NORTH ADAMS, Mass. -- The season-opener went well for the McCann Tech girls basketball team.
Not the real season-opener -- though that was a three-point road win -- but the second season-opener, a 59-38 victory over Southwick on Friday night in the Hornets Nest.
“Tonight, we said, it’s the beginning of the rest of our season,” McCann Tech coach Kathy Budaj said. “We have our four league games, and we’re going to go in and play our hearts out, and, hopefully, good things will happen.”
McCann Tech got lots of good things Friday from Aimee Dowling and Grace Towler. The former scored 14 points, grabbed eight rebounds and passed out seven assists. Towler scored a game-high 19 points and connected on four shots from behind the 3-point arc.
The month of January was a tough one for the Hornets (5-11), who hit the holiday break 3-1 but dropped 10 of their next 11, including seven straight going into Friday’s contest.
Included in that month was a Jan. 8 road loss at Southwick. On Friday, the Hornets scored 22 more points than they did the first time around against the Rams -- evidence that independent games against the likes of Greenfield and Mount Everett are paying dividends.
Budaj and her squad have reason to believe that they can improve on their 2-2 league record from the first trip through the Franklin West double round-robin and make a real run at one of the top two spots in the league.
“The [non-league games] helped,” Budaj said. “They’re tough. We had some of these 30-point losses. But it’s made us a quicker team, understanding a lot more of the game. And I think it translated tonight versus the first time we played them.”
McCann Tech broke open the game with a 15-0 run that spanned the first and second quarters.
Kaylee Tatro (10 points) got things started when she converted a Natalie Diesz pass to tie the game, 12-12.
Moments later, Dowling set up Towler for a 3-pointer to give McCann Tech the lead for good, 15-12. Dowling set up Tatro for a jumper from the left wing to send the Hornets to the second with a five-point cushion.
Dowling started the second by getting to the line on back-to-back trips. She drained both shots the second time to make it 19-12. And later she set up Towler in transition. Mackenzie Boucher scored in the post on a feed from Diesz, and Tatro scored in transition to make it 25-12 with a couple of minutes left in the half.
Southwick pulled within nine at the start of the second half, but McCann Tech went on an 11-2 run to open a 41-23 lead when Towler knocked down a triple off a feed from Tatro.
Tatro grabbed 11 rebounds to go with her 10 points.
The Hornets overcame a 13-point, 11-rebound performance from Southwick center Caroline Clark. Despite her looming presence in the post, McCann Tech consistently was able to drive to the basket and get to the line, and it held its own on the glass.
“I thought we did a good job rebounding,” Budaj said. “We pushed it to the hole more. And when you attack the basket, good things are going to happen.
“Aimee [Dowling] did a really good job for us tonight. She’s been a leader for us all year. I was glad to see her shots were falling for her.”
McCann Tech starts its run of four straight league games to finish the season on Tuesday at Easthampton, a team it beat, 52-35, back on Dec. 18.