By Dan Harrison
---- — HAMILTON — The Hamilton-Wenham and Watertown girls basketball teams couldn’t have played each other any closer in last night’s Division 3 North first round game.
The problem with close games, especially intense defensive ones, is that in the end, a break here or there makes all the difference.
The host Generals held the lead for most of the fourth quarter, but six straight made free throws allowed the Raiders to take a three-point lead in the final minute as Watertown held on for the 42-37 upset.
Cassandra Fibbe actually drained a three-pointer to tie the game at 40-40 with three seconds left but Watertown was whistled for a blocking foul (before the shot) and Fibbe headed to the line for a one-and-one. She missed on the front-end and the Raiders grabbed the rebound and then made two more from the charity stripe to clinch the win.
Watertown (11-10) had been shooting just 50 percent from the free-throw line but was 9-of-10 in the final 1:20 of the game.
“It was really a defensive stand on both sides. It came down to the end, we had an opportunity to tie and I thought we did with that shot,” said H-W (12-7) head coach Jon Demarco, who finished his first season as head coach 12-7.
“It’s a tough break, but give them (Watertown) credit, they played really hard. My girls played so hard and gave it everything they could. We played good enough to win it just didn’t go our way.”
Fibbe, one of just two seniors on the Generals, finished with six points had an outstanding second half on both ends of the floor. Watertown’s junior guard Gabriella Coppola led all scorers with 13 points, eight of which came in the second half.
“Their defense is really tough. They were long, athletic and quick to recover,” said Raiders skipper Patrick Ferdinand. “We did a better job (in the fourth quarter) of spreading the floor and getting good ball movement. That allowed us to get stuff going to basket.”
Junior forward Sam Charette led H-W in scoring with 12 points and was really the team’s only consistent source of offense. However the Raiders limited her space in the paint and forced her away from the basket as much as possible while holding her scoreless in the fourth.
Hayley Willis (seven points) hit some big shots in the first half. Junior captain Sue Rose (seven points) handled the offense well from the point and made two timely three-pointers for H-W.
Charette, Taylor Morong and Catherine Ecker thwarted Watertown’s inside presence in Katelyn Rourke (five points) and Francesca Korte (zero points) all night and kept the Raiders mostly to outside shooting before Coppola found some success off the dribble in the second half.
“Our girls did a great job rotating out on their shooters and really protected the basket,” explained DeMarco. “Defensively, we take pride in holding teams down and we did tonight and gave ourselves a chance to win at the end.”
Since DeMarco took over, the elevated emphasis on defense and the response from the girls has put a charge into the H-W girls basketball program.
“I am so proud of these girls and where they’ve come since day one. More than anything defensively and how much we got better,” said DeMarco. “We held teams under 40 points on average for the year. The girls have done everything I’ve asked of them and they’ve come together as a group. They are upset because they played their hearts out and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”