LENOX -- For one last time, the seniors on the Lenox girls basketball team defended home court.
The No. 4 Millionaires dispatched No. 5 Gateway 54-20 in a Western Massachusetts Division III quarterfinal game Friday night, sending the Millionaires off to the Curry Hicks Cage for the semifinals.
"It's an awesome feeling. I'm really happy that my last home game was a win," said Lenox senior Hayden Zinchuk. "That's what I'm always going to remember. It's bittersweet."
There was nothing bitter about the game for the Millionaires, who held the Tri-County League champion Gators to 5 points after the first quarter and gave up one basket in the second quarter.
Lenox led 32-7 at halftime and had forced 20 of Gateway's 37 turnovers in the opening 16 minutes. The Gators actually led 3-2 with 1:50 gone in the first, but scored only four more points after that. They went scoreless for the final 4:14 of the first quarter and 6:58 of the second before Ariell Baillegeron banked in a shot with 1:12 left in the half.
Zinchuk had a game-high 20 points, 9 rebounds and 5 steals. Liz Mitts had 18 points, 6 boards and 5 steals.
"This is definitely a step up in competition from what we usually see in our regular league play. It makes it tough to get ready for when you don't see it most of the regular season," Gateway coach Elijah Robbins said. "They did pretty much exactly what we knew they were going to do. They're a very disciplined team, which makes them very tough to guard.
It actually took Lenox a little while to get going. It was 1 for 5 from the floor in the opening three minutes and trailed when Gateway's Kaitlyn Mastello hit a 3-point play with 6:10 left. Mastello was one of three Gators to score 4 points.
The Millionaires took the lead on their next trip downcourt. Kathy Prescott missed a shot, Zinchuk rebounded and threw a nifty pass to Liz Mitts for the soft jumper in the lane that made it 4-3.
That foretold how the rest of the quarter would play out. Mitts had eight of her team's 17 points in the quarter and had 12 at halftime. Many of her shots came after nice passes around and into Gateway's 2-3 zone.
The Gators seemed to run most of its players at the ball, leaving the back door open.
"[The guards] swung the ball really quickly, which helped shift the defense and get it inside to me and Hayden," said Mitts.
Point guard Jaclyn Gigliotti had six assists. The Millionaires had 15 assists to 8 turnovers.
Up next for the Millionaires is a semifinal with Sabis. The top-seeded Bulldogs beat Monson 57-32. Lenox-Sabis is a rematch of last year's title game, won by the Bulldogs.
"We're so happy to make it [to the Cage] again," said Mitts. "We're going to watch the Sabis game from last year and hopefully gain some knowledge and come out our hardest."
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