NHIAA D-III tournament: Hopkinton girls beat Inter-Lakes to reach quarterfinals

  • Hopkinton guard Taylor Signor (second from left) battles a trio of Inter-Lakes players for the ball during the first half of a Division III girls’ basketball tournament game Thursday in Hopkinton. The Hawks won, 45-25. GEOFF FORESTER Monitor staff

  • Hopkinton center Krista Amoth battles Inter-lakes guard Sammy Kernen for a loose ball during the first half on Thursday, February 22, 2018. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Hopkinton guard Abby Houston knocks the ball away from Inter-Lakes guard Sammy Kernen on Thursday during the first half of a Division III girls’ basketball first-round tournament game. The Hawks won, 45-25. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Hopkinton guard Abby Houston battles for a rebound during the first half against Inter-lakes on Thursday, February 22, 2018. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Friday, February 23, 2018

HOPKINTON – Barely missing out on a tournament bid in 2017, the Hopkinton High School girls’ basketball team was understandably a little nervous before its first-round playoff game against Inter-Lakes on Thursday.

The jitters didn’t last long as the No. 6 Hawks turned an eight-point lead at halftime into a 20-point margin of victory and defeated the No. 11 Lakers, 45-25, to open the Division III tournament.

“We were all anxious,” Hopkinton senior co-captain Abby Houston said. “But at halftime, we took a breath. This was our last home game no matter what, so we’ve got to leave it all out there.”

“Once we got over it and kept our cool, the anxiety was gone and it just flowed.”

Amelia Thomas didn’t seem nervous. The Hopkinton junior scored a game-high 20 points and was charged with the duty of guarding Inter-Lakes sharpshooter Taylor Ambrose.

Ambrose finished with six points, behind Julia Gintof’s 17. Jordan Durand was the only other Laker to find the scoreboard with two points.

Hopkinton’s swarming defense didn’t allow anything more than that.

“Defense is our calling card,” Hopkinton coach Pat Roye said. “Amelia did an outstanding job on Ambrose. She’s a really good long-range shooter and Amelia took her right of the game. It was an outstanding defensive effort by her.”

The Hawks (15-4) will head north to face No. 3 Newfound in the quarterfinals on Saturday at 7 p.m. Newfound defeated No. 14 Franklin in its first-round bout, 73-22. Inter-Lakes closed its season at 11-8.

Houston gave a hug to her fellow senior and co-captain Taylor Signor after the final horn. Signor hurt her left leg going for a loose ball and got tangled with a couple Lakers in the second quarter. Thomas and co-captain Krista Amoth had to help her off the floor and to the bench.

It seemed unlikely that Signor would re-enter the game, but she walked it off by the Hawks’ bench, returned to the floor just a few minutes later, and played through the pain from there.

Houston wasn’t surprised.

“She is the most resilient person I’ve ever met,” Houston said. “She’ll bounce back if she needs to. She’s selfless and will do anything for her team.”

Seeing one of their top players go down didn’t get to the Hawks. They were ready to fill in the gaps.

“This last week, we’ve been preparing for situations like that and make sure everybody gets in, everybody gets their turn at practice,” she said. “It was difficult and it was a shock (seeing Signor get hurt) but we’ve been preparing for this. Anything can happen.”

The Hawks had to turn to their bench again when starting freshman guard Maurgan McGrath left the game briefly with an illness.

“We were able to play 10 tonight (players) tonight, and that really helps,” Roye said. “Fiona Beane, Sophie Potter, these kids came in and did a great job.”

McGrath finished with seven points, Bean and Katie Meserve finished with three points apiece, and Signor finished with two.

The Hawks took a 7-2 lead in the first quarter. They stretched it out scoring 15 points in the second and held a 22-12 lead at halftime.

Holding the Lakers to seven points in the third, Hopkinton took a 14-point lead into the fourth quarter and added another six points to their lead before the buzzer.

The Lakers were without one of their best players, Emma Wheeler, for the last three quarters. Wheeler took one shot in the first quarter before injuring her ankle and didn’t return.

“Without her and our defense, I don’t know,” first-year Inter-Lakes coach Beth Burlison said. “(Our team) came in scared and nervous. I tried to tell them it’s just a game. But it was tough.”

The Lakers were knocked out in the first round last year against Fall Mountain. They improved their record from last season when they finished 8-11.

“I’m proud of them for the season,” Burlison said. “They played their hearts out for a new coach, new everything, they played great. We’ll bring it next year.”

(Nick Stoico can be reached at nstoico@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @NickStoico.)