Lee Girls Going Back to Western Mass Finals
AMHERST, Mass. -- Seniors Karli Retzel and Kendra Williams scored the final 19 points for the Lee girls basketball team as it defeated Monson, 51-49, in overtime in Tuesday's Western Massachusetts Division 4 semi-final.
Retzel finished with a game-high 19 points -- 16 in the second half -- as the top-seeded Wildcats (18-4) earned a date in Saturday's sectional final against No. 2 Quaboag (16-6).
The Wildcats struggled offensively in a low-scoring first half, rallied to lead by as many as six points late in regulation and then recovered in OT to close the door defensively and deny the fifth-seeded Mustangs (12-11).
Retzel and Williams came up huge down the stretch in earning the storied Lee program a chance to win its first sectional title since their class was in the eighth-grade.
"They've been through some wars, obviously, being seniors, and they made enough plays in the second half," Lee coach Rick Puleri said. "We talked at half-time about moving the ball. Kendra had to attack more from the middle. And she did a good job of that. We did a better job rebounding in the second half, as well."
There were plenty of rebounds to go around in the first quarter as both sides had trouble finding the mark. Monson ended the first period with an 11-7 lead, and it led by six midway through the second before Lee went on an 8-0 run that featured three points and an assist from Retzel.
Although she struggled offensively in the first half, the thousand-point scorer came up big in other ways, grabbing six boards and accounting for three steals. She finished the game with eight steals to go along with her 19 points and 13 boards.
Williams finished with a game-high 14 rebounds to go with 12 points.
It was a tie game at half-time, but Monson rebuilt its lead in the third quarter, going ahead by as many as five.
Lee, however, finished with a 6-0 run: a conventional three-point play from Retzel, a steal at the other end from senior Cara Walker and Williams' 3-pointer to put the Wildcats ahead, 38-34, going to the fourth.
It was a six-point bulge when Retzel knocked down a pair of free throws with 2:03 left in regulation.
But the Mustangs rallied behind sophomore Kaitlyn Santos, who scored the final six points of regulation: the last two when Shannon Finnegan (11 points) committed her fifth foul with 26 seconds left.
In OT, Retzel got things started with a drive from the right wing to give Lee the lead. And after she got a defensive rebound, Williams scored in the post to make it a four-point lead, 51-47.
The final three minutes of OT resembled the first quarter of regulation as the defenses took over. Lee allowed just a putback by Bryanna Murphy (10 points, 11 rebounds). But otherwise, the Wildcats were as stingy as they needed to be.
The lone sour note of the overtime period came in the final minute, when junior Brianna Hawley went down with an apparent leg injury. Afterward, Puleri said she was probably doubtful for Saturday's final.
But whatever happens then, nothing can diminish what Lee accomplished this season -- winning a Berkshire South Division title -- and on this night, finishing the game without three key contributors: Finnegan, Hawley and Mikayla DiSantis, who did not dress.
"I'm so proud of these guys," Puleri said. "What a gutsy, gutsy win. They showed a ton of heart, a ton of heart. They get to play on.
"We have to go to practice tomorrow."