LENOX, Mass. -- The Lenox girls basketball team Tuesday won its fourth straight game, its sixth in its last eight and the first of what the Millionaires hope will be a long run in the Western Massachusetts Division 4 tournament.
But just a month ago, it looked like Lenox might be in for a short season indeed.
The Millionaires finished January with a 6-7 record and a rash of injuries. But they soldiered on, kept the faith and head into March with a 12-9 record and a shot at a trip to Curry Hicks Cage for the sectional semi-finals.
Jackie Hathaway scored 24 points Tuesday to lead Lenox to a 66-25 win over Sizer and set up a quarter-final date Friday at third-seeded Turners Falls (15-5).
“I’m very happy for Jackie, because when we had all those injuries, the initial thought was, ‘There goes our season down the drain,’ “ Lenox coach Mike Nykorchuck said. “We had so much hope and so many goals.
“The fact that we’ve rallied around, and we’re in a position to be one game away from going to the Cage is just incredible. I’m happy for her and my two other seniors, Rose [Pehlert] and Hannah [Sibley], because when those injuries happened, there a lot of people with their heads down -- and rightfully so, to lose your leading scorer, point guard and power forward all in one shot -- and now we’re in position.”
Pehlert scored two points and grabbed four rebounds, and Sibley got two boards and added an assist.
Freshman Jade Alward scored 13 points, and seventh-grader Sophie Patella had a team-high nine rebounds.
Sophomore Nicole Gamberoni returned from injury to score nine points and help key a full-court press that allowed Lenox to build a double-digit lead late in the first quarter and never look back.
“When the injuries happened, I said, ‘Hopefully, we get one or two people back,’ and that happened. ‘Hopefully, some people will pick up the slack who were on the team,’ and Mollie Herrick with her defense has been incredible,” Nykorchuck said. “Kristin [Parkinson] does a good job. Jade, she scored double figures tonight.
“And the last thing I said was hopefully some of the young kids we bring up will contribute, too, and Sophie’s certainly done that.”
In a first half when Sizer (10-10) used its size advantage to earn a 25-16 advantage on the glass, Patella was the lone bright spot, coming off the bench to collect five of her rebounds before intermission.
“Sophie has the best instincts I’ve ever seen,” Nykorchuk said. “She’s not big, and we had a game where she had 15 rebounds in a game. She knows where the ball is going, whether it’s a rebound or whatever. I’ve never seen such a young kid have such great instincts on the basketball court.
“As she gets older and gets stronger, she’s going to be very difficult to be dealt with. We’re looking forward to that, and she’s going to see a lot of minutes on Friday night.”
Patella scored with an assist from Gamberoni to put Lenox up, 18-5, late in the first quarter. After Sizer righted its ship and made it 23-11 early in the second, Lenox scored the next seven to seize control. Hathaway got the run started with an assist from Herrick, and she closed it with second chance points after a Parkinson rebound to make it 30-11.
It was a 17-point lead at half-time, and Lenox outscored its guests, 17-3, in the third quarter to put the game away. Alward hit a 3-pointer, and Hathaway scored eight during the quarter.