Wahconah Girls Storm Back in Fourth Quarter to Reach Final Four

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires.com Sports
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DALTON, Mass. -- Olivia Gamberoni scored 32 points, and the Wahconah girls basketball team closed on an 17-0 run to earn a 55-48 win over Malden Catholic in Saturday's Division 4 State Quarter-Finals.
Wahconah, which struggled to make shots in falling behind, 26-21, in the first half, nearly matched its first-half scoring output in the last four minutes of the game.
A lot of that offense came from Wahconah's defense, which held the visitors to seven points in the fourth quarter.
"Our defensive energy was definitely key," Gamberoni said. "We just shut them down."
Wahconah also made a critical adjustment in how it deployed that defense to spark the comeback.
"We backed up our press a little bit to try to entice them into Gamberoni's pressure," Wahconah coach Liz Kay said. "We took that pressure sort of off of the wings, but then we initiated a lot more traps, which I think created a balance problem for them.
"We know we have to keep [opponents] imbalanced in order to create opportunities for us in transition and on offense. And I thought we did a great job of getting them back on their heels a little bit. And then their shots weren't going down. Long shots, long rebounds, and we were off and running."
Everything was falling early for Liliana Martinez, who scored eight of her team's points in a 10-8 first quarter en route to a 20-point night for sixth-seeded Malden Catholic (14-9).
Wahconah got some open looks on offense, including a number of tries from behind the 3-point arc that refused to go down in the first half.
Malden Catholic led by as many as seven twice in the second quarter before Gamberoni scored in transition off a turnover in the closing seconds to send Wahconah to the locker room down, 26-21.
Wahconah carried that momentum into the second half with a 10-0 run.
Gamberoni scored the last seven points of the run, including a 3-pointer and put Wahconah ahead, 31-26 with a pair of free throws midway through the quarter.
The Lancers had the answer.
Martinez hit a jumper from the left wing that started Malden Catholic on a 15-4 run that ended on a 3-pointer by Luna Murry to give her team a 41-35 lead with a minute left in the third.
In the fouth, Martinez hit a 3 and Mary Turco sank a free throw to make it 48-38 with just more than four minutes to play.
It was all Wahconah from there.
Grace Wigington (12 points) hit a 3-pointer and a long two on back-to-back trips to cut the deficit in half.
With 3 minutes, 10 seconds left to play, Gamberoni made it a one-possession game with a 3-pointer. And after Wahconah's defense forced a turnover, she drove to the basket to tie the game, 48-48, with 2:30 left.
With 2:06 on the clock, Madison McCarthy was fouled pulling down a defensive rebound and went to the line for a one-and-one. She hit the first to give Wahconah the lead for good at 49-48.
"As a ninth-grader, who just turned 15 yesterday, who is one of our quieter kids, that kid has ice in her veins," Kay said of McCarthy. "She's been phenomenal all year about playing her role and playing within herself and not panicking, which is I think  is remarkable for a ninth-grader."
Dani Barry scored the game's last field goal in the post in the last two minutes to put Wahconah ahead by three. Gamberoni went 4-for-4 at the line down the stretch to put the game away.
"Not panicking," was a key for the whole Wahconah team in pulling off the stunning upset victory.
"I think a big piece of it was we took a timeout, and I said, 'You don't need to make it up in one possession,' " Kay said. "I thought we were pressing, like pushing a little bit and trying to do a little bit too much. When in reality, we needed to just chip at it and do what we do."
The next thing on No. 3 Wahconah's to-do list? A trip to the Final Four in Division 4 against No. 7 Littleton at a place and time to be announced.
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