NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Shannon Garvey has certainly come a long way with the Drury girls' basketball team.
Two years ago, the backup forward was just trying to find her way on the court, eager to make whatever positive impact she could in the limited time she was allowed. Garvey has a much bigger role now, though, evidenced by the career-high 27 points and game-high 14 rebounds she put up in the Blue Devils' 63-44 win over Pittsfield on Monday night.
Yes, Garvey has certainly made strides in her time wearing a Drury uniform. So much so that her efforts on Senior Night likely clinched either a No. 1 or 2 spot for the Blue Devils in the upcoming Division 2 Western Mass. tournament. Drury, which improved to 13-3 overall with Monday's win, was projected as the No. 2 seed in an article released by the Daily Hampshire Gazette last week. A win over the Generals, a Division 1 team, only helps bolster the Blue Devils' resume.
John Franzoni's squad is as hot as can be with two games remaining in the regular season. With a win over Pittsfield (12-7) on Monday, Drury has now made amends for all three of its losses this season. The Blue Devils increased their current win streak to six games in the process and have now won eight out of their past nine contests.
"I'm not sure if we'll be able to get the No. 1 seed if Athol goes 20-0," Franzoni said. "Our strength of schedule is definitely right up there at the top, either one or two according to what they told us last week. By winning tonight, it's our second Division 1 win. If you're 13-3 in Berkshire County, you know you've got good quality victories and you're ready for the tournament."
One player who is certainly ready for postseason play is Garvey. The Drury forward seems to be growing with confidence game by game. She scored in double figures for the seventh game in a row on Monday and helped lead a second-half charge that clinched the win for the Blue Devils. Garvey only had five points at halftime, while Drury nursed a small 21-19 lead. In the second half, however, Garvey went off for 22 points as the Blue Devils outscored the Generals 42-25 over the final two quarters of play.
"What's she's done is work hard," Franzoni said when asked about Garvey's improvement over the past two seasons. "She's a good example of how if you work hard, good things happen. Shannon plays every spring, she plays every summer and she works on the things she wants to be better at. She's made herself into a great shooter. You leave her alone from 15 to 18 feet, it's like a lay-up.
"All day we were saying give her the ball and let her shoot because she's not going to miss if she sets her feet."
Garvey was one of several girls not to miss during a critical stretch in the third quarter in which the hosts turned a two-point halftime lead into a 17-point cushion. Drury took control of the game with an 18-3 run, doing most of its damage with outside shooting. With the hosts leading 25-21, Garvey started off a 10-0 streak by sinking a short jumper in the lane off of an assist from Emily Moulton (10 points, five rebounds).
The junior center then made a baseline jumper of her own before classmate Morgan Lamarre set up Garvey for another jumper from the foul line. Lamarre then made another foul-line jumper before Garvey followed up with one from the elbow. Junior forward Ali Tatro finished the run off, swishing another jump shot from the top of the key to force Pittsfield to call its second timeout in a span of less than two minutes.
While their shooters were hot, it was also unselfish play and nice passing that helped the Devils get four assists on four consecutive baskets during the third-quarter run.
"Last year, we didn't want to see zones," Franzoni said. "It was like our Achilles’ heel. But this year, we're like go ahead and play zone because we have kids that are going to shoot the ball well. We're going to go to the boards and make things happen as well with offensive rebounds. We know we're a good thing team this year because Shannon's a great shooter and Emily can shoot the ball. When your four and five can step out and shoot, it makes you a tough team to guard."
The Generals rallied back at the end of the third quarter, breaking off a 7-0 run to pull within 10 points at the start of the fourth. Garvey and fellow senior Danielle Racette quickly put an end to the visitors' comeback attempt, though, hooking up for a fast break lay in by Garvey to put Drury back in control. Moulton followed with another finish after Pittsfield forward Tiffany Robinson broke up a pass down low but tipped the ball right to the wide-open Blue Devil. Garvey then sank a hook shot, made two of her game-high seven free throws and made a floater to push the hosts' lead back to 16 points.
