SPRINGFIELD -- With four minutes left in the third quarter at the Hoophall Classic, Lee had a 12-point lead over Quaboag. But the Wildcats let it get away.
Undefeated Quaboag held Lee scoreless for three minutes of the third quarter and held the Wildcats (7-3) to only one basket in the last four minutes of the game as the Cougars (10-0) completed the comeback and got out of Blake Arena with a 55-51 win.
"Normally we come out pretty slow, but we came out strong in the first half," said Lee guard Eileen Dooley. "We just need to learn to keep it up all through the game."
There were two lead changes and four ties in the first half with the Wildcats taking a 21-19 lead on two free throws by Stephanie Young with 6:16 left in the second quarter. The Wildcats maintained that lead until Brittany Herring converted a pass from Quaboag's player of the game Jessica Korzec with 2:21 left in the game. That put the Cougars up 50-48, and they never trailed again.
"It's a good learning experience," said Lee's player of the game Stephanie Young. "We just have to finish better."
Young was given the award for Lee after her 25-point, 14-rebound, 5-steal performance. Dooley was the other Wildcat who scored in double figures with 16.
Korzec had 21 points for Quaboag while Herring had 14 points and 11 rebounds.
The Wildcats were outrebounded 49-37. Quaboag outscored Lee in the paint 36-10 and 13-4 on second-chance points.
The game was lost for the Wildcats in the second half because of some not-very-good shooting.
The Wildcats led 33-27 at halftime, and scored 14 of those points off Quaboag turnovers. Lee was able to get those turnovers because the Wildcats made some shots and could press. Things changed late in the third quarter.
Lee made only 7-of-33 shots from the floor in the last 16 minutes and did not make any of its four 3-point attempts. The Wildcats pressed themselves into a 12-point lead, but once the baskets stop, so does the press.
"If we don't make a hoop, we're not into something," Lee coach Gary Wellington said. "We've got to kind of ad-lib it. We have to make our shots to be in what we normally do."
The Wildcats go to the bank on the full-court press that has plagued opponents from Pittsfield to the Cape. The inability to shoot from the field, 26 percent for the game, took Lee out of its game and comfort zone.
"We pulled back into a zone and that took away from our press and from our pressure," said Dooley. "That takes a lot away from our fast break and it slows us down."
Leading 33-27 at halftime, the Wildcats opened the third quarter with a 7-1 spurt that put them up 40-28 with 3:59 to play. From that point, Young scored the only basket, while the Cougars scored nine points. Lee was 0 for 6 with a turnover in that stretch and Quaboag trailed only 42-37.
"My biggest concern is that we haven't had games like that this year, so how we react to it was going to be really important," said Quaboag coach Cliff Lanier. "I wasn't sure how we'd react. We didn't hang our heads and we played hard and fought back, and I looked up and it was 2 [point deficit] and I'm thinking it's really good.
"Then I'm looking up and we're ahead. That's the type of kids they are."
Lee took a 48-44 lead on a Young hoop with 4:16 left. Herring cut the Wildcat lead to two points with a pair of free throws.
Three empty possessions turned into a turnover, a steal and a hoop by Korzec to tie the score at 48. On Lee's next trip down, Herring rebounded a miss by Moriah McKenna and started the fast break. Herring got a return pass from Korzec for the basket. It was 50-48 Quaboag and Wellington had to call a timeout.
Out of the timeout, Quaboag's Shelby Jankins rebounded a miss by Dooley, passed ahead to Herring and Herring found Alexandra Plante for a 3-pointer that put Quaboag up 53-48 with 1:38 left. That was too much for the Wildcats to come back from.
"I was proud of our kids. We fought back," said Wellington. "It is what it is. I'm very happy the way we played and I think Quaboag played a great game."