Makenzie Ullrich, Von Ruden Lead Eagles into Western Mass Final

By Stephen Sports
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AMHERST, Mass. -- If you thought you could stop the Mount Everett girls basketball team by limiting production from its two leading scorers, you have another thing coming.
Actually, make that two other things: Madeline Von Ruden and Makenzie Ullrich.
Ullrich scored 19 points, and Von Ruden added 14 -- including eight in the first quarter alone -- as the Eagles built a 20-point lead and held on for a 61-50 win over top-seeded Monson in the semi-finals of the Western Massachusetts Division 4 tournament on Monday at Curry Hicks Cage.
The pair combined for seven 3-pointers as the Eagles (16-7) earned a date on Saturday morning against Hopkins Academy, a winner over Ware earlier on Monday evening.
Mount Everett’s leading scorer Gwendolyn Carpenter -- who happens to be the leading scorer in the history of Berkshire County high school basketball -- chipped in with 15, and No. 2 option Madison Ullrich scored six while pulling down a game-high 17 rebounds.
But the story of the night was balance … that and a 23-4 first quarter that put the Eagles on top for good.
“We say all the time that Madison and Gwendolyn will probably give us their usual 18 points each,” Mount Everett coach Scott Rote said. “It’s the others. The role players that we need to come out for us.
“Madeline [Von Ruden] has had a great a great three days of practice for us. The other day we, we practiced against the boys, and she was taking that ball hard to the hole against the boys team. I think that started giving her a little bit of energy; she started realizing if she can get that ball on the fast break and maybe with one dribble and go up, she makes them more.
“The next game, if someone wants to double up on Makenzie or whatever, we’ll get ‘em from the outside with Gwen or get ‘em from the outside with Madeline. She can hit the 3 pretty good, too.”
The other key on Monday was Mount Everett’s interior defense, which held 5-foot-9 pivot Sydnie DeVries to just seven points through three quarters before she broke through for nine in the final eight minutes.
“We were talking about having to go to some kind of junk defense -- a triangle and two or a diamond and one or whatever -- and we wanted to hold off on doing anything like that until we absolutely had to,” Rote said. “When DeVries started getting a little hot in that second quarter, Madison just started checking up on her. She was a smart enough player, that she knows what she has to do, and she started doing it.
“And I thought Makenzie did a pretty good job of giving her some help-side defense, too.”
Madison Ullrich said it helped to have a different look in practice to get ready for Monson’s front line.
“We’ve struggled all season with height,” she said. “Our tallest girl is 5-8, maybe. So when we go against bigger teams, it’s harder to go against the taller girls. But if we can box out and put a body on them, we’re usually golden.
“It definitely helps a lot to practice against the boys. We don’t always practice hard against each other because we’re afraid we’ll hurt each other. When the boys come in, we can step it up a little and give it to to them and kind of show ‘em up sometimes. It’s a lot of fun.”
Ullrich added that last part with a laugh, and truly, there were plenty of smiles to go around after the Eagles got back to the sectional finals for the first time since 2016, the freshman season for Madison Ullrich, Carpenter and Marion Devoti, who scored four and passed out a couple of assists on Monday while playing through foul trouble.
Mount Everett started the night by scoring on six of its first nine possessions. When Carpenter was fouled driving to the basket and hit a pair of free throws, the Eagles had a 13-2 lead with 4 minutes, 47 seconds left in the first quarter.
It was 17-2 before the Mustangs (15-8) scored their second basket. But Mount Everett answered that with a Makenzie Ullrich 3-pointer that turned into a four-point play when she was fouled and a Devoti bucket in the post to make it a 19-point margin after one quarter.
Late in that opening run, DeVries went to the bench for Monson after a collision on the offensive end, and by the time she returned with 6:59 left in the second, Mount Everett had a 28-8 lead.
Monson righted the ship from there, closing the first half on a 15-4 run to trail by just nine, 32-23, at half-time.
That half-time break could not have come at a better time for the Eagles.
“We play best when we play fast, and we got tired,” Rote said of the first half. “We don’t have a deep bench. And when they started losing their legs a little and they started slowing down, it allowed Monson to come back on a couple of runs there.
“DeVries came back with some energy and some fire in her gut there, and I was getting a little nervous there for a while. But we knew the half-time was good to have, to settle them down, get their legs back under them and try to get out there and make another run, which we did a pretty good job of in the third quarter again.”
Like the first, Mount Everett’s defense dominated the third quarter, holding Monson to just five points and allowing the Eagles to stretch their advantage to 46-28.
Von Ruden hit a pair of 3-pointers, and Makenzie Ullrich connected from beyond the arc in the third.
The quarter also saw the departure of Devoti with her fourth foul at the 3:30 mark.
But, fortunately for the Eagles, eighth-grader Emma Goewey, a late-season call-up from the junior varsity, was ready to eat up some big minutes.
“ ‘Big Emma,’ “ Rote said. “We’ve got two Emmas, and we have to call her Big Emma. And Big Emma came up big tonight. For an eighth-grader to get thrown into that, it was a big situation, a big moment. And she kept us in the game rebounding and controlling the inside.”
Goewey pulled down five rebounds and got to the line in transition, banking home a free throw at the 3:16 mark to make it a 54-35 game to the delight of the Mount Everett crowd.
“I don’t know how an eighth-grader, getting called up in the last week, practicing with the varsity and getting thrown into a big game like this can handle it,” Rote said. “When I was in eighth-grade, I couldn’t handle being the water boy.
“She just has a calm demeanor to her. She wasn’t nervous. I said, ‘Are you OK? Are you good with this?’ And she said, ‘I’m good. I’m good.’ “
Of course, big play from eighth-graders is nothing new to fans of Mount Everett girls basketball.
Back in 2015, a trio of eighth graders named Carpenter, Devoti and Madison Ullrich helped the Eagles go 13-8 and earn a berth in the sectional tournament.
“I’ve been on the team with Gwen since second grade and Marion since third grade,” Ullrich said. “So playing with them, all the way to 12th grade, has been awesome. This season has been everything we hoped it would be.
“Now we just have to get that win on Saturday.”
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