Girls’ basketball: Hopkinton rolls past Winnisquam, now one win away from Division III championship

Hopkinton center Sydney Westover shoots over two Winnisquam defenders during the first half of the a Division III girls’ basketball semifinal at Bow High School on Wednesday.

Hopkinton center Sydney Westover shoots over two Winnisquam defenders during the first half of the a Division III girls’ basketball semifinal at Bow High School on Wednesday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Hopkinton’s Sydney Westover (right) battles Winnisquam forward Bella Sargent during the second half at Bow High School during the D-III semi-finals on Wednesday, February 21, 2024.

Hopkinton’s Sydney Westover (right) battles Winnisquam forward Bella Sargent during the second half at Bow High School during the D-III semi-finals on Wednesday, February 21, 2024. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Hopkinton players Sydney Westover (35) and Shaylee Murdough (3) surround Winnisquam forward Lauren MacDonald during the second half at Bow High School during the D-III semi-finals on Wednesday, February 21, 2024.

Hopkinton players Sydney Westover (35) and Shaylee Murdough (3) surround Winnisquam forward Lauren MacDonald during the second half at Bow High School during the D-III semi-finals on Wednesday, February 21, 2024. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Hopkinton guard Shaylee Murdough (3) goes up for a shot against Winnisquam forward Triniti Carter during the first half at Bow High School during the D-III semi-finals on Wednesday, February 21, 2024.

Hopkinton guard Shaylee Murdough (3) goes up for a shot against Winnisquam forward Triniti Carter during the first half at Bow High School during the D-III semi-finals on Wednesday, February 21, 2024. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

By ERIC RYNSTON-LOBEL

Monitor staff

Published: 02-22-2024 1:07 AM

Modified: 02-22-2024 10:57 AM


BOW – Losing eight seniors from a final four team usually isn’t a recipe for success the following season, but for the Hopkinton Hawks (15-3), that was never an excuse. 

With three returners and an impactful group of underclassmen, the No. 2 Hawks battled their way to a two seed in the Division III tournament, and on Wednesday night, punched their ticket to the state championship after a 51-33 win over No. 3 Winnisquam (14-5). 

“It feels great, but it’s a testament to the work they’ve put in,” head coach Mike Mahoney said. “The girls came out from day one and just brought it. They set these goals. They wanted to get to this point again. They worked through it.”

In the first half on Wednesday, it was the Shaylee Murdough show. The junior captain scored 16 of her game-high 23 points, as Hopkinton built up a 28-17 halftime lead.

Between Murdough’s scoring and junior Sydney Westover’s command of the glass, the Hawks fired on all cylinders.

“They’ve been getting us going these last couple weeks,” Mahoney said. “Syd has really come on, to me playing at an all-state level. Shay is Shay. She’s going to do what she does and get her points.”

Senior Lizz Holmes has been the other key contributor for the Hawks this year, but she left the game late in the second quarter after suffering an ankle injury. She appeared after halftime on crutches, but Mahoney said she’s already told him she’s planning to play in the state championship game on Saturday.

“As long as she’s in the gym, she’ll pick up whatever we’re talking about and whatever we’re trying to put in for the final,” Mahoney said. “I’m not worried about her getting the information. I’m just worried about her getting healthy because she’s such a big part of what we do.”

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Hopkinton will face off with rival No. 4 Kearsarge in the final at Keene State on Saturday night. The Cougars upset No. 1 St. Thomas Aquinas, 52-44, in the other semifinal.

The Hawks played the Cougars twice during the regular season and won both games, 44-32 and 44-40.

It’ll be two teams that know each other well, but Mahoney said the message going in doesn’t change.

“We told them before the game: have fun. Just have fun. Enjoy this moment,” he said. “It’s hard to get here. It’s harder to get to the finals, and we just want them to enjoy it. … They’re like a little family. They’re picking each other up. They get excited for each other. As long as we can keep playing loose, hopefully it’ll get us one more win.

Meanwhile, the loss for Winnisquam ended the most successful season in the program’s history. Wednesday was the first time the team had ever reached a final four. 

Senior Lauren MacDonald led the team with 20 points, capping off her career that saw her reach the 1,000-point milestone. 

“One game doesn’t make a season,” head coach Mark Dawalga said. “I’m proud of them. It’s the first time for our school to be in the semis, so that’s something to hang their head on.”