WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. -- Down 10 points going into the fourth quarter on the road with a Berkshire County South Division title on the line, the Lee High girls basketball team had some recent success on which to draw for confidence and inspiration.
“The other night was definitely one of our best game, and it just goes to show with how we played tonight,” Lee junior Shannon Finnegan said. “Winning that game on Tuesday made us believe we could be first in the South, and that just pushed us harder to get this win.”
Finnegan gave her teammates a chance to get that win by calmly knocking down a 3-pointer with 2.9 seconds left in regulation and then putting back an offensive rebound for Lee’s only field goal in overtime as the Wildcats defeated Mount Greylock, 40-39, to clinch the South.
It was Lee’s second win in three nights over the Mounties, who visited South County on Tuesday.
On Thursday, Kendra Williams scored eight points in a 14-6 run that got Lee (16-2) within two points with 2 minutes, 21 seconds left in the fourth quarter when she drove the right wing to make it 33-31.
The Mounties answered two possessions later when Jenna Benzinger (18 points, 17 rebounds) hit both ends of a one-and-one to push Mount Greylock’s lead back to 35-31 with 1:41 on the clock.
Fifty seconds later Williams set up Briana Hawley for a 3-pointer to get Lee within one point for the first time since midway through the second quarter.
Mount Greylock (14-6) got free throws from Maddie Albert and Sarah Stripp to make it 37-34 with 17 seconds on the clock.
The Wildcats got off a 3-pointer from the right side that missed the mark. Williams chased down the ball in the corner on the left wing and fired a pass to the wide open Finnegan.
“I was just thinking that our team really worked hard for this game, and we really wanted to win this division,” Finnegan said.
“It felt nice [leaving my hands]. It was only because of Kendra's save, and that was a beautiful pass she made to get us into overtime.”
Finnegan scored the first points of an OT that looked a lot like the defensive battle the teams waged in the first half, which ended with Mount Greylock ahead, 17-13.
Finnegan’s putback on Lee’s second possession of OT gave her team a 39-37 lead.
Both teams then went scoreless for more than two minutes before Williams drove the right side and went to the line with 30.7 seconds left. She drew a foul and hit the second of two shots to give the ‘Cats a three-point cushion.
On Mount Greylock’s ensuing possession, Albert got an offensive rebound to keep the possession alive, and Benzinger put back a rebound to get the Mounties within one, 40-39, with 8.5 seconds left.
Lee inbounded the ball to Finnegan, who was fouled with 6.2 on the clock. She missed the front end of a one-and-one. Benzinger grabbed the rebound, but without a timeout the Mounties were forced to rush the ball up the floor, and Karli Retzel (nine points) stole the ball at half court.
She drove all the way to the basket, but her shot came just after the buzzer. It hardly mattered to the Wildcats, who already were celebrating the league championship before the ball dropped through the net.
Lee coach Rick Puleri credited Williams, one of his six seniors, with perseverance for staying with the game plan on a night when nothing clicked for Wildcats except in the fourth quarter.
“Kendra made some big shots,” Puleri said. “She had a great second half. I'm always telling these guys, 'Listen, you guys have to continue to shoot even if they're not falling. The right shot is the right shot. You've got to keep shooting the ball.' And she knocked them in in the second half.”
Mount Greylock coach John Jacobbe said he was encouraged with the way his team responded after dropping a 59-44 decision at Lee fewer than 48 hours earlier.
“It's two very good teams, and they found a way to get it done tonight,” he said. “We came up one point short.
“They're a well balanced team. They're going to be a good team in Division 4. They had a good win tonight. I'm proud of our effort, and I also know Lee made some plays and won the game more than we lost the game.”