BILLERICA, Mass. -- As Danielle Nickerson layed in her 16th point and final point on Tuesday, the senior forwarded floated along the sidelines with her hands in a fist and a grin on her face.
It was a beautiful but simple formula that lead to a dominate performance by Billerica and the completion of something that had long evaded not only Nickerson, but Indians girls' basketball as a whole.
Lobbing passes over Andover's full-court press the host No. 4 Indians (14-1, 8-0) dominated with powerful low-post players as they rolled to a 76-47 triumph over No. 16 Andover (14-4, 7-3) and the program's first ever Merrimack Valley Conference title in the Large division.
The Golden Warriors had previously won the last seven division crowns and the past three Division 1 state titles.
“We practiced the long balls, (because) we would rather them get the ball in our court so they are not on offense right away,” said Nickerson. “We saw the subs and we knew that was our time. I just wanted to finish it.”
Center Joslyn King scored 11 points and grappled eight rebounds for Billerica, while guard Brittany Lomanno tallied ten points. Billerica had seven players with six points or higher.
Three and Out: Billerica dominated Andover's press in the third quarter as they out tallied the Golden Warriors 21 to four to lead 56-35 entering the final break.
Scoring 10 points off layups and two off forced free throws the Indians worked the paint for the initial 12 points of the third.
Kayla Leverone powered into the lane to force a free throw and Brittany Lomanno (both seniors) slipped behind the press for a lay-in to start the run at 38-31 with 6:25 left in the quarter. A minute later junior Shannon Hayes grappled a missed Andover shot and ripped an assisted layup down the court to Lomanno for the 47-31 lead.
“We know they are going to make some steals, but we have to keep poise out there,” said Lomanno. “We tried to spread the floor as much as we could. Run our cuts and get the ball to the open man.”
Pressed Into Mistakes: Andover ran a man-to-man full-court press in its 58-51 loss to Billerica earlier in the season and all game on Tuesday.
The defensive front was effective throughout the first quarter and early in the second. Senior guard Angelice Gonzalez pulled the first of what were two 'ankle-breaking' crossovers to set up a three point jumper and a game-high 15-11 Andover lead after one quarter. A deep planted tre by fellow senior guard Olivia Biles gave the Golden Warriors their final lead of the game at 22-21 with 5:30 remaining in the first half.
“We were trying to get some turnovers,” said Andover coach Jim Tildsley. “We tried to double and jump switch. When you do not hit
shots it is really tough to keep pressing.”
Senior guard Devon Caveney lead Andover with 14 points, while Gonzalez tallied 13 points.
“(Angelice) has had a great last seven games,”said Tildsley. “She can create on her own.”
Long Shot From Lomanno: Lomanno worked a pick along the sideline and sprung open for a three-point jumper with 4:50 remaining in the first half. The 24-22 Billerica lead would never be surrendered.
“We played them last year to try to tie for first place,” said Doneski. “We were just overwhelmed, anxious, nervous (and) made all
sorts of mistakes. (The girls) really put in a lot of hard work in the offseason.”
Billerica is two games from sweeping the division as it will face division foes Methuen and Lowell one more time.