AMHERST, Mass. — Freshman Gwendolyn Carpenter led all scorers with 29 points, but the key to Mount Everett’s overtime win in the Western Mass semifinals on Monday was the Eagles’ ability to spread the wealth.
Senior Jessica Abbott scored four points, and classmate Maura Robitaille added three in OT as the Eagles nipped Lee, 59-54, to earn a spot in Saturday morning’s Division 4 championship game back at Curry Hicks Cage. Mount Everett will face Quaboag, a 46-43 winner in Monday's other semifinal.
“[Abbott] came up big in the end there,” Carpenter said. “They were closing the middle, and I like to drive. So as it was collapsing, I was able to find her, and she made those shots, which were big for us.”
Abbott, who finished with just seven points (but also 15 rebounds) hit a jumper from the baseline on the left wing to give Mount Everett a 52-50 lead with just more than 2 minutes left in OT. Then on the Eagles’ next possession, Carpenter drove and dished to Abbott at the elbow, and the senior center drained her shot to make it a four-point game.
Robitaille scored all of her three points in overtime, including a foul shot with 20 seconds left to make it a three-possession game, 57-50.
“The difference was these kids, they believed, the group that was on the floor,” Rote said. “I mean, Maura Robitaille, the poor kid, sees very few minutes a game. She’s a defensive specialist. And to make that one shot and hit the foul shot, things like that are key.
“And Jess Abbott came up big tonight. She played really tough on the boards. She made a couple of shots for us. And we told her: She could be the difference because they’re not expecting her to score.”
Anyone who has followed Berkshire County girls basketball this winter expected Carpenter to score, and score she did, picking up 16 of her 29 at the foul line and dishing out four assists in the second half and overtime.
“She’s a freshman, and she’s as smart and as good as any senior you’re going to find in the county or in the valley, right now, I think,” Rote said. “She’s got the poise of a senior.”
Both teams needed all the poise they could muster in a back-and-forth, whistle-filled contest that saw four players foul out and three more finish with four fouls apiece.
Foul trouble was more of an issue in the first half for sixth-seeded Lee (13-10), which went to the locker room with three players carrying three fouls.
But Lee also led by as many as seven in the second quarter when Karli Retzel (17 points, seven rebounds) scored in transition to make it 18-11 midway through the period.
Mount Everett then closed the second with a 14-4 run fueled by foul shooting. Carpenter, Coon (10 points) and Parker Snyder combined to go 11-for-14 at the line in the last five minutes of the half as the Eagles took a 25-22 lead into the locker room.
Lee stormed out of the locker room with a 19-9 third quarter to take a 41-34 lead. Retzel, Taylor Fera and Mikayla DeSantis each hit a 3-pointer during the third — the first from outside the arc for either team. Fera’s 3 off a Shannon Finnegan assist closed the quarter.
Second-seeded Mount Everett (18-4) started the fourth with a 12-5 run to tie the game on Kelsey Netzer’s triple midway through the quarter.
From there, defense reigned as the teams combined for just four more points in regulation.
Lee took a two-point lead on free throws by Briana Hawley (nine points) and Fera. Mount Everett answered with singles by Carpenter and Abbott.
That set the stage for an overtime period in which Lee never was able to get a lead.
The Wildcats, a perennial Western Mass and state power, had to settle for a semifinal appearance after a two-year absence from the Cage.
For Mount Everett, Monday’s win came in the program’s first trip to Amherst since the late 1980s, Rote said
“We got into that fourth quarter and told them, ‘You’ve got to believe you can still win this thing,’ “ Rote said.
“It’s been a dream of mine for 15 years to get to the Cage. It’s been a dream to play for a Western Mass title. I don’t know if it has sunk in. It hasn’t totally sunk in for me that we have to come back out on Saturday — have to get up early and get on the bus. But, boy, I tell you, these next three days are going to be three of the greatest days Mount Everett has had in a long, long time.”
More photos of this game here.