Northampton Edges Pittsfield Girls

By Stephen
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NORTHAMPTON -- For more than 31 minutes Friday night, the Pittsfield girls' basketball team used its superior depth to build and maintain a lead over the top-seeded team in the Division 1 Western Massachsuetts tournament.

But a superior individual effort made the difference in the end.

Northampton's Maya Kerstetter drove the baseline for two of her game-high 25 points with two seconds on the clock to the give Blue Devils their first lead of the night and a 48-46 win over the ninth-seeded Generals in the tournament quarterfinals.

"[Bench play] has been our calling card all season long," Pittsfield coach Joe Raciot said. "Unfortunately, we had some turnovers at the wrong times of the game. There were good looks, but there were some lazy passes. They'll improve."

Pittsfield (14-8) had to play almost the entire game without sophomore starter Lauren Carnevale, who turned an ankle on the Generals' third possession of the game. Pittsfield finished the game without two other key players: starter Rachael Hunt, who fouled out midway through the fourth quarter and freshman Allie Hunt, who drew her fifth foul with about two minutes left after scoring 10 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and dishing out three assists.

"Foul trouble," Raciot said without hesitation when asked the difference between Friday's loss and a 54-42 win over the Blue Devils back in December. "I had a senior (Rachael Hunt) who has been in foul trouble all tournament long. Her sister came in and played some good defense. But what are you going to do?"

Allie Hunt scored twice in a 9-0 run that allowed Pittsfield to take control of the game in the second quarter.

She started the run on the receiving end of an assist from junior Dominique Satrape (team-high 15 points), who drove the lane and dished off to the rookie, who made it 13-10. Moments later, the younger Hunt put back an offensive rebound to give Pittsfield a five-point lead.

Pittsfield's press generated two turnovers to keep the run going, and three points by Satrape and a pair of Courtney McLaughlin foul shots gave Pittsfield its first double-digit lead at 20-10.

Northampton got it down to seven, but Allie Hunt converted a Carly Robinson assist for her eighth point of the quarter to give Pittsfield a 24-15 lead at halftime.

That's about where the lead stayed throughout the third quarter, and Pittsfield led by as many as 12 on two occasions -- the second with just more than four minutes to play when Trinity Cookis fed Tiffany Robinson for a 3-pointer to make it 44-32.

"We never stopped believing," Northampton's Kerstetter said. "It doesn't matter if we're down 20 or down 2, there's no lead big enough that we can't come back."

And no lead is safe when the trailing team goes to the foul line seven times in the last 3:43, as the Blue Devils did on Friday night.

Northampton's defense held Pittsfield to just two points in the last four minutes, while the Blue Devils made 12 of 13 free throws down the stretch to tie it.

"We definitely have had games where we haven't had our best free-throw shooting, but we'r a pretty good free-throw shooting team," Kerstetter said.

Kerstetter alone was 7-for-7 at the line in the closing run and had a conventional three-point play. Anna Walther (14 points) scored the last four points on four foul shots, including two with 33.8 seconds left to tie the game for the first time since Satrape's 3-pointer gave Pittsfield a 3-0 lead.

Satrape is one of large group of juniors who will look to get Pittsfield back to the tournament next winter, but for seniors Rachael Hunt, McLaughlin and Sydney Deluce, Friday was their last game in a Pittsfield basketball uniform.

"What can you say about Courtney?" Raciot said. "Courtney's been playing hard and being guarded by the best player from every team, no doubt about it. Sydney Deluce is a scrapper, we all know that. The other night (in a triple-overtime first-round win), she hit two free throws to ice the game, and today she missed them, so what are you going to do?"


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