Howard Comes Up Big for Mount Greylock Girls at McCann

By Stephen Sports
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. -- Before Jenna Benzinger scored seven second-half points and grabbed 12 second-half rebounds, before the teams pulled their starters midway through the fourth quarter and before the Mount Greylock girls earned a 49-25 win at McCann Tech on Wednesday, there was a point when the Hornets looked to have a puncher’s chance.
It came late in the second quarter, when Alanza Quinones scored in transition to cap an 8-0 McCann Tech run and cut Mount Greylock’s lead down to five points, 20-15.
But the Mounties took a timeout, scored the next seven to go to halftime up by 12, and never looked back in running their record to 5-0 this season.
“I wasn’t even worried about the five points,” Mount Greylock coach John Jacobbe said. “I just wanted to go on a little run. I thought we could run on them a little bit, and we weren’t. So Lauren [Howard] hit a 3 off a play at the top of the key, and then we had two or three quick fast breaks and got it back up to double digits.”
Hannah Locklear set up Howard for the triple to end McCann’s run. Then Hornets’ turnovers led to a pair transition baskets -- first a Madison Ross putback and then a Maddie Albert lay-in to make it 27-15.
“That minute, 36 seconds, I said to the girls, that was the game-changer,” McCann Tech coach Kathy Budaj said. “What we did: We threw it away, and they came back and made easy lay-ups. We didn’t get back and defend the court, and we let them pull away.
“Against a team like that, it’s tough to come back.”
Mount Greylock got ahead initially with a big first half by junior Lauren Howard. She scored eight of her 10 points and grabbed 13 of her 17 rebounds in the first 16 minutes of the game.
“Lauren, against a zone, is usually the girl we look to,” Jacobbe said. “She can score, we know that. She stepped up when we needed it because baskets weren’t falling tonight.
“I thought it was a good, hard-fought battle. We just came off one of the biggest victories in the history of our program [over Pittsfield], and tonight I expected a little let down. I was hoping to avoid it, but we didn’t come out with the energy we had the other night. And McCann came with some high energy and battled us right to the end.”
Mount Greylock put the game away with an 11-3 run in the third quarter.
Albert (eight points, six rebounds) got things started with a bucket to make it 31-17. Benzinger (nine points, 16 rebounds) scored on back-to-back possessions off offensive rebounds. Sarah Stripp capped the run by scoring on an assist from Benzinger on an inbounds play at the buzzer to make it 40-20 going to the fourth quarter.
Stripp had four steals go along with a game-high 12 points. With her and Albert harassing McCann’s guards and the 5-foot-11 Howard and 6-4 Benzinger dominating the glass, it was tough for McCann to make many in-roads on Wednesday night.
Down the road, the experience should pay dividends for the Hornets (1-3), who got 10 points apiece from Quinones and Allie Gibeau and strong play in the paint from Gibeau and Aimee Dowling, who had the unenviable task of trying to limit Benzinger’s touches.
“It’s hard to defend that kind of height, it really is,” Budaj said. “[Benzinger and Howard] are taller than anyone we’ve got. But I’m proud of my girls. They played hard. It’s going to help us throughout the season. Nothing to hang our heads against.
“I think we did a really good job in the first half and even the second half. We were forcing [Benzinger] to take some shots maybe she didn’t want to take, but yet she’d get the rebound. That’s the hard part. She has eight, 10 inches on my big girl. There’s only so much you can do.”
McCann Tech goes to Turners Falls and Mount Greylock hosts Monson on Friday.
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