DALTON, Mass. - Freshman Jackie Duquette delivered several clutch plays in the closing minutes to lift the Pittsfield girls basketball team to a 40-34 victory over host Wahconah, Saturday afternoon at Ed Lasley Gymnasium.
The Generals (1-1) closed out strong by outscoring Pittsfield 14-5 in the fourth quarter to pull away to victory. The margin of victory was nearly the largest lead that either side ever held, as the action was close from the opening tip right down to the final minutes.
“I was really proud in how they played in the end,” Generals head coach Joe Racicot said. “They really stepped up, and being as close as we were all through the game, basically anybody could have won it. It was just a matter of us hitting a couple key shots down the stretch. They have been working hard at practice, and we have a good mixture of young and old, and everybody chipped in today. That is the key.”
Pittsfield came into the action after a lopsided defeat to Northampton to start the season, but that game conditioning seemed to pay off when the Generals finished with their best quarter in the fourth.
“Pittsfield’s tough and those kids work hard,” Wahconah head coach Liz Kay said. “We were just trying to match their intensity. Foul trouble got to us a little bit, with Maria Gamberoni coming out, but I also feel like it was an opportunity for some of those other kids to step into roles that they’re not used to doing. To have to do it in the first game of the year should lead to really great things moving forward.”
With the game tied at 31-31 with 3:50 left to play, Emery Sime sunk a pair of free throws that put the Generals ahead for good.
Duquette then got going with a flurry of big plays. First the freshman recorded a steal and then converted a 3-pointer off an assist from Jordyn Lummus, before then drawing contact on the next possession and converting 1-of-2 free throws. Duquette next grabbed the rebound off a Wahconah missed shot and was fouled, where she again hit one of the free throws to push it to a 38-31 advantage with only 43 seconds remaining.
Duquette finished with 10 points, six rebounds and two steals. Racicot noted how much both Jackie and her sister Randi have brought to the team already, despite only being freshmen. Randi chipped in five points and two rebounds.
“Those kids are working hard, and they are used to winning. I hope we continue with that tradition,” Racicot said.
The Generals received solid contributions throughout the lineup. Alexi Sondrini iced the victory with a pair of free throws to finish with a team-high 11 points and five rebounds. Lummus was a force on the boards, as she grabbed a game-high eight rebounds to go along with four points. Sime did a little bit of everything, with five points, three steals, two rebounds and a blocked shot.
From the opening tip, Pittsfield operated at a fast pace. The team maintained that tempo all throughout, as it was always in attack mode.
“It’s becoming a run-and-gun game all over the league, and everybody pushes the ball up the floor,” Racicot said. “When we get that opportunity we like to do it, and we did have the opportunity today. We didn’t have easy shots, but once we got it back out and ran things we looked real good.”
Even though Wahconah (0-1) was playing in their first live action of the season, it stayed step-for-step all the way. Kay’s team equaled the Generals’ intensity and also maintained a fast pace, which helped create fast breaks and easy scoring chances.
“We knew it was coming, and our kids are getting into game shape,” Kay said. “Pittsfield had a game under their belt and I think that really helped. But we have hard-working kids and I am really excited about this group. The things that went wrong are the things that you cannot necessarily control, so you cannot get upset about that. I always say, ‘Be 100% right or 100% wrong’, and I don’t think many decisions were made at 50%, so that is great. We just couldn’t make shots.”
Both sides did well at controlling the boards and limiting second-chance opportunities. Pittsfield had 28 rebounds overall, while Wahconah recorded 23 rebounds.
Wahconah played its best stretch coming out in the second half holding a slim 19-17 edge, when they opened up an eight-point lead that was the largest margin throughout. After playing at such a fast pace the entire first half, Wahconah slowed things down and worked on their inside-out maneuvering to set up easy scoring chances in the paint.
Gamberoni got the second-half scoring going with a nice inside move to the basket, before then recording a steal and taking it all the way back for another layup. Morgan Marauszwski snagged a rebound off a Pittsfield missed shot, and Noelle Furlong turned it into a three-point play when she was fouled on a layup and then sunk the free throw.
“The adjustments were really good, and especially since we had not gone over most of them before,” Kay said. “So to have the ability to have kids out and say what we are going to do and have them execute it is really difficult. It says a lot about our kids’ intelligence.”
The Generals answered back and got their own halftime adjustments into motion. It was Jackie Duquette who ended that run, when she connected on a trey to pull within 27-22. Sime then fed Lummus on a give-and-go floater that found nothing but the back of the net. Lummus came up with another steal and took it home to make it a one-point game, before Wahconah took a 29-26 advantage into the fourth following a basket from Jordyn Gagliardi.
“At halftime we talked about moving the ball better and making better passes before we got trapped,” Racicot said. “That 1-3-1 has been our nemesis since they started playing it. So it was good to beat it today.”
Just seconds into the final quarter, Sondrini sunk a 3-pointer that evened the score and left it all to be decided in the final seven minutes of play.
Wahconah managed several open looks down the stretch, but most of those long-range shots did not hit their mark. Becca Morris sank a 3 just before the buzzer to close out the scoring, after several other good looks did not go down when they were needed the most.
“We had a lot of good looks, but if you can’t knock them down you can’t worry about it,” Kay said. “We struggled at the foul line, but I don’t think you’re going to see too much of that the rest of the year. I think there was some anxiety and excitement going into the first game. But when you only give up 40 points in a game you usually feel pretty good.”
Furlong led Wahconah with 10 points, six rebounds, four steals, two assists and a block, while Gamberoni also had 10 points to go with four rebounds and four steals. Jilly Cote contributed nine points and six rebounds, while much of her success came early on in helping Wahconah establish a first-half lead.