SHEFFIELD, Mass. -- Just two weeks ago, the math was so straight-forward for the Mount Everett girls basketball team: Win two of their final six games, and they would be in the Western Massachusetts Division 4 tournament.
Then, the Eagles got one of those wins, and they found themselves with a whole new math problem: how to replace a leader who averaged 24 points per night.
Since losing sophomore Gwendolyn Carpenter for the season in a win over Lee on Feb. 7, Mount Everett is 0-4. Saturday’s 59-35 loss to Monson means the Eagles (9-10) have a do-or-die game Monday night at Sabis.
Somehow, they are going to have to find the answer to a puzzle that has confounded them since losing their thousand-point-scoring sophomore.
“Getting these kids to understand that they have the ability has been really a difficult thing for all of us, coaching wise, right now,” Mount Everett coach Scott Rote said. “We tell them: ‘You’re good. Any one of you guys on any given day can throw in 12 points.’ Give me two kids who put in 12 points that normally score four or five, and we’re there.
“Shut down [the opponent] 10 points defensively, give me an extra eight, 10, 12 points from a couple of you guys, and we’re good. We don’t need a 25-point scorer. We just need two or three kids who are scoring 12 or 13 points.”
On Saturday, Kelsey Netzer led Mount Everett with nine points, and Tori Seward added seven.
Monson got 12 and 11, respectively, from the tandem of Madison Gerry and Kaitlyn Santas.
Carpenter was one of three Mount Everett regulars lost in the last couple of weeks. Madeline Von Ruden and Marion Devoti were combining to account for seven points per game between them. The three combined accounted for 31 points per game -- more than any team can hope to reasonably overcome with five games left on the schedule.
Nevertheless, the Eagles were right there with the Mustangs until the third quarter.
Seward scored in transition, and Kirsty Parsons hit a pair of free throws with 30 seconds left in the first half to make it an eight-point game, 26-18.
Monson made a foul shot in the final second to take a nine-point margin into the locker room.
It was just an 11-point bulge early in the third when Kayla Krom (four points, 19 rebounds) put back an offensive rebound about three minutes into the third.
But Monson went on a 9-0 run from there to push its lead to 41-22 and never looked back.
Gerry scored eight of her 12 in the third quarter.
Monson got strong rebounding throughout from the tandem of Bee Murphy and Somer Bren, who finished with 11 boards apiece to balance out the 19-rebound effort from Krom.
“We knew coming in with their size -- and being down a couple of kids -- that it was going to be tough,” Rote said. “We thought switching up and getting into that trapping 1-3-1 would make it tougher for their guards to get it in to the bigs. But … Murphy in the post is real good. She’s not big as some of the other kids we’ve seen, but she moves really well down there. … Somer [Bren] was just too much for us to handle down there.”
Rote expects another tall order on Monday night at Sabis, a team that also is battling for its playoff life.
“It’s hard,” he said. “You try to backfill 20 some points, and it’s tough. … Girls basketball in Western Mass now, you’ve got to throw 45, 50 points up if you want to have a chance of winning the game around here.
“The kids that we have right now, the kids that stepped up … and they’re not giving in. We talked about with the seniors, let’s give them the year they expected to have. Let’s see if we can get them to the tournament like they wanted.
“And I still believe in all these kids. I just want them to believe in themselves. That’s what we’re trying to get them to do right now.”