Hopkins' Shooting Does in Eagles in Western Mass Final
AMHERST, Mass. -- Not much went the way Mount Everett girls basketball coach Scott Rote planned it in Saturday's Western Massachusetts Division 4 championship game.
The biggest curve ball: the way the final minute of the game played out.
With 44 seconds left in an eventual 76-64 loss to third-seeded Hopkins Academy at Curry Hicks Cage, Gwendolyn Carpenter, the most prolific scorer in the history of Berkshire County high school basketball, fouled out of the game.
Carpenter, who finished with 34 points and ended her stellar career with 2,121 points, could not have done much to change a 12-point margin in the final 44 seconds, but Rote, who coached his last game on the Eagles' bench on Saturday morning, would have liked to have changed the script for her departure.
"I wanted to take her out so that the crowd could cheer for her, for Madison [Ullrich], for Marion [Devoti]," Rote said. "I was hoping it was a different story, the kind of game where we could take them out one at a time and get them the kind of fanfare that they deserved and not have it end that way for them.
"It's heart-breaking to see that. [Carpenter] works so hard. She's done so much for the school, for this team, for me these past six years. Madison Ullrich never gives up, she plays with as much heart and drive and energy as I've seen from a kid. And Marion, even when she couldn't see [after getting poked in the eye on Saturday], she still wanted to be out on that floor and making things happen.
"Those three seniors right there, the three captains. I couldn't have asked for a better group to lead a team."
Ullrich scored 13 points in her last appearance for the Eagles on the hardwood. Devoti, who was limited by that eye injury but played through blurred vision, pulled down a couple of second half rebounds as the Eagles tried to cut into a double-digit lead and got within seven points with 3 minutes, 33 seconds on the clock.
But Hopkins (18-6) answered with one of seven 3-pointers from Samantha Jenks to re-establish its 68-58 lead, and Mount Everett never got closer than nine points the rest of the way.
Jenks finished with 31 points, and Allison Kowal Safron had 17 to lead the Hawks, who had 13 3-pointers in the game.
"In the semi-final game, for Jenks, I had her like 2-for-21, from 3s," Rote said. "She had to have nine or 10 3s tonight. She missed four, five, six of them at the most. She was on fire - her and Safron.
"Then when we switched to man-to-man to try to get out on them or diamond-and-one or triangle-and-two, they still hit them. And then we were getting beat inside. ... I haven't seen a girls team shoot like that the last couple of years. They were right up there with how Hoosac can shoot with [Alie] Mendel and [Lexi] Mercier."
Hopkins broke the game open with an 18-6 run to open the second quarter. Jenks and Safron each had a pair of triples in the run, which ended with a Gabrielle Palmisano drive on the left wing to make it 30-18.
It was a nine-point game at half-time, but another run -- fueled by two Jenks 3s -- pushed the margin to 17 points with 3:22 left in the third.
Mount Everett trailed by 15 going into the fourth quarter, but midway through the quarter, the Eagles scored seven in a row to close to within eight.
First, McKenzie Ullrich hit a 3-pointer. Then after a turnover, Carpenter scored from the elbow. Finally, Madison Ullrich drove the lane to make it 65-58.
But the next time down the floor, Jenks connected for her final 3-pointer of the game to stop the run and send Hopkins on to the win and a berth in next week's state semi-finals.
As for Mount Everett, Carpenter said with a chuckle that the girls will probably be in the gym tomorrow holding captains' practices for softball season.
But they will do so with a little bit of disappointment over how basketball season ended and a lot of pride for the run that took the Eagles to a second Western Mass final in the career of the Class of 2019.
And even though Rote's seniors did not get the sendoff he wanted, they still heard the cheers from the big Mount Everett rooting section at the Cage.
"It's been that way the entire time we've played at Mount Everett," Carpenter said. "We're such a small town, so we've always had everyone coming out to games. That support really got us through the season. These past six years, it's really gotten us through.
"We hoped to go out and make them proud, and to have them here was really awesome."