LOWELL – The old saying is “it's not how you start, it's how you finish” and that certainly applies to the Tewksbury Memorial High School Girls' Basketball team on Tuesday night.
On the road against a much improved Lowell squad, the Redmen played pretty sloppy in the first half and into the third quarter, trailing by as many as ten just 65 seconds into the fourth quarter. But thanks to a huge spark from junior guard Katrina MacDonald and strong inside play by senior Maddy Stovesand, Tewksbury went on a 13-2 run to go up by a point with 47 seconds in the game. Lowell responded as Kaia Buth buried a three-pointer with 27 seconds left, which set-up the dramatics for the Redmen.
With ten seconds left, Kati Polimeno had trouble inbounding the ball before she found Stovesand. She then move the ball to MacDonald, who sent it over to junior Samantha Ryan, who buried nothing by net, for the game-winning three-point shot with about three seconds left to lift the Redmen to the dramatic 43-42 victory.
It marked the first win of the season – after an opening loss to Haverhill – and the first victory for first-year head coach Joel Mignault. He was asked after the game if he drew up that winning play – three passes and the three-pointer?
"No, (it wasn't the play that we drew up). (Lowell) did a good job on switching on our bigs and we struggled to get the ball in, but then we were just trying to clear out some space so if we had a chance, we would try to get to the free throw line with them being in foul trouble. Just the savviness that we have been talking about. We made that extra pass and that's a big shot by Sammy Ryan."
Ryan finished the game with a team high 13 points, to go with her 10 rebounds and three steals. Stovesand finished with 6 points, all in the second half, 10 boards and five steals. MacDonald had five points with five rebounds and three steals. Both Victoria Lavargna and Rachel Picher had five points each.
"That last group we had in there (ignited the comeback)," said Mignault. "Kat MacDonald gave us a big spark and that's what we have been talking about. We needed someone to come in and just us a spark and she certainly did it. (Lowell) did a good job of breaking our 1-3-1 press and we switched it up and had some success so I'm happy for the girls."
Tewksbury led 12-8 after the first quarter, before really struggling in the second, going the first 7:45 without a field goal until MacDonald buried a three-pointer and the teams headed into the break tied at 18.
The teams exchanged leads four times to start the third before Lowell closed out the third outscoring Tewksbury 11-3 to go up by eight. It went to ten to start the fourth, before Kati Polimeno hit a freebie and followed it up with a bucket on a drive in the lane. LaVargna followed with two free throws and Lowell hit a basket and the Redmen trailed 39-32 with 3:21 to go.
From there it was all Tewksbury – well just about. Ryan connected on a jumper, LaVargna on a drive before Stovesand and Ryan combined for four-of-six free throws. Ryan made one and Tewksbury led 40-39 until Buth drained her three, setting up Ryan's heroics.
Certainly Ryan's shot was the deciding factor but MacDonald and Stovesand were terrific down the stretch.
"Maddy came up huge. We saw some of that during the pre-season with her. She got in foul trouble the other night (in our season opener) and she was in foul trouble again early in this one, but was able to pull it together on defense and showed why we needed to keep her in the game," said Mignault.
Tewksbury opened the season with a close 41-37 loss to Haverhill last Friday night. Ryan led the way with 8 points and 10 rebounds, and Polimeno finished with 8 points and three steals.
Tewksbury will now have six days off before facing Lowell again, but this time in the first round of the annual Romano Christmas Tournament on Monday, starting at 7 pm. Depending on the outcome, the Redmen will face either Chelmsford or Wellesley on Wednesday.