The Lee Wildcats won their second Division 3 championship in three years and a ticket to the state semifinals.
AMHERST, Mass. — Lee High School senior Stephanie Young said Saturday she could not recall sinking the key basket in her team's Western Massachusetts Division 3 girls basketball championship game win.
That's OK. No one else who was in the Curry Hicks Cage will soon forget it.
Young scored a game-high 27 points in the Wildcats' 58-51 win over Sabis in the sectional final, but no points were bigger than the 3-pointer she scored with 5 minutes, 12 seconds left and the game tied, 42-42.
"I remember that," Young's classmate Eileen Dooley said with a laugh. "That was a key moment, actually because right when the game gets tied, it was anyone's game. I know I am — just like anyone on the team is — confident with the ball in anyone's hands, especially Steph's. She's one of our best shooters.
"When she had the ball, it was right there. We knew it was going in."
And Lee is going on to the state semi-finals, where it will play Central Division champion University Park at 4:15 Monday afternoon at Worcester's DCU Center.
See more game photos here.
The Wildcats (18-5) led most of the game on Saturday morning. Their biggest lead was 12 early in the second quarter, and they were up by eight at the end of the third quarter after Young scored from the elbow to cap a 6-0 run and make 42-34.
But top-seeded Sabis (23-2) responded by scoring the first eight points of the fourth quarter to tie it when senior guard Jazmine Collins stole the ball and went the other way for a lay-in for two of her team-high 16.
Lee then used most of the shot clock before Young hit the biggest basket of the game from the top of the key to make it 45-42 and spark a 10-4 spurt that built the lead back to six, 52-46, after Dooley converted two foul shots.
The teams traded baskets from there. Lee put the game away in the final minute when Young put back an offensive rebound to get the lead to seven and freshman Courtney Picard converted both ends of a one-and-one to make it a nine-point cushion with 33 seconds left.
Young finished with 17 rebounds to go with her 27 points. Hadley Cook backed her up with eight boards, and Dooley had two assists and two steals to go along with her 14 points.
Finishing in double figures for Sabis were Collins, Syanne Wellington and Casie Thurber. Wellington, who torched Lenox for 17 points in the semi-finals, had a more quiet six points on Saturday due largely to the defensive efforts of Lee's Cook.
Lee won its second sectional crown in three years and will go for its second state crown in that span — and eighth in the program's storied history — starting Monday at the DCU Center.
University Park of Worcester captured its first sectional title on Saturday with a 67-58 overtime win over Blackstone Valley Tech. The Cougars (23-1) overcame a seven-point fourth-quarter deficit in overtime and got nine points from senior Aretha Sullivan in the extra session.
Lee will bring plenty of experience to the state tournament. The Wildcats boast six seniors, including all five members of its starting lineup.
They also have an experienced coach in Gary Wellington, who is hoping for two more games on the sideline before he hangs up his whistle after the season.
"It's nice to have (the program) where it always was, and maybe lift it a notch over the last five years," said Wellington. "It's pretty special for me. And I had an opportunity to coach with my daughter (Niki), something we always wanted to do. And we were able to win a title, a couple of them actually.
"It can't get any better, especially with a group of kids like this."