ANDOVER, Mass. --- The Andover Lady Warriors (13-0) remained undefeated on the season despite a valiant effort from a feisty, upset-minded Billerica squad on Thursday night.
Billerica (11-2) had possession of the ball with 4.4 seconds remaining on the clock, trailing 53-50, but a 3-point attempt fell short and a put back by junior center Joslyn King (14 points, 14 rebounds) was not enough as Andover escaped with a 53-52 victory and sole possession of first place in the Merrimack Valley Division 1 Conference.
Both teams battled back and forth in a game of runs that saw Billerica explode out of the gate to take a quick lead only to see Andover come back to tie the game at 15-15 after one quarter of play. Reigning ESPN Boston Miss Basketball Nicole Boudreau scored nine of her game high 23 points for Andover in the opening quarter including two of her six 3-pointers on the evening.
Andover would build a 12 point lead midway through the second quarter but Billerica hung tough behind the strong play of King and junior point guard Brittany Lomanno. Boudreau and junior guard Devon Caveney each stroked two 3-pointers in the quarter to help propel Andover to a 33-28 lead at the half.
The Indians came out of the break and dominated the third quarter as their size and work on the glass disrupted Andover as King and junior forward Danielle Nickerson owned the boards and gave Billerica a hard-fought 41-40 lead after three quarters
“In the third quarter we did a great job of recognizing what they were in,” said Billerica head coach Mike McCarthy. “We had pretty good legs and were able to get the ball up the floor.”
Andover’s various full-court defenses, which disrupted Billerica at times on the evening, finally came through in the end as the Lady Warriors led by seven with 2:38 remaining in the game.
Billerica, as they did all night, would not give in as they took it all the way to buzzer but timely Andover shooting and disruptive pressure defense were too much for Billerica to overcome.
“We do not want to lose,” said Boudreau. “We are the type of ball club that is not going to accept losing so in the fourth quarter, when it is close like that, we like to buckle down on the defensive end.”
Fazio steps up down stretch: Senior Co-captain Ally Fazio's two fourth quarter 3-pointers turned the momentum back Andover’s way each time and helped settle the pace for the Lady Warriors. Fazio struggled from the field throughout the night but hit the two big 3-pointers when it mattered most to go along with her game high six assists.
“Ally hit some big shots at the end and we came out with the close win,” said Boudreau of her fellow Co-captain.
Young veterans lead Billerica: Billerica is led by a talented group of juniors in Lomanno (eight points), King, Nickerson (10 points) and Kayla Leverone (11 points) along with sophomore Shannon Hayes (eight points). Forward Erin Brooks was the team’s lone rotational senior to see time on the evening but Chris Doneski’s squad has been playing together for a couple of years now and their chemistry is evident.
“They are heck of a team,” said Andover head coach Jim Tildsley. “They are very good, well coached and give credit to them.”
After going 12-9 last season and losing to Acton-Boxborough in the MIAA Division 1 state tournament Billerica is off to an impressive 11-2 start of the 2011-2012 season.
“I am very proud of the way they played,” said Doneski. “They played their hearts out so you could not ask for more.”
Valentine’s Day Rematch: These two teams will see each other again in a few weeks as Andover will travel to Billerica on February 14 at 7 p.m. in a rematch that could be for the MVC Division 1 championship.
Both Andover and Billerica still have rematch dates with Central Catholic remaining on their schedules but both teams look to be the top of the MVC class and the Valentine’s Day rematch should be another competitive battle.
“This will be a war when we play them at Billerica,” said Tildsley. “That is for sure.”