Late Bucket Drops Drury Girls in State Quarters
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – It would be easy to say that the Drury girls basketball team’s state quarter-final loss Friday was heart-breaking.
But the Blue Devils’ hearts are bigger than that.
Springfield International Charter School’s Alexa Davis put back an offensive rebound with seven seconds left to give the Bulldogs a 50-49 win in a back-and-forth game at American International College.
“I just kept seeing girls step up,” Drury coach Ian Downey said. “Typically, for the most part, you expect certain players to. Kayla [McGrath] is going to get hers. We all know that. But Alyssa stepped up and hit some big 3s. Morgan Sarkis hit a big 3. Brooke [Bishop] and Ellie [Harnick] getting rebounds. In games like that, you need people to step up, and I thought that’s what my girls did today.
“The … thing I said to them was, ‘You got a stop.’ We needed a stop. We got a stop. It just so happened the ball bounced in their direction instead of ours. That ball goes two feet to the right or two feet to the left, we’re celebrating and this is a completely different story.
“The fact that we got a stop against their best player shows that they wanted it. And they deserved it. My girls deserved to win today. It just so happened the ball bounced in their direction today, and [Davis] made a shot.”
Drury entered the fourth quarter with a narrow 38-35 lead in a game that had seen seven ties through the first three quarters.
The seventh-seeded Blue Devils (13-10) took their biggest lead of the game when McGrath (15 points) grabbed a defensive rebound and drove the length of the court for a basket to make it 44-38 with 5 minutes, 33 seconds left.
After a timeout, SICS (formerly Sabis) put on the biggest run of the night for either team, scoring 10 straight points – the last two on free throws by Alicia Mitchell (21 points) to give the Bulldogs a 48-44 lead and prompt Downey to take a timeout with 2:06 on the clock.
“We talked about getting stops,” Downey said. “What we tried to do in the second half was more front Mitchell. In the previous games [SICS wins by scores of 49-37 and 58-50], playing behind her, she was having a tough time scoring over the top of us. Well, she was having no trouble scoring over the top of us tonight. So at half-time, we talked about fronting her.
“And we were daring her to make some shots. And when they tied the game up at 44 with back-to-back 3s, I said, ‘That’s OK.’ I was going to live with that, because up to that point they hadn’t shown they could make shots. But credit to their team. They made shots. They know who their best player is, they know how to find her, they know how to get her the ball.
“But, I thought my girls executed the game plan perfectly. They did everything I asked. I was wrong in the first half, and to their credit, they listened to me in the second half, and they fronted the post.”
Mitchell got to the line on the Bulldogs first possession after Downey’s timeout, but she missed the front end of one-and-one, and Harnick grabbed the rebound. At the other end, Lauren Davis set up Russell (19 points) to break a three-and-a-half minute scoring drought for Drury and cut the deficit to 48-46.
After a Morgan Sarkis defensive rebound got the Blue Devils the ball, Russell set up Houghtaling for a 3-pointer to give Drury a 49-48 lead with 1:05 left.
Drury got a team rebound out of bounds on Springfield International’s next possession, and, after two more timeouts, it ended up inbounding the ball from the sideline with 35 seconds left on the game clock and 13 seconds left on the shot clock.
Lauren Davis brought the ball into the front court and found Sarkis on the wing for a 3-point try that rimmed out, and Mitchell came down with the rebound.
Springfield International got the ball to Mitchell in the post, but her shot came off the rim to Alexa Davis, who finished to give the Bulldogs the lead with time winding down.
Drury pushed the ball up for a desperation 3 at the buzzer, but it was off the mark, and SICS celebrated its trip to the final four, where it will face Hopedale, a 72-44, winner over Lee on Friday night.
Downey said he was extremely proud of the way his team played on Friday night and throughout the last two winters.
“They were just a fun team to coach all year long,” he said. “And they got better every game, every practice. We battled through crazy adversity, and I’m not going to pretend other teams didn’t also. But I’m almost positive, looking back on it, we probably had four games the entire season where we had our full roster, and in two of those games, players got hurt. So, we essentially played two games the entire year when I had everyone.
“But, to my team’s credit, we never sulked. We never said, ‘This isn’t our year.’ When someone got hurt or someone got COVID or someone got sick, they kept battling and put the work in and put the effort in.”
Most of those players will be back next winter with a couple of notable exceptions, starters Harnick and McGrath.
“I was proud of the fact that they stuck around, through two years of COVID, wearing masks,” Downey said. “There are girls all around the country who left and never played basketball again. I was proud of the fact that they both stayed and left the program in a better place. Our program is better because of the two of them and the four years of hard work they put in.”