NORTH ADAMS, Mass. -- It's been seven years since the Drury girls' basketball team last defeated Lee. On Thursday night, Stephanie Young made the Blue Devils wait a little bit longer.
The Wildcats senior took complete control of her team's offense in the fourth quarter, scoring 13 of Lee's 15 points in the final frame. She saved her best for last, swishing a step-back 3-pointer from the left corner as time expired to give the Wildcats a 38-35 win in the first round of the Gene Wein Holiday Tournament.
Young, who surpassed the 1,000-point mark in Lee's first game of the season on Monday, showed why she's one of the premier players in Western Mass. In a game featuring two very good, aggressive defenses, she was the only player that truly found her way on the offensive end. She scored her team's last six baskets of the game, including scoring off of a putback with 36 seconds remaining to tie the game at 35 all.
Drury (1-1) had a chance to take the lead, but senior Shannon Garvey was off the mark on a jumper in the paint. Young missed on her first attempt on the Wildcats' final possession, but Hadley Cook grabbed the weak-side rebound before her putback attempt was blocked out of bounds. With just three seconds left on the clock, Young passed the ball in from the left corner and got the it back from behind the 3-point line. She rose up and hit nothing but net to cap off her 27-point, 13-rebound night and allow Lee (2-0) to run off the court with the win.
"We tried to faceguard her and make sure she didn't get the ball, but she got herself open," Blue Devils forward Ali Tatro said. "She's a good player, so we just have to make sure we play tough every time. She made a good play."
Tatro made a few good plays herself throughout the game, leading Drury with 10 points, 11 rebounds and five steals. She was clutch from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter, going 6-for-6 from the line, the last two of which gave the hosts their final lead of the game with 53 seconds left to play. Although Young stole the show at the end, the Blue Devils made some solid plays down the stretch after being down four points with a little more than three minutes to play. After a Drury timeout, junior Megan Benoit (nine points) hit a clutch jumper from the right corner with two minutes left in the game to tie the score at 33 points apiece.
"I thought we had great possessions at the end," Devils head coach John Franzoni said. "Megan hit the shot to tie it up. Ali got fouled and made two free throws. It looked like things were in our favor, but we just couldn't get that last big basket. We got a decent look out of the out-of-bounds play, but it just didn't fall."
Early on, it looked as if this was the game where Drury would finally snap its winless streak against the perennially-tough Wildcats. The Blue Devils' defense was locked in from the start, forcing the visitors into four turnovers in the first quarter as Franzoni's squad busted out to a 13-2 lead. The hosts went to the basket often in the first quarter, going 6 of 8 from the foul line, while Benoit knocked down a couple of long-range shots to help Drury open up a double-digit lead.
"It's still very early in the season, so our players have to learn," Lee head coach Gary Wellington said. "Plus, they have a great defense, and they were packing it in with that zone. We got the ball in some of the wrong kid's hands, taking some shots we really didn't want. We just had to learn to settle down. Once they relaxed, started getting their shots and finding those little holes in the zone, they were able to just pick away, and we got ourselves back into it at halftime."
The second quarter was an eight-minute stretch the Blue Devils are likely going to want to forget. Drury caught the turnover bug for an extended period of time, and the Wildcats took advantage by outscoring the hosts 15-4 over the frame. At one point, it looked as if the Blue Devils were going to weather the storm, but the experienced duo of Young and point guard Eileen Dooley scored the final six points of the quarter to tie the game up at 17 points apiece at halftime. The Wildcats' last three baskets were all scored in transition after Drury lost the ball on the other end. Young closed out the half by scoring on a lay-up off of a steal as the buzzer sounded.
"We gave away too many possessions," Franzoni said. "You can't turn the basketball over 20-something times. We talked at halftime about having too many turnovers in the first half. Even though we had some good possessions late in the fourth quarter, we just have to take care of the basketball better against physical play. The refs let us play tonight, and that's good. They let both teams play, but we just didn't take advantage of our opportunities throughout the game."
The third quarter was even, but it allowed Young a chance to get going. She hit a jumper in the paint and made one of two free throws to tie the game at 23 all heading into the fourth. Although the Devils threw three different defenders at her at times, including a solid performance by freshman Olivia Carlson late in the game, Young was able to make enough baskets to give her team the win.
"I wanted her and Eileen to have the ball," Wellington said. "You don't want to throw the ball to a freshman in that case. They've got enough learning the offense. You want your senior leaders to step up and grab the basketball. Luckily, our seniors were taking it out and knew exactly where they wanted to go with it. It was great game. Drury has a great team there, and it came down to getting the last shot."
Lee now moves on to the tournament final at 7:30 p.m. on Friday night. The Wildcats will play against Lenox, which defeated Mount Greylock in the earlier game on Thursday. Drury will host the Mounties in the consolation game at 6 p.m., knowing full well they can play with the county's best teams after Thursday's narrow defeat.
"We're happy but not satisfied," Tatro said of her team's effort after the game. "We have a lot of things we can work on. We're a veteran team, so we know what to do. We just have to play stronger. Taking care of the basketball is the most important thing.
"Every possession counts."