Championship game quest falls one half short for Mills
PLAINVILLE – The light was peeking through at the end of the tunnel for the Lewis Mills girls basketball team Monday night.
Playing for a berth in the Class M Tournament finals, the Spartans jumped all over Weaver in the first half, dominating a half-court pace against a taller and quicker Bobcat team in opening up a 13-point lead.
Then the onslaught began. And there was nothing the Spartans could do to stop it.
Led by Fifi Walcott, who scored all 17 of her points in the second half, and Shashana Bucker, a force in the middle with 17 points, seven rebounds and four blocks, Weaver used its athleticism and came back to defeat Lewis Mills, 44-39, in the semifinals at Plainville High School.
Weaver, which also received a monster performance from Kenya Stewart with eight blocks, will play Windham in the finals. The Spartans’ magical season ends one game short of the finals with a 25-1 record.
The difference came when the Bobcats broke out their full court press at the start of the third quarter. From there, it became a major obstacle for Lewis Mills just to get the ball up the floor, as evidenced by its 12 second half turnovers. It committed only five in the first two periods.
“It was a zone pressure and they did a great job double-teaming out of it,” Lewis Mills head coach Dennis Fowler explained. “We definitely tired a little. When you play at such a fast pace and style, it leads to mistakes.”
Weaver had serious difficulty with the ball in the first half as the Spartans, powered by Amanda Adamski, jumped out to a quick 8-0 lead, an advantage that eventually grew to 16-2.
Reeling at the end of the second quarter, Buckner gave the Bobcats a little boost with 10 seconds left with a putback that cut the Spartans’ lead to 23-12.
While a double-digit lead at the half is nothing to be upset with, the Spartans let a few opportunties to increase their lead slip away, and that would eventually cost them.
“I thought we could have been up 16 or 17 points at the half and that would’ve been huge,” Fowler said. “In the first quarter, we were the agressor and we lost some of that in the second.”
Out of the locker room, Weaver came out on a mission, forcing three turnovers in less than two minutes off the press, which clearly rattled the Spartans. When Lewis Mills did get the ball up the court, the tall and talented duo of Buckner and Stewart was there to protect the hoop, combining for 12 blocks on the night.
And then there was Walcott. After a scoreless first half, she nailed two threes in the third, setting the stage for the game's eventual deciding sequence.
With the score tied at 32 in the fourth, Walcott hit two more threes in just 14 seconds - the second off a steal - giving the Bobcats a six-point lead they would not relinquish.
In the end, though, it was the Weaver defense that was too much for the Spartans to overcome.
“With the press, our goal was to take them out of their rhythm,” Weaver head coach Wendell Williams said. “They are a great spot-up shooting team and they did not go 25-0 for no reason. We expected them to come out hot and they did. It just came down to on how we’d respond to it.”
Adamski, in her final high school game, led Lewis Mills with 17 points, six rebounds, two steals and a block.
“We couldn’t beat their pressure; they just did a great job with it,” Adamski said. “Then they just started hitting all their shots and there was nothing we could do.”
Alicia Forella added seven points and Nicole Bisson netted six for the Spartans.
“I’m upset and disappointed we lost, but I’m proud of the kids and the program,” Fowler said. “I hope in a few days we can look back and realize how great it was to go 25-1.”