Girls basketball: South Hadley pulls away from Wahconah, secures 11th consecutive victory

South Hadley’s Ava Asselin (10) hits a three-pointer against Northampton earlier this season in Northampton.

South Hadley’s Ava Asselin (10) hits a three-pointer against Northampton earlier this season in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE


Staff Intern

Published: 02-05-2024 11:27 PM

SOUTH HADLEY — After a fourth quarter eruption, the South Hadley girls’ basketball team was able to defeat Wahconah 45-36 in a Suburban League contest during Senior Night on Monday.

It was a battle of two of the hottest teams across Western Massachusetts as the Tigers entered on a 10-game winning streak while the Warriors had won their past eight games.

Entering the fourth quarter, there was only a two-point differential between the teams as South Hadley led 23-21.

It was Ava Asselin, CC Gurek, and Caitlin Dean that combined to score 19 of their team's 22 points in the fourth quarter, helping the Tigers run their streak to 11 straight games.

“For some reason, we shoot foul shots great in the fourth quarter and we get that sense of urgency,” said South Hadley coach Paul Dubuc, whose team improved to 14-3 with the win. “I wish we had it earlier sometimes, but we're still battling, we're still trying to find it, but I mean, if we play this hard, we're not gonna have many problems.”

Despite outscoring Wahconah 22-15 in the final quarter, it was the intense South Hadley defense that kept the Tigers in the ball game.

South Hadley entered a 2-2-1 full court press that stifled the Warriors offense – only allowing six points in the first quarter and few opportunities to create open looks.

It was the opposite for the Tigers, as they were getting the open looks but struggled to get shots to fall, leaving South Hadley with a mere 7-6 lead at the end of the first quarter.

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Entering the second quarter, the Tigers started to find its groove as Drew Alley ran a smooth offense and get all of her teammates involved on the court. Toward the end of the half the Tigers seemed almost unbeatable as everything was going in their favor – that included three steals that produced a 7-0 run putting the Tigers up 16-11 at halftime.

The third quarter was a different story.

The Warriors (12-3) came out of the locker room and changed their gameplan from a more deliberate approach to an aggressive, high pace which caught the Tigers off guard.

“It’s everything we thought it was going to be,” said Dubuc. “They’re good, they’ve won eight games in a row for a reason.”

The Warriors ate up South Hadley’s five-point lead in minutes and went on an 8-0 run of their own.

That didn’t stop the Tigers, however,  as in addition to their defense, Caitlin Dean and CC Gurek combined for seven points in the third that got the hosts back in the driver's seat heading into the fourth quarter.

Monday’s win was sweet for the Tigers, but an even sweeter victory for Alley as her team was able to get the job done on Senior Night or “Drew night,” as South Hadley called it. Alley is the only senior on the team and fully felt the support of those in the gymnasium.

“It's great, just the love and support of our community and how many people came out, especially my friend group, they all got shirts with my face on it and everything,” said Alley. It's just a great feeling – especially the way my whole team played and came out on top.”

Asselin and Caitlin Dean paced a balanced scoring effort with 13 points apiece for the Tigers, while Gurek tallied 12 points in the win.

Heading into its final regular season game of the year, the Tigers look to carry momentum and keep its winning streak alive on the road against Monson next Monday night at 7 p.m.