NORTH ADAMS, Mass. -- Momentum keeps on building for the Lee Wildcats girls basketball team.
Friday night the Wildcats won their fourth straight with a convincing 60-40 victory at the McCann Tech Hornets. The team enjoyed solid contributions throughout the rotation, and it lead the entire second half.
“This was a really big game. We needed this Division IV win to get closer to the tournament,” Lee junior Lydia Simone said. “It was just really important to come out strong, and our bench played a really good part in building our lead in the second half. We just all played really well together. It was really important for us to win this game, and we did.”
Things were tight early on, but once Lee grabbed control it held the momentum the rest of the way. Kaylee Tatro got McCann on the board, and Caroline Maloney answered back to get Lee started. Macey Tatro dropped in the second chance off two consecutive offensive rebounds, and Kaylee followed with an inside floater that found nothing but net to give the Hornets an early 6-2 edge.
An 8-0 run swung the energy in favor of the Wildcats (4-1), as they marched into the lead and never looked back. Hannah Simmons had a layup and Brianna Kelly came up with a steal and fed Emma Puleri for the tying basket.
Brianna Kelly then registered another steal, and this time she took the ball all the way to the hoop herself to give her team the lead. Emma followed with an inside layup that doubled the advantage, but Izzy LaCasse answered back by draining a three-pointer just before the end of the first quarter.
“We knew we were going to have our hands full,” Wildcats head coach Rick Puleri said. “McCann is a very good team. They are tough and they are going to do well this year.”
Lee kept executing to set the pace. Emma Puleri found herself open outside and she sunk the triple to answer back with the first points of the second quarter, and Kaylee Tatro grabbed a rebound and put it back to keep things close at 13-11.
Lydia Simone then caught a spark and converted several big plays that electrified the Wildcats. She was fouled on a layup and sank the free throw for the three-point play, before next dropping a deep shot from the corner of the arch for five quick points.
“I think that was the turnaround,” Lydia said. “I kind of knew that everybody was going to start to get upbeat and hyped. Everyone got excited and our energy just went up from there.”
The Wildcats executed well to close out the half. Kaden Kelly chipped in a 3-pointer, Lydia Simone had a nice assist to Maloney for a basket the next trip down the court, and Maloney then snatched a rebound and took it coast-to-coast to go up 24-16.
Meanwhile, LaCasse helped the Hornets keep pace, as she closed with seven points over the final five minutes of the second quarter. The sophomore guard made a nice spin move to get an easy layup in response to Maloney’s scoring burst.
Maloney answered right back with a three-point play for Lee’s final scoring of the first half. The Wildcats swung the ball around and Maloney got inside position to draw the foul on her layup, before then connecting at the charity stripe.
“We like to pass, especially against a zone. We just like to find that open person,” Maloney said.
LaCasse made a pair of free throws and Kaylee Tatro had a steal and later sank the final basket of the first half, with McCann trailing 27-22 at the break.
That deficit only grew larger in the second half.
Lee outscored the Hornets 18-8 in the third quarter and 15-10 in the fourth quarter. The Wildcats had tripled their lead by the start of the final quarter, and they continued to make their shots down the stretch to keep piling the points on.
“We got a really good contribution from our bench when we had some starters in foul trouble,” Coach Puleri said. “Honestly, that was what turned the tide for the game in the second half. We had three starters that picked up three fouls halfway through the third, and the subs came in and grew the lead to 14 points. They turned the table.”
Brianna Kelly led that charge, most particularly with four rebounds in the third quarter. She had six points and seven rebounds overall.
Maloney also heated up in the second half, on her way to a game-high 20 points, to go with six rebounds and three steals. She also helped to keep up the tempo and facilitate much of the offensive flow, as everyone fell in rhythm together in the second half.
“Altogether we had really good passes and our movement was a lot better, and we communicated a lot better,” Maloney said. “We slowed down their press and were able to get those baskets where we were passing it back and forth and swinging it against their zone. We were just able to get the open shot. We also work a lot on defense. It pays off, and it feels so good to see where we’ve come from the beginning of the season, even though we are not even halfway through, to see how much better we’ve gotten.”
Emma Puleri supplied 16 points and five rebounds, Lydia Simone chipped in 11 points and four boards and Lena Simone had seven rebounds, two points and two assists.
“The girls are playing hard and they played together. They played to win, and I’m proud of them. The effort is definitely there,” Coach Puleri said.
Rebounding continues to be a strong suit for the Hornets (1-2), as it helped keep them in the battle for much of the night. Macey Tatro registered a game-high 13 rebounds to go with six points and two assists, while Kaylee Tatro had 10 rebounds and a team-high 16 points for McCann. LaCasse had 11 points and six rebounds and Grace Towler chipped in seven points and four rebounds.