TOPSFIELD, Mass. -– For almost the entire first half and most of the second half of this MIAA Division 1 North quarterfinal, No. 3 seed Masconomet outplayed No. 6 seed Andover, but they couldn’t pull away because of the fearlessness from the visiting Warriors.
That is, until Masco junior Meghan Collins took things into her own hands.
She hit a clutch jumper to put her team up 46-42 with 35 seconds left. Then on the ensuing Andover possession, she forced a steal that led to a layup putting the Cheiftains up 48-42 with 23 ticks remaining, all but sealing Masco’s 52-47 win before a standing room only crowd at Masconomet High.
“That was a great shot Meghan made. That little kick out that put us up four because we were teetering a little bit there, we were teetering,” said Masco coach Bob Romeo.
The Chieftains led 36-28 going into the final quarter, but Andover wouldn’t go away, scoring the first five points of the quarter making it a one-possession game at 36-33. Andover freshman Alyssa Casey scored seven straight points for the Warriors, making it a 42-40 game with just over a minute left, but that was as close as the Warriors would come.
“We got it up to 12 at one time, but we never let it get to a tie. We never let them get a tie and that’s so big,” Romeo said.
The first half was dominated by Masco, as they limited Andover to just 13 points, including just four in the second quarter to lead 18-13 at the break.
“It was just a tremendous game and a tremendous effort by both teams,” Andover coach E.J. Perry said. “My hats off to Romeo. He did such a nice job especially in the first half holding us to 13 points. I had two freshman that played significant time in the first half. It’s their first experience in a packed house and that type of intensity, but by the second half they did such an unbelievable job.”
It was Masco’s tenacious, in-your-face defense, which didn’t allow Andover to get an easy basket virtually the entire game. The Chieftains held a 27-15 lead midway through the third quarter; but to Masco’s credit, even when Andover made a game of it late, they stepped up and made the big play.
“They made a couple big plays and that’s what good teams do, they make big plays down the stretch,” Perry said. “My team did everything they could to get it to 44-42, but they responded. You just tip your cap and learn from it for next year and come back a better team.”
The Warriors were led by Casey, who had 14 points, followed by junior Colleen Caveney and senior Jessica Witten who each had nine.
It was a balanced attack for Masco with junior Kate Kitsakos leading all scorers with 18 points, and Collins adding nine. Senior Hannah Kiernan, freshman Stephanie Mini and senior Nicole Femino all contributed seven points.
CENTRAL CATHOLIC ON TAP
With the win Masco advances to play Central Catholic in the Division 1 North semi finals. For good reason it won’t be easy, but Saturday’s win over Andover, also a Merrimack Valley power, will give them some momentum going into the game.
“We played Andover tonight and then Central Catholic whenever they schedule it. They’ve won the last five Division 1 state championships between them. So we got the first one and I can’t wait to see what happens with the next one,” said Romeo.