WOBURN — It was an amazing year for the Woburn High girls’ basketball team as it went from a struggling outfit, offensively, in the early part of the season, to becoming Middlesex League Liberty champions and the No. 1 seed in the MIAA Div. 1 North tournament.
The Tanners (21-2) were challenged in the North Sectional, and twice had to rally from big deficits in the second half to come back and tie or take the lead.
Woburn fell just two points short of making the final, but co-captain Ashlyn Pacheco finished off her four-year career in fashion, hitting all the big shots — and free throws —to keep the Tanners believing to the very end in their semifinal loss to Cambridge Rindge & Latin.
During her brilliant four-year run she scord 707 career points, while averaging a career-best 10.4 points per game this past season.
Pacheco, a 5-5 guard, was also a part of three ML Liberty champion teams, as well as three teams that made it at least to the North semifinals.
For her efforts she was named the ML Liberty MVP and is also the Daily Times Chronicle “Player of the Year.”
“Ashlyn is such a deserving choice as the Daily Times Chronicle girls’ basketball ‘Player of the Year,’” said Woburn coach Steve Sullivan. “She was such a tremendous leader for our team, doing whatever we needed her to do to give us the best chance to win.”
Pacheco began her career coming off the bench and playing behind Marissa Gattuso (now at Div. 1 Merrimack). She took over as the starter at point guard her sophomore season and had a good year statistically, averaging 10.0 ppg, helped along by a Woburn squad with strong shooters and finishers.
The Tanners have had to grind more in the past two seasons, and with more direct attention from opposing defenses, Pacheco focused more on being a pure point guard.
“Ashlyn is such an unselfish player, sacrificing personal stats and accolades to put the team first and do the little things necessary to help our team to win,” said Sullivan.
This year, Woburn got some additional talent, and Pacheco and co-captain Megan Roderick (9.9 ppg) proved to be the perfect leaders for thus ultimate team, where every player had to rely on each other to succeed.
“She was a quiet leader who led our team with her actions and relentless work ethic, both in practice and in games,” said Sullivan, of Pacheco. “When she did speak, her teammates certainly responded to her, and when the game was on the line, she was someone her teammates looked for to make big plays for our team.”
That was evident as the season progressed and the competition got tougher, and the games became increasingly important and difficult, both in the league title chase and for securing a high seed in the tourney.
Pacheco turned it up a few more notches in her final postseason, continually setting the tone for the Tanners’s when they needed to make something happen.
“That was never more evident than in the final game (of the season) when we lost to Cambridge,” said Sullivan. “When the game was on the line, she stepped up and made multiple clutch 3-pointers and stepped to the free throw line and calmly sank three pressure-packed free throws to tie the game in the final minute. Not a lot of high school players can step to the free throw line in front of approximately 1000 fans and calmly sink free throws under pressure.”
While she never was counted on in the same manner on the pitch, Pacheco made a similarly positive impact on the soccer team, where the coaches and players loved having her on the squad.
“As great a player as Ashlyn Pacheco is, she is an even better young lady,” said Sullivan. “She is someone the players on our team and the younger Woburn youth basketball players look up to and admire.”
Pacheco also volunteers to help coach the Woburn youth travel team, so perhaps she has a future in coaching after college.
In winning the ML Liberty MVP, Pacheco filled up the stat sheet, averaging almost 11 points a game to go along with five assists, six rebounds and three steals. She also made 17 3-pointers.
“She is someone the team will really miss, next season, but I will really miss her, personally, as I have had the privilege to coach her all four years,” said Sullivan. “I know Ashlyn will go on to do amazing things and I am really proud of what she has accomplished during her high school basketball career at Woburn Memorial High School.”
Pacheco is also one of the captains for the girls’ lacrosse team, which hopefully will get its season underway after April vacation.
HONORABLE MENTION: Marina Callahan, Burlington High, junior; Megan Roderick, Woburn High, senior; Jackie Malley, Reading High, sophomore.