"I thought we played really good in the first half, but downstairs [at halftime] we talked about playing good D," Garvey said. "That's what we did, and then our shots started to fall. We just got so pumped up after making all of those shots that we weren't letting them back in the game."
After a decent first half in which she scored five points but missed on a couple outside shots, Garvey was simply unstoppable in the second half. She scored 16 points alone in the fourth quarter, going 6 for 6 at the free-throw line and capping off her career night on a back-door lay-up off a sweet pass from Racette with under a minute left in the game. It's been a steady process for Garvey, who started shooting baskets as a child at an outside hoop in her Clarksburg cul-de-sac on Lincoln Drive. She made the varsity squad as a sophomore, but didn't make much of an impact until averaging eight points and seven rebounds as a junior last year. This season, Garvey is leading the Drury offense with a 12.38 points per game average.
"It's just been at practice where I’ve been working really, really hard," Garvey said. "Through these four years, I've been working with Coach Franzoni and just been making sure that I can knock the shots down and be more confident."
While Garvey's ascension has happened over the past two seasons, Racette (seven points) has been there all along for the Blue Devils, playing the point guard since her freshman year. She showed her value again on Monday night, breaking the Generals' full-court press and setting up her teammates all game long with a game-high 11 assists. Pittsfield is a quick team that forces a lot of turnovers with its trap, but Racette's ball-handling skills were able to neutralize most of the Generals' full-court defense.
"Once Danielle got through our press, she got through three kids," Pittsfield head coach Joe Racicot said. "When she got through it, it wasn't for a lack of hustle. Basically, you have to contain that kid. If you don't contain her, she runs crazy and they get easy shots. I wouldn't call it a defensive lapse. I would just call it a mental lapse."
It's been a tough stretch for the Generals, who followed up a season-high five-game winning streak with three consecutive losses against North Division teams. Pittsfield's offense struggled in losses to Wahconah and Lee, but it was their defense that allowed a season-high 63 points to Drury on Monday night.
"Once they put that series together [in the third quarter], I knew we were in trouble," Racicot said. "They played tough and earned the win. We're coming out of some kind of funk that I've never seen before. The kids played hard, but we just didn't capitalize on some of the opportunities we had. Foul trouble has been our forte and until these kids learn to play defense with their feet, that's not going to change."
While the Generals are left searching for answers, the Blue Devils are reveling in a Senior Night win that was special on several different levels. Garvey had her career night, Racette did her normal thing and fellow senior Tatro provided her typical all-around performance with four points, eight rebounds, three assists and three steals. All three of those players are captains along with Lamarre, who seems to be finally back playing at full strength after suffering a concussion in the first game of the season. Lamarre scored all six of her points during her team's third-quarter run while also dishing out two assists and helping Racette bring the ball up the court. Her return is only going to make Drury a better team come playoff time.
"I feel a lot better than I did when I first started playing," Lamarre said. "I'm getting back into the groove of things. I'm happy with the way our team is playing. We're all coming together and playing as a team. It's just exciting."
Besides honoring the Senior Class of 2013, the Drury girls also paid tribute to fellow student Anna Arabia, who lost her battle with a rare brain tumor at the age of 16 on Thursday. There was moment of silence in memory of Arabia before tip-off and the Blue Devils recognized her by wearing white wristbands with the initials A.A. on them.
"She was one of my friends, and she was a classmate of mine," Lamarre said. "We all went to her wake today, and we just wanted to have some way to recognize her and to let the family know that we're all here for them and thinking of them."
JV Game: The Drury girls' junior varsity team pulled out a hard-fought win against Pittsfield, holding on for a 43-37 victory. Molly Moulton led the way for the Blue Devils with 15 points, six rebounds, six assists and six steals. Katie Toomey also had a big night with 12 points and 15 boards, while Heather Morris was also strong on the glass with 15 rebounds to go along with nine points.