Bears ride defense past Northwestern
Bears ride defense past Nothwestern
THOMASTON – A lot of defense goes a long way. Especially when your offense is in, well let’s call it the doldrums for much of the evening.
Thomaston pressured Northwestern Regional into 16 second half turnovers to overcome a forgettable 11-point first half and surge past the Highlanders, 41-34, Friday night.
The victory sets up a first place battle with Wamogo in Thomaston next Friday. The Bears are off until then and will bring a 7-1 Berkshire League record into the game (7-3 overall) while Wamogo is currently 6-0 in the league and 7-1 overall.
The looming contest almost lost a bit of luster as the Bears managed just four first half baskets, two in each quarter and shot 4-for-22 (18 percent). Fortunately for coach Bob McMahon’s team Northwestern had its own set of problems with seven second quarter turnovers and managed just a 13-11 lead.
Needing some kind of transfusion, the Bears turned to their defense.
“Defense is our main thing, we talk about it every halftime,” said Thomaston’s Maggie Eberhardt. “We work all practice on it.”
The effort showed. The Bears amped up the harassment level and hounded the Highlanders into seven more turnovers (16 in the half) and suddenly an offense appeared.
Eberhardt breathed some life into the Bears with a three-pointer to cut Northwestern’s lead to 15-14 and it was the start of a run of 14 unanswered points in less than three minutes.
Along the way, Sarah Hafele nailed a bank shot, Laura Miller converted an offensive rebound into a bucket and Eberhardt completed the run with the last of her four three-pointers on the night as the the gang that couldn’t shoot straight was suddenly leading, 25-15 with 2:29 left in the quarter.
“ We said at halftime that we needed to come out in the third quarter and set a tone and we did the opposite,” said Northwestern coach Fred Williams. “ It’s frustrating because we were starting to play a whole lot better and tonight for whatever reason we fundamentally broke down in the third quarter. Credit Thomaston’s defense, it took us out of our game.”
Northwestern did not go down without a fight, however. The Highlanders slowly chipped away and were as close as 31-28 after a Rasa Hamel free throw midway through the final quarter.
With just under two minutes left, the Highlanders threatened to cut the deficit to basket only to have Nicole Folino’s driving layup waved off on an offensive foul call.
Leading, 34-30, the Bears regrouped as Abby Hurlbert converted a pair from the line and Kellie Burns turned a feed from Hurlbert into a layup for a 38-30 lead with just 27 seconds left.
“ Northwestern stymied us early on, for whole first 16 minutes,’ said McMahon. “We said the most important thing is to pick up the pressure, get out and pick up some easy ones (baskets). We did that. If we didn’t get baskets we got more possessions which led to that.”
The Bears received a big game from Eberhardt who scored 19 points and was a consistent long-range threat.
“Maggie showed why she is a first team (All-Star) player,’ said McMahon. “She actually has struggled at times figuring out when it should be her or somebody else. Tonight she did everything.”
Thomaston 41, Northwestern 34
Northwestern (5-4): Kaci Seibert 0 0 0 , Kristin Olson 1 2 4, Rasa Hamel 5 5 16, Kathleen Wysocki 2 1 5, Liz Newkirk 0 0 0, Nicole Folino 2 1 5, Emma Beltrqandi 2 0 4, totals 12 9 34.
Thomaston (7-3): Hannah Russo 1 0 2, Sarah Hafele 1 0 2, Abby Hurlbert 1 2 4, Sydney Keith 0 0 0, Kellie Burns 2 3 7, Maggie Eberhardt 6 3 19, Laura Miller 3 1 7, Totals 14 9 41.
Thomaston 6 5 14 16—41
Northwestern 7 6 6 15—34
3-point goals: T – Eberhardt 4; NW – Hamel 1.