Wildcats Stymie Saints, Advance to Quarters
LEE, Mass. -- Emma Puleri scored 16 points Monday to lead the Lee girls basketball team to a 60-12 win over St. Mary's of Westfield.
The fourth-seeded Wildcats (14-7) advance to host Thursday's Western Massachusetts Division 4 quarter-final against No. 5 Franklin Tech (18-3), a 47-25 winner over Pathfinder on Monday.
The Wildcats took control early, forcing turnovers on nine of Saints' first 11 possessions and keeping St. Mary's off the scoreboard until the 1 minute, 40-second mark of the first quarter -- after the visitors already had called three timeouts.
Brianna Kelly scored four of her eight points at the end of a 13-0 Lee run to open the game.
It was a great start for a team that had a disappointing finish to end the regular season -- at least on the scoreboard.
Lee won Monday to snap a three-game losing streak. But coach Rick Puleri said he was not worried about how his team was playing at the end of the year.
"We were battling some injuries, and we played some tough teams down the stretch -- teams that needed wins to get in [the tournament]," Puleri said. "I really didn't think we played that poorly down the stretch.
"We needed to get healthy. And we're getting closer. Tonight was good. It was a good all-around effort from all of them."
Kelly and Lena Simone each grabbed six rebounds, and Simone passed out five assists. Kelly and Puleri each had six steals -- mostly out of Lee's smothering full-court press.
The Wildcats closed the first half with a 19-0 run to put the game out of reach and get to the locker room with a 36-5 lead.
Puleri scored three times during that run, including a 3-pointer and a steal and lay-up to make it a 26-point game at the time.
Lee's lead was 32 points after three quarters.
In the fourth, the Wildcats' bench pitched a shutout, and Katelyn Clark and Mia Puleri scored four points apiece to cap the win.
Amelia Willenborg scored five to lead St. Mary's, which got four from Anna Kosinski.
Lee got scoring from 11 different players.
Depth has been an asset for the Wildcats this season.
"The one good thing I have on a small team is they all can handle the ball, they all can play multiple positions," Rick Puleri said. "It's a nice thing to have for different options."
All those options help Lee keep up the defensive pressure that keyed Monday's blowout.
"It's nice to be able to shuffle kids in and out every three or four minutes to keep fresh bodies," Puleri said. "If you're going to play like that, it's important to get kids rest. To their credit, they do a nice job with that."
Video: Brianna Kelly scores in transition for Lee in Monday’s Western Mass Tournament win.
Video: Kaden Kelly hits a 3-pointer for Lee in Monday’s Western Mass Tournament win.
Video: Lee’s Emma Puleri drives for two of her 13 first-half points on Monday. Wildcats lead St. Mary’s of Westfield, 36-5, in the locker room. Lee went on to a 60-12 win.