Alward's Sharp-Shooting Leads Lenox Girls Back to Western Mass Final
AMHERST, Mass. -- Jade Alward hit seven 3-pointers and scored 27 points Monday to lead the Lenox girls to a 59-54 win over Ware in the Western Massachusetts Division 4 semi-finals.
Third-seeded Lenox (16-7) will play No. 1 Monson (20-2) on Saturday morning at Curry Hicks Cage for the sectional title. Earlier Monday evening, Monson beat Lee in the other D4 semi-final.
Alward caught fire in the third quarter, draining four 3-pointers. She added two more from behind the arc to help the Millionaires survive a back-and-forth fourth quarter in which Ware took its only leads of the night after trailing by as many as nine at the end of the third.
Lenox coach Nicole Patella said she was not surprised to see Alward light it up from outside in the Cage, a venue where shooters sometimes have trouble adjusting to the sight lines this time of year.
"Jade's a basketball player," Patella said. "She's played a lot of AAU. She's been in a lot of different gyms. So her technique is spot on. And she's a senior who doesn't want to go home losing. She got hot at the right time for us.
"Jade has a lot of confidence to shoot the ball. We run offenses to get her shots, her and Katherine [Nichols]."
Nichols scored 10 in the first half on Monday to help Lenox take a 25-16 lead into half-time.
Ware came out of the locker room for the third quarter with a much crisper offense, but thanks to Alward's 12 points, the Millionaires were able to match the No. 2 seed point for point.
Tabor Paul put back an offensive rebound at the buzzer to give Lenox a 41-32 lead going to the last quarter.
Ware opened that quarter on an 11-0 run that ended with a jumper from the left wing by Audrey LaValley (12 points) to give her team a 43-41 lead.
Sophie Patella (10 points, eight rebounds, five assists) answered at the other end to tie it, and the teams traded baskets for the next two minutes.
An Alward triple with 1 minute, 57 seconds left gave Lenox a 51-48 lead -- after a delay for the official scorer and referees to correct the scoreboard.
And after Lenox forced a turnover, Paul was fouled in the post on an entry pass from Patella and sank both her free throws to make it 53-48 with 1:37 on the clock.
The next time down the court for Lenox, Patella set up Mia Giardina for an open look under the basket, and she converted to make it 55-50.
LaValley scored again for Ware, but Lenox was able to put the game away at the foul line, converting four of five free throws down the stretch, including one-and-ones from Patella and Alward.
That sent Lenox back to the D4 final for the first time since 2012.
Coach Patella said there are similarities between that Lenox team and the 2019-20 edition.
"We lost to Sabis by 3," Patella said of that sectional final eight years ago. Megan [Babich] had a shot at the buzzer. It missed or we would have gone to overtime.
"That team is very similar to this team. They were super unselfish. They ran the same kind of zone. They loved to press. They loved to run. And they were a great group of girls who loved each other. That's what I have now. It's been a fun ride with them."
Video: Sophie Patella feeds Jade Alward in the post for a bucket.
Video: Katherine Nichols hits a 3-pointer for Lenox in Monday’s Western Mass semifinal win.