DALTON, Mass. -- With a 3-6 record after its first nine games, the Wahconah girls' basketball team faced a long way to go in order to qualify for the Division 2 Western Mass. tournament. The Warriors completed that journey on Saturday, however, getting a game-high 23 points and some clutch free-throw shooting from senior Gabby Lavinio to earn a 61-53 overtime win over Frontier.
The game was close throughout until the Red Raiders (10-9) pulled away for a 48-40 lead with 5:30 left in the fourth quarter. Wahconah, which clinched a playoff spot by winning seven out of its last nine games, fought back to cut the visitors' lead to four points with just under 36 seconds. Lavinio then came up with a big steal on an inbounds pass to give the Warriors (10-8) a much-needed extra possession.
"We missed a jump shot but got the offensive rebound," Wahconah head coach June Blake said. The ball was kicked out to Katherine Lewis, who drove to the basket for the lay-up. Frontier missed the front end of a one-and-one, which gave us another opportunity. We missed a shot but, again, got the rebound."
Senior center Shannon Lussier snagged the offensive board, one of 19 on the day for the hosts. She got the ball out to Lewis, who drove to the basket but had her shot blocked out of bounds with 7.9 seconds left to play. On the inbounds play, Lavinio received the ball at the top of the key and drove down the left baseline, where she was fouled with 0.7 seconds left to play. The Warriors' guard calmly hit both foul shots to send the game into overtime.
Wahconah's defense stiffened up in the extra period, allowing the Raiders to score just two points in overtime. After the two teams traded baskets, Lussier hit the go-ahead basket with just under two minutes to play. The Warriors led 55-53 when Lavinio was fouled with 42 seconds left. She sank both free throws and ended up making four more in the final minute to seal the win and clinch the Warriors' first postseason berth since winning a Western Mass. title two years ago.
Lavinio finished with four 3-pointers on the night while also adding four rebounds and two assists. Lussier also came up big with a double-double, scoring 18 points with 11 boards. Sophomore Maddie Sprague chipped in with 11 points and 11 rebounds, while Lewis added five points, eight boards and a game-high six assists.
"It was a back-and-forth game from start to finish," Blake said. "We didn't shoot the ball particularly well, but it was our rebounding that was the difference. We had 19 offensive rebounds, which gave us those extra opportunities we needed in the end. I can't say enough about our effort in this one. Gabby and Shannon had huge nights for us."
Amanda Calvo was one three players in double figures for Frontier. She led the team with 18 points, while Olivia Riordan and Jordan Rowe posted 14 and 12 points, respectively.
Wahconah will now try to improve its tournament seeding in its final two games of the regular season. The Warriors next host Taconic at 7:30 p.m. on Monday.