BILLERICA, Mass. -- This time it was different.
After outlasting No. 14 Billerica by one point three weeks ago, the No. 1 Andover girls’ basketball team got on top of the Indians early Tuesday night, and big, winning 64-42 in the rematch to sweep the season series.
With the win, Andover moves to 19-0 and takes a commanding lead of the Merrimack Valley Conference's Large division over Billerica, its nearest competitor, with at least two games to go in the season.
Andover was determined to put the pressure on Billerica (14-3) from the start of the game by coming out in a full-court press. It forced three turnovers off the press in the first quarter, each of which it was able to turn into points. Its defense was so stifling that it limited the Indians to one basket in the whole quarter.
“Our pressure hurt them,” said Andover head coach Jim Tildsley. “It hurt them in the first game, we just didn’t hit the shots. In this game, we hit the shots. We shot the ball extremely well and it gets frustrating for them because we keep getting turnovers. Our defense was unbelievable.”
Andover had a 17-2 lead after the first quarter, mainly due to the successful sharpshooting of Boston College signee Nicole Boudreau, who had 12 of the 17 points.
While she made her usual presence felt on the offensive end with this 31-point performance, Boudreau was stout defensively, with six steals and a block. She had the assignment of guarding Billerica’s Joslyn King, who was noticeably inches taller than Boudreau.
“(Defense) is how we win basketball games,” she said. “You see us out there and I’m the tallest girl at 5-9 and that’s not tall at all, so defense is really where we win our games. Coach Tildsley tells us every game that that’s how we’re going to have to win it, so when we pressure them and we get turnovers, that’s how we get easy buckets.”
“They scored two points in the first quarter just because of our defense, so when we get out quick like that, there’s not as much pressure on us to score at the end of the game when we have a little bit of a lead,” she added.
Danielle Nickerson lead the way for Billerica with 11 points and 8 rebounds.
Billerica made a charge in the second quarter and even cut the lead down to 10 points with 1:30 left, but Andover still held strong and took a 31-18 lead into the half.
After hitting a 3-pointer to make it a 10-point game, Billerica’s Brittany Lomanno let out an emphatic fist pump, showing how crucial it was at that point to keep the game within reach.
Andover came out in the second half with its foot still on the pedal with its full-court trap defense. With that, it was able to create more turnovers and extend its lead even more, putting the game well out of reach on its way to victory.
Nearing another milestone: Boudreau, long recognized for her scoring prowess, now sits 11 points shy of 2,000 for her career with at least two games to go in her season. It was obvious from the outset that she was going to have a prolific scoring night Tuesday. At halftime, she had 21 of her team’s 31 points, most of which came from 3-point range.
During one possession in the third quarter, as the shot clock was winding down, her team was struggling to get a shot off. With the Billerica defense draped over them, Andover looked for anything remotely resembling a clean look at the basket.
As each team had players trying to gain possession of a loose ball, Boudreau picked it up and let go of a shot with one second on the clock. It swished through the net in an “I meant to do that” kind of moment.
“She’s averaging about eight steals a game,” said Tildsley. “Her last four games, she’s been playing unbelievable. She’s almost been averaging a quadruple-double.”
Cold shoulder: Some might find it to be an odd coaching move, but Tildsley did not show his team the video of its previous game against Billerica until two days before it was scheduled to play them again.
While some coaches may have used the tape as a motivational tool to get their team to practice harder or as a way of driving home a point, he put it away until he felt they needed to see it again.
“I didn’t show them the tape of the last time we played them until two days ago,” he said. “They just watched it and saw that we didn’t play very well at our home place and didn’t shoot it well, but they were pretty confident coming in. They were ready to play tonight.”
Alois sticks it on 'D': While she may not have filled up a lot of points (four) in the scorebook, Andover’s Jackie Alois made her presence felt with her eight rebounds and three steals.
She was consistently making the contributions to her team that do not show up in the scorebook, like diving on the floor to tie up Billerica players to force jump balls and gain possession for her team. She was also not afraid to go into the paint and mix it up with players taller and perhaps more physical than her.
“You see her and she’s all over the place, she’s unbelievable,” said Tildsley. “For her size (5-foot-6) and what she does- she’s our weakside defender- she just does an outstanding job.”