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Recap for the game: Lee vs Lenox on Feb 19

O'Brien Leads Lenox Past Lee in Class C

By Stephen Dravis Sports
10:33PM / Monday, February 19, 2024

LENOX, Mass. – Lenox’s Claire O’Brien caught fire in the third quarter and led the Millionaires into the Western Massachusetts Class C semi-finals on Monday night.
O’Brien made four 3-pointers in the third on her way to a 17-point night as top-seeded Lenox held off Lee for a 50-43 win on Fred Lafave Court.
Afterward, O’Brien said she never had a quarter quite like that.
“I think we started to get the momentum up,” she said. “We worked together. The energy was up. And the shots just started dropping.”
O’Brien’s shots accounted for 12 of Lenox’s 14-points in the period as the Millionaires opened a 37-29 lead after being up by just two, 23-21, at half-time.
“When some girls aren’t shooting well, our mentality is just keep shooting,” Lenox coach Nicole Patella said. “We have all the confidence in the world in all of our shooters. Claire was the hot one tonight. She really put the game in her own hands and took care of it tonight. That was great to see.”
O’Brien’s fifth and final 3-pointer of the second half gave Lenox its biggest lead of the night, 48-36, with about 2 minutes, 30 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
But Lee rallied in the short time left, finally getting within seven when Mika Diller (12 points, 13 rebounds) scored in the post to make it 50-43. But only 33.7 seconds remained at that point, and the Millionaires never got another good look at the basket.
But after losses by 23 points and 10 points to Lenox in the regular season, the Wildcats (11-8) gave their fans a good look at what the future could hold for a team that has just one senior and one junior on the roster.
“They didn’t quit,” Lee coach Rick Puleri said. “They played with guts. They played hard. And this is a tough place to win against a really good team. Lenox is going to be a top-three seed in the state, and playing in their gym, it takes a lot to be ‘em in their gym.
“I’m proud of our kids for their effort. It’s nothing to hang their heads about.”
Lee was anything but intimidated against its rival early on.
The Wildcats went blow-for-blow in the early going and led midway through the second quarter.
After the Millionaires’ Chloe Parsenios (11 points, nine steals) scored five straight to give the hosts a 12-7 lead at the end of the first, Lee’s Kenzie Garrity opened the second period with a triple to cut the margin to two.
Grace Julieano (eight points, nine rebounds) scored to make it 14-10, but Lee answered with a seven-point run to take the lead.
Leanna Driscoll got back-to-back buckets, and Garrity hit her second triple of the game to put the Wildcats up, 17-14.
It was 19-18 when Parsenios got a steal and lay-up to give Lenox a one-point lead with 1 minute, 16 seconds left in the half. Evelyn Julieano’s 3 pushed the lead to four points before Mia Puleri (10 points) scored to get Lee within two at the break.
Lenox’s Jocelyn Fairfield, who picked up some early fouls in the first half, scored the first of her seven second-half points with a jumper from the baseline to start the second half. 
Diller again made it a two-point game when she was fouled trying to put back an offensive rebound and made both her free throws with 5:54 on the clock to make it 25-23.
The next nine points came on 3-pointers from O’Brien.
“I don’t know if we lost touch with them,” Rick Puleri said. “They’re so well balanced. And I know the O’Brien girl can shoot. We talked about running them off the 3-point line and trying to really contain Parsenios and Fairfield.
“You’ve got to give [O’Brien] credit. She stepped up and made some big shots. That was about it.”
Lee will play one more crossover game against a PVIAC opponent to finish the regular season at home on Wednesday before getting ready for next week’s Division 5 State Tournament.
Lenox (17-2) Wednesday will play for a berth in the Western Mass final when Franklin Tech pays a visit.
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