AMHERST, Mass. -- After withstanding an early run from the Mount Everett girls basketball team on Saturday morning, Quaboag rebounded to earn a 61-41 win in the championship game of the Western Massachusetts Divison 4 tournament.
Alexia Paquette scored 21 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to led the fifth-seeded Cougars (16-8), who trailed by 10 points early in the second quarter but closed the period on a 12-0 run and never looked back.
A big factor in that closing run was offensive rebounding. Quaboag scored six straight second-chance points during the decisive stretch.
"I thought [size] was our advantage," Quaboag coach David Bouchard said. "I don't think they play a lot of people that go inside like Lexi [Paquette] does. And, of course, Shayla [Dorman], when it comes to rebounding, you don't expect a guard to come in."
The 5-foot-11 Dorman grabbed 13 rebounds to go along with 11 points.
Second-seeded Mount Everett (18-5) was led by freshman Gwendolyn Carpenter, who scored 15 points, grabbed six boards and passed out four assists. Junior Kelsey Netzer scored 11 points, and senior Jessica Abbott, playing through early foul trouble, scored six with 10 boards.
Mount Everett coach Scott Rote said that those two first-quarter fouls on Abbott were part of the reason Mount Everett was not able to continue its early pace.
With defensive pressure, the Eagles were able to create eight points in transition in the first quarter and build a 17-7 lead early in the second.
"The same thing that's been haunting us the whole thing: fouls," he said. "When we get into foul trouble, we have to back off a little bit and can't continue our pressure. That's our Achilles heel right now.
"We talk about it all the time. We play best when we play fast and can get out in transition. We had to slow down, and they started packing it in in their zone against Gwen."
Carpenter had nine points at half-time. She scored just six after the break, but she did have four of her assists in the second half.
"It's funny because people see Gwen score for us all year," Rote said. "It's 380-some points Gwen has had on the year, but she's sitting on 129 assists. She's sitting as our No. 3 rebounder. She's our point guard, shooting guard, power forward. She's everything for the team. And she's a freshman."
Carpenter had two assists early in the third quarter as the Eagles went toe-to-toe with the Quaboag. It was 25-21 entering the second half and 36-35 late in the third after Carpenter knocked down a pair of free throws.
But the Cougars then started a 14-2 run that spanned the third and fourth quarters. In that stretch, Paquette scored eight, including a conventional three-point play and a putback for the final points of the run to make it 50-37 with fewer than four minutes to play.
Carpenter got the Eagles back on the board when she followed her own missed 3 with a bucket in the paint, but Quaboag scored 11 of the game's last 13 points to make build the deceptively large 20-point final margin.
As the large crowd of Mount Everett supporters filed past on their way out of Curry Hicks Cage, Rote tried to put the Eagles' run this winter in perspective.
"I get emotional because ... the shirts we had made up, 'One Team, One Family, One Community,' this brought a community together," he said. "I'm an alumnus. I went to school here. What this group of kids did for a community -- it's not about basketball.
"We talk about it all the time. No one is going on to play major college basketball from our school. These kids need to learn life lessons. And that's what we tried to tell them: This is a life lesson. Sometimes you can be one of the better teams and still not come out on top."