LEE, Mass. -- Down by six points after one quarter and by 12 points early in the second, the Lee High boys basketball team went back to basics.
“I put in a 1-2-2 zone, and for the first quarter, it wasn’t really working out for us,” Lee coach Dave Bliss said. “Then I went back to what we were doing all year, which was our man-to-man, and we decided to play really good man-to-man defense.
“In that 31-1 run there, we stopped them and stopped them and stopped them and made our buckets. We made a good comeback.”
That run propelled the Wildcats to a 68-59 win over Turners Falls and a date with top-seeded Ware (19-2) in Thursday’s Western Massachusetts Division 4 quarter-finals.
Monday’s sectional tournament opener started to turn when Dominic Bartini knocked down a 3-pointer to cut into a 22-10 Turners advantage early in the second.
“Dom was cold a little bit at the beginning of the year, but he’s been coming on strong of late,” Bliss said. “When he gets going, he can’t miss.”
After the ninth-seeded Thunder (11-10) got two points back, Bartini hit another 3 on his way to a 13-point night.
Lee then forced three turnovers on Turners’ next six possessions -- the last leading to a transition bucket by Ben Harding (16 points) to tie the game at 24-24.
Bartini drove the baseline for a score on Lee’s next trip to give the Wildcats a lead they never relinquished.
Myles Whitney-Nason scored nine of his game-high 20 points in the second quarter, including a buzzer-beating bomb from just inside the half-court stripe that sent Lee to the locker room with a 33-25 lead.
The Wildcats (11-10) opened the third quarter on a 9-0 spurt to push their lead to 17 points, but Turners Falls answered with a 14-3 run that trimmed the deficit down to six when Chace Novak (18 points) hit a 3-pointer to make it 45-39.
Bliss called timeout with 3:44 left in the third, and his team responded with a 9-2 run to end the quarter, re-establishing the double-digit advantage.
Turners got within six points again to open the fourth.
But Cole Redstone scored with an assist from Bartini to stop that run. And after a Turners Falls player was whistled for a technical foul arguing a non-call on the offensive end, Lee got a four-point play at the other end: two free throws from Harding and a putback by Evan Heath (12 points) to make it 60-48 with 5:06 to play.
The Thunder got within single digits again in the final minute, but the outcome was never in doubt the rest of the way.