WA Girls’ Basketball edges Shepherd Hill in central semifinals

Junior Captain Brooke Pillsbury handles the ball up top for WA.

Oliver Davey

Junior Captain Brooke Pillsbury handles the ball up top for WA.

Oliver Davey, Staff Writer

After winning in blowout fashion against Algonquin on Wednesday night, the WA girls headed to Worcester Polytechnic Institute on Sunday, March 4th to play a more challenging Shepherd Hill team from Dudley. WA secured a win in a 57-49 victory.

WA started hot getting off to a 7-0 run to start the game, and ended the first quarter up 17-9. Defense was the strength early on for WA as players such as senior Emily Bramanti and sophomore Ally Giovino made some key stops.

Junior Morgan Rose and Senior Liz Arnold also put in work on the glass to grab rebounds both defensively and offensively. This was huge, as it gave WA extra possessions and tired Shepherd Hill out later in the game.

However, in the second quarter the momentum turned in Shepherd Hill’s favor, and as WA’s energy lagged they pulled within four points. Fortunately as the first half drew to a close, WA’s players stepped up in a big way.

Giovino drew a key offensive foul that got the WA crowd pumped up. Arnold had a big block. Bramanti hit a long 2. Shepherd Hill had a sloppy turnover. Just like that, WA had maintained its four point lead and went into the locker room at halftime up 24-20 and with their momentum.

At the start of the second half Shepard Hill was back in form. WA let up a three, and the score became tied at 26. It went on as a back and forth for a while, as WA struggled to finish and let up some easy shots. Coach Russ Coward expressed his disappointment at his team’s play to start the second half at the end of the game.

“Other then that stretch at the start of the third quarter I thought we played pretty well,” Coward said.

WA needed a spark, and junior Carolyn Graham provided just that, hitting two huge 3-pointers that got the WA crowd going crazy. The momentum continued as WA heated up from long range and pulled away from Shepherd Hill.

At the end of the game, WA’s depth played a large role in helping to seal the game. Players such as Rose, Graham, and Giovino came off the bench giving starters key rest time while also contributing. Shepherd Hill did not have those kinds of players on their bench and did little subbing. This showed as tired starters could not keep up with WA at the end of the game.

Bramanti, who provided big plays on both sides of the court during the game was happy with how her and her teammates played on the big stage.

“We played pretty well. It was pretty exciting to get the win.” Bramanti said.

Coward, while also echoing Bramanti wanted some improvement on defense in the next game.

“Our defense has got to be better. I thought we gave up a lot of easy shots,” Coward said.

WA will face a familiar foe, Wachusett, Friday March 9 at 8 p.m. also at WPI.  A win in this game will make them back-to-back Central Division 1 champions, and put them 2 wins away from a state championship.

Last year WA played Wachusett in the central finals, winning 59-49. However, they lost this season to them 45-41 at TD Garden. Bramanti is excited to see what this meeting will have in store.

“They beat us up pretty early in the season this year so we’re excited to get back and get our revenge.” Bramanti said.

WA’s deep and talented team team will look to repeat as central champions against Wachusett at Worcester Polytechnic Institute on Friday, March 9th.