SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- After an 18-2 first-half run to open up a double-digit lead, the Wahconah girls basketball team was in control most of the way Friday night against Longmeadow.
But with three minutes left in the fourth quarter, starting center Jilly Cote went to the bench with her fifth foul and with her team ahead by just eight.
Wahconah coach Liz Kay was not too worried.
"We put Noelle [Furlong] in the middle of the zone, which is something we've done in the past but not this year yet, and she didn't hesitate," Kay said after Wahconah secured a 34-21 win at the Spalding HoopHall Classic at Springfield College. "So, for me, when you see your players not hesitate to step into different spots, it gives you a lot of confidence."
The Lancers managed just three points -- all at the foul line -- the rest of the way as Wahconah won its seventh straight to improve to 7-1 this winter.
Maria Gamberoni scored a game-high 12 points and Furlong backed her up with 11.
Wahconah's defense forced 17 turnovers and held the Division 2 Lancers to 14 percent shooting from the field.
Offensively, Wahconah did not get a field goal in the first six minutes of the game.
But it caught fire after Gamberoni knocked down a 3-pointer with 1 minute, 38 seconds left in the first quarter to cut Longmeadow's lead to 6-4.
That trey ignited the decisive run, which saw Longmeadow manage just a couple of free throws.
Meanwhile, Gamberoni hit another 3 and set up buckets by Morgan Marauszwski and Furlong to give their team a 19-8 lead at the half.
That 11-point margin may as well have been a 25-point bulge the way Wahconah plays defense.
"At half-time, it was definitely comforting to have that 11-point lead, but we always feel like the first four minutes are the most important," Gamberoni said. "We can either get ahead by 20, or they can cut the lead to four. So usually, at half-time, we try to come out as strong as we can."
Things did not go exactly according to plan as Longmeadow tightened up at the defensive end and got out of the third quarter down by just seven, 21-14.
Marauszwski knocked down a 3 with an assist from Furlong to cap a 7-2 spurt that opened the fourth and put the margin back in double digits.
But the Lancers kept it from getting out of hand, and when Cote fouled out, Hanna Minardi (team-high nine points) converted a pair of free throws to make it 28-20.
Wahconah's defense and Furlong's shooting put the game back out of reach in the closing minutes.
The junior forward hit a pair of 3-pointers on assists from Becca Morris and Gamberoni on back-to-back possessions to provide the final margin.
The win gave Berkshire County teams a 2-2 record at the HoopHall showcase, where Taconic's girls also won and Taconic's boys and Hoosac Valley's girls came out on the short end.
"I think we were really lucky because we were able to see the first two games," Kay said of Friday's Taconic and Hoosac Valley girls games. "I think it was kind of an offensive [struggle] for anyone who's come in here with the floating rims and different 3-point lines and things like that.
"For us, I think we just had to go through the offensive struggles and understand that we're as good as we are because we play great defense."
Wahconah, which has allowed just one opponent to score more than 30 points this winter, hosts Drury on Tuesday.