Gamberoni's Late FTs Help Send Wahconah to Western Mass Final
AMHERST, Mass. — The Wahconah girls basketball team punched its ticket to the Western Massachusetts Division 3 finals for the first time in seven years with a win over No. 2 seed South Hadley, 48-44, at the Curry Hicks Cage Thursday night.
In order to be the best you must beat the best and that is exactly what Wahconah (20-3) is doing. Coming off a victory against five-time defending champ and No. 3-seeded Hoosac Valley in the quarter-finals, Wahconah found itself matched up against the second-seeded Tigers. Wahconah started off the game well, jumping out to an early 6-2 lead, thanks to good patient offense.
Maria Gamberoni had five points in the first quarter and a team-high 15 in the game. The rest of the scoring was evenly balanced between Abbie Steinman, Julia O’Connor, and Noelle Furlong with 11 each.
The scoring in this game for Wahconah told the tale as it was great team effort all around. Wahconah ended the first quarter up, 16-8. South Hadley’s full court pressure gave Wahconah some difficulties, but with the ability of Julia O’Connor to handle the ball, it was able to break the press in the first half with some ease. South Hadley later went on a run to bring the game within two points, but Wahconah answered just like it has all season long with a 5-0 run to end the half up, 24-17.
In the second half, South Hadley controlled the tempo early, turning that full court pressure into steals and baskets. The Tigers took their first lead of the game with 5:20 left in the third quarter on the back end of an 8-0 run.
Wahconah settled in once again, getting more production from freshman Furlong. She scored five straight points, giving Wahconah the lead again. First-year players Furlong and Gamberoni once again proved poised beyond their years.
“Our senior leadership gives Maria and Noelle the confidence,” Wahconah coach Liz Kay said. “The upperclassmen enabling those kids gives them a tremendous amount of confidence.”
These two went neck-and-neck throughout the remainder of this game, trading baskets with less than two minutes to go. South Hadley took a 42-41 lead with just more than a minute left in the game, But Gamberoni respond with two free throws to give Wahconah the lead right back. She would go on to make all six of her free throw attempts in the fourth quarter and, after a steal from Steinman with less than 30 seconds left, she iced the game with a free throw to put it out of reach.
“Maria went six-for-six from the line and Abbie hit the biggest one of the game making it a two-possession game,” Kay added. ”Abbie played really well, and she plays better when the stakes are bigger, so I’m really happy for her.”
Wahconah will now face the No. 1 seed Hampshire Saturday for the title.