Puleri Powers Lee Girls in Road Win
WILLIAMASTOWN, Mass. -- If Emma Puleri gets an open look at the basket, she is going to take the shot.
Friday night, Puleri benefited from signature ball movement by the Lee Wildcats that helped create open shots, and she took care of the rest. The sophomore guard connected for six 3-pointers to lead the Wildcats to a 50-43 win over the host Mt. Greylock Mounties.
“If you don’t shoot, it is not going in. So if you are open you have to shoot it,” Puleri said. “When we move the ball, we get it inside, and if they don’t score then they can kick it outside for more open three’s. You might have a defender on you inside, so it just opens up the three’s better. I had a few that missed, but when I am open I shoot. I take my time and shoot.”
Puleri led all scorers with 20 points and also had seven rebounds.
The Wildcats improved to 5-2 while also capturing an important Berkshire County South Division victory.
“We knew coming in that this was going to be a tough game. This is a big Southern Division game and we knew it was going to be a dogfight,” Puleri said. “We just came in saying that you may never be the fastest team or the best team, but you can always play the hardest. So we just came in and played with heart the whole game.”
Both teams played a gritty and rugged game from the opening tip. Players hustled and fought for each loose ball, each side displayed excellent ball movement and offensive rebounds were difficult to come by. Neither side even managed to get the scoring started until Emma Stevens sunk a free throw with 5:26 left in the opening quarter, and Lee held just a slim, 8-5 edge after one quarter of action.
The Wildcats began to find their rhythm in the second quarter, as they opened a bigger lead that put them in control for the rest of the way. Lee emphasized ball movement to keep swinging passes around the defense and into the hands of an open shooter. Brianna Kelly fed Lydia Simone inside for a layup off the glass, Lydia next delivered a great pass to an open Puleri for a three-pointer, and Hannah Simmons then completed another great series of passes by setting up Lydia for another easy layup.
Mount Greylock kept pace thanks to some nice plays of its own early in the second quarter. Anna Schoorlemmer had a steal that led to a basket from Cierra Schwarzer, and Emma Gilooly took a swing pass from Stevens and drained a three from the top of the key.
“We knew that we had to keep the pressure on,” Puleri said. “They are a tough team and they fight too. We knew if we let it up at all they would come right back on us. They did a little bit, but we kept the pedal on the gas and kept working hard.”
Caroline Maloney pushed Lee’s lead to 17-10 after she connected on both free throws of a one-and-one with 2:16 remaining in the first half.
After managing just 27 combined points over the first fourteen minutes of play, the two sides found their offensive flow to trade buckets back-and-forth to close out the first half. Each team converted four straight scoring chances, as they combined to score 19 points over the final two minutes of the second quarter.
The Wildcats maintained that offensive momentum in the second half to stay ahead and hold onto their lead. Action was close for the entire second half as the two teams engaged in a vicious tug-of-war for control.
Each side seemed to respond whenever the other made a big play. Gilooly got the second-half scoring going with an inside basket for the Mounties (2-4), and Lena Simone hit 1-of-2 free throws and then followed that with an inside move to the hoop for responding scores for Lee. Lydia Simone was next with a layup, to which Stevens answered back with a layup as well.
Wildcats senior Kaden Kelly exemplified their excellent passing on the next trip down the court, with a play that added fuel to the fire. Kaden drew double coverage on a swing pass along the outside edge, and she bounced a no-look pass backwards to Puleri, who drained the 3-pointer to push the lead to 36-22.
“I think a big part of it is that we work really well as a team, especially on defense,” Puleri said. “Everybody is picking each other up, and if we make a turnover or make a bad play or miss an assignment, everyone else just says that it is okay and just shake it off. We just move on to the next play so that we can always keep our intensity up and not get down on ourselves. I think that was a big part tonight, especially when they started making a comeback.”
Even though it took a lot of time off of the clock down the stretch, the Mounties never gave up hope and kept chipping away at the deficit. Schwarzer was a force all night, and she had her best plays in the clutch. First she grabbed a nice inbounds pass for a catch-and-release shot from the paint, and then she blocked a shot and drew a foul that stopped the clock and inched Greylock closer when she hit 1-of-2 free throws.
Schwarzer was the only player with a double-double, as she had 11 points, 12 rebounds and four blocked shots.
Stevens also delivered down the stretch, and her triple with 43.5 seconds remaining supplied the final glimmer of hope for a rally. She finished with 12 points, six rebounds and three assists.
Gilooly added 11 points and five rebounds and Schoorlemmer had five rebounds and two points for Mount Greylock.
Lee continues to get balanced contributions across the lineup. Lydia Simone chipped in with 16 points and nine rebounds, Lena Simone had five points and seven rebounds and Brianna Kelly added seven rebounds and three points.
“We really want to make the tournament this year, after missing it the last two years,” Puleri said. “We’re just really working towards that and that is our main goal. Every game that we can win counts, and we have been working really hard in practice because our main goal at the end of the season is to make the tournament. This is a big South game for us, and another one of our goals is to win the South too.”