Lenox Girls Barrel Past Hopkins Academy in Quarter-Finals
LENOX, Mass. -- It has been several years coming, but the wait is finally over for the Lenox Millionaires. Following a convincing 58-21 home victory over the Hopkins Academy Golden Hawks in a quarterfinal game on Thursday night, Lenox advanced and earned the chance to play in the Western Mass semifinals at The Cage on the University of Massachusetts campus.
“This is amazing. The last three years we’ve been one game short of getting to The Cage, and we really wanted it this year. So it means so much winning out here tonight,” sophomore forward Sophie Patella said. “We really wanted this game and we came in with the mentality of win, not lose, and we’ll get to The Cage. I think that is what gave us that momentum to push forward.”
Lenox (15-7) thrived with momentum on its side all night long. The Millionaires got off to a slow start offensively, but still grabbed control thanks to a suffocating defense that created nine turnovers in the opening quarter alone. Once Lenox got on the scoreboard on a three-pointer from Katherine Nichols roughly a minute into the action it led the entire way.
“Having the home court was huge,” Lenox head coach Nicole Patella admitted. “Last year they went to Ware, the year before that to Munson and the year before that to Turners Falls. So having a home game was incredibly huge, and I am just proud of these girls for keeping their composure. It was a very physical game and they just kept their composure.”
The Millionaires have won 12 of their last 13 contests, and they were 10-2 at home this season. All night long they exhibited how they accomplished those things in their gritty effort, suffocating defense and their excellent ball movement. Lenox excelled at swinging passes around the court to find open shooters, exploiting defensive gaps that consistently led to open lanes to the basket.
“We run a lot of different offenses, so we look for a lot of different kids,” Nicole Patella said. “Obviously, we tried to get our three-point shooters open, but the middle was wide open. So we were getting a lot of back cuts. We shared the ball really well.”
Despite holding all the momentum and control, Lenox only led 6-2 after the first quarter. But the team got rolling in the second quarter to extend it to a 24-10 halftime advantage. Tabor Paul connected for a pair of three-pointers and scored all of her nine points during the second, to total along with four assists, two rebounds and two block shots.
The Millionaires put their foot on the gas and took off to the finish line in the second half. They opened the second half on a 7-0 run and kept the Golden Hawks from scoring anything in the first four minutes of the third quarter.
“We really wanted to seal the deal,” Sophie Patella said. “We were not going to let up; we were going to keep playing our game no matter what. We were going to keep pushing and just keep going to the basket, and playing good defense overall.”
Lenox certainly kept pushing once the action resumed. It was Nichols who again got the scoring going, when she dropped in a layup off an assist from Jade Alward on the opening possession of the third. Amelia Reis followed with a basket on the next trip down the court, and a Hopkins turnover led to a foul in which Alward connected on 1-of-2 free throws. Pressure defense created another turnover on a steal from Sophie Patella, and Alward was fouled and sunk both shots from the charity stripe this time.
“I thought the first three minutes were going to be a huge key,” Nicole Patella said. “We scored and we got a rebound and then they turned it over, so the first three minutes of the third quarter were pretty huge. We ran a match-up zone that really covered the arch and we rebounded, which is something we stressed about the last few days. They were big, so we knew we had box-out first and that we couldn’t just try to out-rebound them.”
The Millionaires enjoyed a balanced scoring attack that saw seven different players all score. Alward led the way with 14 points and three assists, Sophie Patella contributed eight points, nine rebounds, two assists and a blocked shot, and Nichols had 13 points, three rebounds, two steals, two assists and a blocked shot. Amelia Reis added four points and six rebounds and Mia Giardina chipped in two points and seven rebounds.
Freshman guard Tia Fyden led Hopkins Academy with 11 points, five rebounds and four steals.
Lenox moves on to next week's semi-final against second-seeded Ware (17-5), an over-time winner Thursday against Pioneer Valley Regional.