Alexander moves on to regionals after withstanding North Adams fourth quarter surge –
Story and photos by Mark Carpenter –
Whoever coined the phrase “third time’s a charm” was completely wrong this time. For the third consecutive year, Coach Rob Davis and his North Adams Lady Devils advanced to the district championship game, and for the third consecutive year, they fell just a little bit short. Just as they had done in their district semi-final win over Wheelersburg, the Lady Devils fell behind by double digits and put on a furious fourth quarter rally, only to fall short this time, losing to the Albany Alexander Lady Spartans 45-42.
“Alexander shoots the ball well and they play bigger than you think they are,” said Coach Davis in his post game radio interview. “They can really step out and shoot it. We didn’t do a very good job of hedging out early and it hurt us, but all in all I couldn’t be more pleased with our girls.”
In front of a full house on the North Adams side of the gym, the Lady Devils took the floor at Waverly High School last Friday night to face a Lady Spartan team that had only lost three games coming in and it was Alexander controlling the action early, dominating the boards on both ends and using three-point goals by Rachel and Leah Richardson to forge an 8-3 advantage. North Adams had an answer, scoring the game’s next six on a basket by Madison Jenkins and two free throws each from Avery Harper and Grace McDowell.
Alexander went back in front on another Leah Richardson trey but a free throw by Jenkins and a three-pointer from the top of the key by Madee Shipley left the Lady Devils in front 13-12 after the first period.
The game stayed nip-and-tuck in the second stanza, with a McDowell three putting the Lady Devils back on top 18-17. Two buckets inside by Harper stretched the North Adams lead to five and it looked like the green and gold were going to steal all the momentum before halftime, but that was before Rachel Richardson got the rare four-point play, hitting the trey, getting fouled, and hitting the free throw. All of the momentum left for the Lady Devils when they turned the ball over late and McKenna Rice hit a layup at the buzzer and in a span of 38 seconds, North Adams had gone from a five-point lead to a one-point deficit at the intermission at 23-22.
The eight minutes after the halftime break turned out to be an offensive nightmare for the Lady Devils, as neither team put anything on the scoreboard for over three minutes to begin the second half. A Lakyn Hupp three-pointer at the 4:50 mark broke the ice and temporarily gave the lead back to North Adams, but that was to be their only score of the entire period. The Lady Spartans did not put a point on the board until the 2:47 mark when they hit two free throws, but a three from Alexis Mohler, a basket by Jala Mace, and a three-point play from Leah Richardson sent the third quarter to its conclusion with Alexander now holding the lead at 33-25.
A basket on their first possession extended the advantage for the Lady Spartans to 10, and after a Jenkins bucket for North Adams, Mohler was fouled shooting a three and hit all three free throws, followed by leah Richardson drilling another long distance bomb and with 6:19 to play, the Lady Devils were staring at a 41-27 deficit.
But these North Adams girls are a never-say-die group, a reflection of the toughness and intensity of their coach, and they began the long road back by scoring the game’s next 10 points, the beginning of what eventually was a 15-2 run. Two baskets by Jenkins, along with scores from Hupp, Harper, and Maddie Toole turned the North Adams side of the gym into a madhouse as their team had cut the Alexander lead to just four with 1:16 to play.
With less than a minute left, Leah Richardson hit two free throws to put Alexander up six, but the excitement was far from over. Hupp drilled a three from the left corner and when Harper got loose inside for a basket, North Adams was within one at 43-42 with 28 seconds left, but sometimes the basketball gods seem to look the other way.
On the next Alexander possession, Hupp got a steal and was looking to make her way up the court, when one of the Lady Spartans just barely managed to get a hand on the ball and knock it loose and Alexander got a quick basket from Rice to take a three-point lead with seven seconds left. The Lady Devils had one more chance to tie the game and force overtime, but a last second three-point attempt by Hupp was off the mark and once again, the North Adams girls saw their season end in bitter disappointment as the Lady Spartans cut down the nets as the Division III district champions by virtue of a 45-42 victory.
“We got down 14 and had used all our timeouts to stop their momentum,” said Coach Davis. “The kids battled back and we certainly had our chances. We were awful close to being the best team here tonight and I think our kids showed so much heart.”
In the loss, the Lady Devils, who finished at 17-8, placed two players in double figures, Lakyn Hupp with 12 and Avery Harper with 10. In her final game, senior Madison Jenkins scored 9, including three baskets in the fourth quarter comeback. Grace McDowell scored 6 for North Adams, who hurt their chances by putting up an uncharacteristic 6 of 15 from the free throw line. Despite the defeat, North Adams will return a solid core of players next season, but bid farewell to seniors Jenkins, Maddie Toole, Brooklyn Young, and Caitlin Young.
“We have a good bunch coming back and a good young group coming up,” added Davis. “If they all work in the off season, we can come back next year and make another nice run. You have to work at it.”
“We are going to miss all of our seniors, Madison with her goofy personality and Maddie with her feistiness. Brooklyn showed a lot coming back from three knee surgeries and Caitlin gave us all of her effort every day in practice. They are all good students and good kids in the community
Alexander was paced by 21 points from Leah Richardson, with Rachel Richardson adding 9 and Alexis Mohler 6. The Lady Spartans moved to the regional semi-finals, where they will battle the Lynchburg Clay Lady Mustangs on Wednesday, March 8.
13 9 3 17 –42
12 11 10 12 –45
N. Adams (42): Toole 1 0-0 2, Hupp 5 0-0 12, Shipley 1 0-0 3, McDowell 1 3-6 3, Jenkins 4 1-3 9, Harper 4 2-6 10, Team 16 6-15 42.
Alexander (45): Mace 1 3-4 5, L. Richardson 7 4-6 21, Rice 2 0-2 4, R. Richardson 3 1-1 9, Mohler 1 3-3 6, Team 14 11-16 45.
N. Adams (4): Hupp 2, Shipley 1, McDowell 1
Alexander (6): L. Richardson 3, R. Richardson 2, Mohler 1