ANDOVER — An early run and another surge kept the Reading High girls basketball team close into the third quarter.
However, missing too many shots and not playing good enough defense in the late going put an abrupt, and disappointing, end to its tournament run and season.
No. 4 seed Andover first came back from an early deficit and took control with a big second-quarter run. Then the Lady Warriors broke the game open with a barrage of 3-pointers late in the third quarter, to emerge with a 69-53 victory over fifth-seeded Reading in a Div. 1 North quarterfinal game at Andover on Friday night.
With the win the Lady Warriors advance to the semifinas against the winner of tonight’s Woburn at Belmont quarter final game later this week, Meanwhile, the Lady Rockets had their season end with a final overall record of 17-5.
The Lady Warriors used a very balanced attack with four starters scoring in double figures, led by Shea Krekorian (a cousin of Reading boys player Cole Tully), and Gia Bramanti who both scored a game-high 15 points. Tatum Shaw added 14 and Taylor Landry chipped in 10 to fuel the Andover offense.
“Reading came out of the gate really well, so what helped turned things around was a commitment to getting back in transition,” said Andover coach Alan Hibino. “We were committed to slowing Haley Lightbody down, finding their shooters, and to follow our game plan to slow Reading down in transition. Then eventually our shots started falling for us.”
The Lady Rockets shot well early on and again in the second and third quarters behind Haley Lightbody, who in her final high school basketball game scored 14 points. Senior tri-captain Isabella Zagami added 13 and freshman Jackie Malley and junior Nakeya Carr chipped in 10 points each.
But eventually Reading just didn’t hit enough shots from late in the third quarter through the fourth quarter.
“Andover is a very good team, and against a very good team that’s what happens,” said Reading coach Jim DeBenedictis. “They have great players who made adjustments on defense and our offense couldn’t adjust to that. Andover also has a high I.Q. on offense and defense. Defensively they were in all the right spots, and they made it difficult for us.”
The Lady Rockets did hit several shots in the opening minutes to take an early lead. Isabella Zagami drained both a 3-pointer and a short jumper, while Celia Capone nailed a three, and Lightbody added a lay-in, to help Reading take a seven-point lead at 13-6 with two minutes left in the first quarter.
The Lady Warriors caught fire to wipe out their early deficit and take a lead by the end of the stanza. A big 8-0 run helped Andover come back to take a one-point lead, 14-13, by the end of the first quarter.
The Lady Warriors continued to surge into the second quarter with 11 straight points to start the quarter, to cap an overall 19-0 run and extend its lead to 25-13 early in the second quarter.
Lightbody stopped the bleeding with a three-point play and two more baskets at the rim. Zagami hit yet another three, to spark a 12-7 run that cut Reading’s deficit to seven points, 32-25, by halftime.
The Lady Rockets continued to chip away at their deficit into the third quarter. Malley drained a 3-pointer and hit three free throws to help Reading start the stanza with an 8-4 run, and cut its deficit to 36-33, close to halfway through the third quarter. At that point the Lady Rockets appeared very much in the game.
“We ran low on gas getting to the point when we were only down three points,” said DeBenedictis. “Maybe I should have made some adjustments myself. We spent so much energy getting it down to three points, that we didn’t have much energy left after that.”
The Lady Warriors responded by hitting four threes over the rest of the quarter to break the game open and lead 53-36, by the end of the third quarter.
Any thoughts of a serious comeback by Reading quickly evaporated early in the fourth quarter when Andover went on an 8-4 run that increased its lead to 21 points (61-40) early in the fourth quarter.
To their credit the Lady Rockets never stopped playing hard and still put forth a strong effort in the late going. Baskets by Malley, Capone, and Lightbody did key a 13-4 run that cut Reading’s deficit to 12 points, 65-53. But by then there were only two minutes remaining, and Reading ran out of gas at that point and didn’t score the rest of the way.
“In the fourth quarter Reading didn’t quit, so we just kept going, shot with confidence, and did our best not to let them back in the game,” said Hibino. “Even in the final minutes Reading kept making shots, and made us play hard to prevent them from coming back.”
After the game DeBenedictis offered high praise to his team’s three seniors, Lightbody, Alyssa Pryputniewicz, and Isabella Zagami. This is a group that only won five games in their freshman year, and progressed to post 17 victories in their senior season.
“It’s been a privilege to coach our seniors, as Haley Lightbody was the second-leading scorer in school history and a four-year varsity starter,” said DeBenedictis. “Alyssa (Pryputniewicz) came back from an injury and played three years for the varsity, and Isabella (Zagami) really improved her game this year. I can’t say enough about our seniors and I’m very proud of them.”