LaCasse Leads McCann Tech Girls to Win in Opener

By Rick Sports
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. -- The McCann Tech Hornets got off to exactly the start they were looking for.
The host Hornets stormed out of the gate with a big first quarter and led the entire way to a 45-29 victory over Mohawk, to win its season-opener on Thursday night at McCann Tech. The Hornets (1-0) held Mohawk scoreless for the entire first quarter to take a 10-0 lead, and then rebounded from a shaky second quarter with a strong finish in the second half.
“That is how we want to start the season, especially at home,” Hornets head coach Kathy Budaj said. “We wanted to come out and play hard and be aggressive, and take control of the game.”
Sophomore guard Izzy LaCasse led the way with a game-high 24 points, accounting for nearly half of McCann’s scoring. LaCasse scored seven of her team’s first 10 points, as she consistently attacked the hoop and created opportunities.
“I like to drive in, and driving really helps. I usually like to find the down-low girl, but today it was just mostly open in the middle,” LaCasse said. “We’ve been pushing really hard in practice trying to get each other better. I think this really showed tonight how much we push each other. We push each other a lot harder than we used to.”
That effort showed right from the beginning. A steal from Grace Towler fed LaCasse on a fast break for the opening points of the contest. Towler then set up LaCasse with another good pass, as she knocked down a three-pointer. The next possession the Hornets controlled the boards with three consecutive offensive rebounds, before Kaylee Tatro went strong to the hoop for a layup. Towler then hit 1-of-2 free throws and LaCasse dropped in another shot in the paint to push it to a 10-0 advantage.
The Warriors (0-3) answered back to fight back into things by outscoring McCann 10-5 in the second quarter. Stella Clark finally got Mohawk on the scoreboard with 7:23 remaining in the first half, when she was fouled on a layup and then converted the free throw for a three-point play.
Clark finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds to lead Mohawk.
With the lead down to 15-10, McCann returned from the halftime break with renewed vigor. The ball began to find the net again as the Hornets pulled away late to victory.
“We talked about being more dynamic on offense and creating opportunities, and they did,” Budaj said. “In the second quarter we missed a lot of shots and were a little flatter. Our offense was very lackadaisical and we let them back into the game a bit. We led by five at halftime and us coches told them that they had to play 16 full minutes of basketball, and that is what they did.”
Clark dropped in a basket off the glass to pull Mohawk its closest since the start in trailing 15-12 very early into the third quarter, but LaCasse scored five straight points on three consecutive possessions to help keep momentum with McCann. First she connected on a pair of free throws, before Hannah Stack then dished her an outlet pass alone under the hoop for an easy bucket. LaCasse sas fouled on her next possession, and she hit 1-of-2 free throws to push it back to a 20-12 lead.
“We had a lot more momentum in the third and fourth quarters,” LaCasse said. “We usually tend to have one bad quarter, and it just happened to be the second quarter. After halftime we knew that we wanted this to be our game. This is one of our rivals, so it was really good for us to get the win tonight.”
Mohawk inched back to within 24-18 on another layup from Clark late in the third quarter, before Towler got going with a pair of shots that helped open things back up. After draining an open look from the foul line, Towler then found herself wide open off a pass from Kaylee Tatro and she drained the three-pointer from the top of the arch.
Towler finished with 10 points, five steals, three rebounds and two assists. Kaylee Tatro added four points to go along with 10 rebounds, two steals and two assists, while Macey Tatro chipped in four points and six rebounds.
The ball continued to find the net and the lead swelled in the fourth, which allowed the Hornets to rotate in most of the roster for some action. Even with some of the starters coming out the intensity and results did not diminish, as the Hornets kept pushing right to the final buzzer. Alivia Lesure closed out the scoring for McCann with a three-pointer with just over a minute remaining.
Alyse Koloc also contributed solid minutes, with four rebounds, two assists and a blocked shot.
Even on a night in which she thoroughly dominated offensively, LaCasse was equally excited by all the contributions that came after the starters left the floor.
“I think it gives us more of a push for the harder games that are coming, including Mohawk again, eventually,” LaCasse said.
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