Late Defense Lifts Wahconah Past Pittsfield
WESTFIELD, Mass. – It was a one-possession game with 5 minutes, 25 seconds left in Saturday’s Western Massachusetts Class B Championship Game.
But Wahconah turned up its defense and took care of business at the free throw line to earn a 61-49 win over Pittsfield for its second straight regional title.
Grace Wigington scored a game-high 23 points, and Wahconah made 11 of 16 foul shots in the fourth quarter to improve to 18-3 with its 10th straight win.
After giving up 20 points in the third quarter to allow the Generals to erase a 12-point half-time deficit, Wahconah allowed just eight points in the fourth quarter and just three points in the last 3 minutes, 35 seconds of the game.
“I think we did a good job with our composure on the defensive end and limited them to one shot which was really kind of the difference in the game,” Wahconah coach Liz Kay said. “I think they’re a great offensive rebounding team, so that was a primary focus of ours. And then making foul shots down the stretch.”
Kay said a number of players stepped up in the decisive 20-8 fourth quarter.
“Honestly, our wings: Dani Barry, Sophia Drury, Grace [Wigington], especially with [Olivia] Gamberoni and Emma [Belcher] having four fouls,” Kay said. “Olivia Mason, Maddy McCarthy, those other kids just battled and won every 50/50 ball.”
Wahconah, which finished with 15 made free throws, started getting to the line with regularity midway through the final quarter.
A pair of makes by Mason made it a two-possession game at 50-44. After a Pittsfield turnover at the other end, McCarthy got to the line and sank two to make it an eight-point margin.
Pittsfield’s Jamie Duquette (team-high 21 points) scored in transition to make it 52-46, and then the teams traded 3-pointers – one by Wigington, one by Duquette – to leave Wahconah up, 55-49 with 2:20 left.
Those were the last field goals either side hit.
The rest of the game’s points came at the foul line – two apiece from Wahconah’s Mason, Gamberoni and Barry to salt the game away.
Pittsfield coach Joe Racicot said he was happy to see his team battle back from a 33-21 half-time deficit but admitted that the third-quarter comeback may have taken something out of the Generals heading to the fourth.
“I was just so proud of the kids the way they came back,” Racicot said.
“We expended a lot of energy there, and we had opportunities [in the fourth], too, and we missed them. We missed easy shots off of the [defensive] pressure. We decided to keep the pressure on, and we got more good looks, but we didn’t convert.”
Randi Duquette finished with a double-double for the Generals, scoring 11 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Kyana Summers had eight assists to go with her seven boards.
Wahconah got 12 points from Belcher, nine from Gamberoni and eight from Mason.
Both teams will see their season extended this week in their respective state tournaments.
Pittsfield (17-4) is the 15th seed in Division 3 and will host No. 18 Stoneham (5-15) in the first round.
In Division 4, Wahconah is the third-seed in the commonwealth and will open play at home against either New Mission or Maimonides, who meet in the play-in round.
While some coaches talk about how the Western Mass tournament can be a springboard to the states, Kay on Saturday was focused on the moment and not what comes next.
“I swear to God, I haven’t even thought about it,” she said, referring to the state tourney. “To do this two years in a row is pretty remarkable. Last year, we had no pressure. This year, the kids had had a taste of it, and to get back and be able to do this again is really something special.”