowski drove to the hoop to push the advantage to 40-28.
Time and time again, Mieczkowski came through with big buckets for Northampton, scoring 11 points in the final eight minutes.
Follow Nick Mallard on Twitter @n_mallard.