D2 Power Holyoke Pulls Away Late at Wahconah

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires.com Sports
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DALTON, Mass. – The Holyoke girls basketball Tuesday proved why it will be one of the teams to beat in the Division 2 state tournament in a couple of weeks.
And it took the Knights about four minutes to make that point.
Holyoke blitzed Wahconah with a 23-2 run that spanned the second and third quarters to erase a 16-point deficit en route to a 76-62 win.
Kleriz Matos scored 15 points on five 3-pointers, and Bianca Ortiz-Cordero matched her with 15 as Holyoke improved to 11-5 and dropped Wahconah to 14-4 in its regular season finale.
Wahconah actually fought back after trailing by as many as seven in the third quarter to briefly lead by one point, but Holyoke outscored the hosts by 22-7 margin in the fourth quarter to put the game away.
In the process, the Knights blew through the previous season high allowed by Wahconah’s vaunted defense: 57, which happened twice in losses to Hoosac Valley and Amherst.
“They shot the lights out,” Wahconah coach Liz Kay said. “I’ve watched a lot of film. And they make a lot of shots. But that was a spectacular performance.
“When they drilled one from half court, it wasn’t even a heave, it was a normal shooting stroke. When that happens, you know it just isn’t your night.”
It looked like Wahconah was primed for a big night of its own when it went on a 17-1 run that spanned the first and second quarters.
Olivia Gamberoni (game-high 25 points) scored 10 points during that stretch and had an assist to Dani Barry (13 points).
Gamberoni started the run with a drive to the basket to get Wahconah within one point at 18-17 and ended it with a steal and transition bucket to give her team a 32-19 lead.
Barry scored with about three minutes left in the first half to put Wahconah up, 38-22.
But that is when Holyoke’s Ortiz took over, hitting a triple to start the game-changing run. She scored twice more during the 23-2 run that also saw Yamaya Perez hit a couple of 3-pointers on the way to her 11-point night.
The run ended with a Perez triple to make it 45-40 in the early minutes of the third. Senior Ella Quinto ended it with a bucket and scored twice more in a 15-9 stretch for Wahconah that gave it a one-point lead when Gamberoni was fouled in transition and hit both free throws in the closing seconds of the third.
Holyoke’s Evie Cauley started the fourth quarter with one of the team’s 12 3-pointers, and the Knights never trailed again.
Wahconah had some chances to keep it close down the stretch, but it missed some open looks under the basket while Holyoke was enjoying the best quarter of a solid offensive night.
“We couldn’t make a lay-up,” Kay said. “But, you know what, they’ve got six seniors. I’ve got a bunch of diaper dandies out there who just have not had as much experience in these kind of games as they have.”
That is why Kay scheduled the independent game against the Knights in Wahconah’s season finale and Senior Night, when Quinto and Eva Eberwein took their bows after helping the team post four solid seasons – including this one, when Wahconah, the top-ranked team in Division 4 in the latest MIAA in-season power rankings, hopes to extend that season for a while.
Tuesday’s performance against Holyoke, the 12th-ranked team in Division 2, hints at just how far Wahconah might go.
“Ironically, it actually gives us a tremendous amount of confidence,” Kay said. “We know if a couple of plays went one way or the other, we can play with anybody.”
Wahconah learns Saturday who it will play in next week’s Western Massachusetts regional tournament, a warm-up for the state tournament to come in March.
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