HAMILTON -- Pressure.
The word appears on the back of the Hamilton-Wenham girls basketball team’s warm up shirts for a reason. The Generals turn up the heat on defense and most teams can’t handle that pressure.
Saturday night in the Division 2 North quarterfinals, Dracut fell victim to that relentless defense as the fifth seeded Generals pounded the Middies 72-42.
With the victory, Hamilton-Wenham earned the right to face top-seeded Watertown in the semifinals on Thursday at Whittier Tech (7 p.m.).
The Generals trailed, 16-15, after one quarter before their full court defense proved too much for Dracut (11-11). The Middies didn’t make a single field goal in the second quarter as the Generals surged ahead, 34-21.
The Middies didn’t break their field goal drought until there was 1:44 left in the third quarter; by that time H-W led by 21 points.
“Defensively we gave up 16 points in the first quarter and I told the girls I was not happy,” said Hamilton-Wenham (17-5) head coach Jon DeMarco. “We clamped down and stopped their dribble penetration and we contested every shot. They were getting shots from 5 and 10 feet, but we put that on lockdown from that point on.”
Senior captain Haley Willis was the high scorer for the hosts with 20 points to go with a handful of steals. Willis was all over both ends of the court, shot well from the outside and forced plenty of Dracut turnovers.
Offensively, the Generals were much smoother than in their opening round victory over Stoneham by limiting its turnovers and shooting significantly better from outside. Senior captain and point guard Sue Rose (14 points) was a big reason why.
“I’ts just experience. After the first win, we relaxed and realized we belong in this tournament,” Rose said. “I’m proud of the way team played. Everyone shot well on the outside and inside with our bigs.”