CHESHIRE >> For three quarters, the Wahconah girls basketball team had trouble putting the ball in the proverbial ocean. The fourth quarter was completely different.
Trailing by nine points after three, the Warriors outscored Athol by 10 in the fourth quarter to eke out a 40-39 win in the second game of the Coaches vs. Cancer tournament at Hoosac Valley.
Lily Pudlo made the second of two free throws with 40.3 seconds left in the fourth quarter to break a tie and Wahconah (7-4) held on at the end.
Athol's Julia Carey missed a shot in the final seconds that would have given the Red Raiders (4-6) a win.
"In the fourth quarter, we knew we had to push the ball more because we do better when we push the ball up the floor," said Wahconah guard Ashley Zink. "We had someone on the wing post up, because we knew the shot would be open. Our shots started falling and we came back from a nine-point deficit."
Zink scored six points, on a pair of 3-point baskets, but both of them came in the fourth quarter. She hit one to tie the game at 33, and then hit a second trey with 4:48 to put the Warriors up by a point. That was the first lead for Wahconah since being up 14-13 with 1:45 to play in the second quarter.
The Warriors made their comeback thanks to shooting 5 for 8 from the floor in the last eight minutes. Four of the five baskets in the final quarter came from outside the arc. Kenna McIlquham, who had a game-high 13 points, hit two treys, one in transition. Zink had the other two.
"We really didn't shoot well the whole game I don't think necessarily. We did [in the fourth quarter]. A big piece of that was an adjustment of how we pushed the ball up the floor," Wahconah coach Liz Kay said. "We weren't really shot-ready for the whole game. That was a big emphasis in the fourth quarter. We knew we could push, but we weren't getting to the paint effectively."
Two of Wahconah's four losses were by one point, and the Warriors could have been staring at a third. But this time, good fortune smiled on the Warriors.
"This is a huge win. We knew going in that we needed this game," said Zink. "We're very confident because we won this game. Going into the rest of our season, it was a good boost for us."
The Warriors took a 14-13 lead on a pull up jump shot by Mikayla Gagliardi with 1:45 left in the second quarter. But Athol's Kayla Robideau hit a 3-pointer off an inbounds from under her team's basket with 56 seconds to play, giving the Red Raiders a 16-14 halftime lead.
Wahconah cut the lead to 19-18 midway through the third period, but Athol closed the third quarter with a 14-6 run to go up 33-24.
The Warriors were shaken, but came out in the final quarter and got back in the game with six unanswered points. Lily Pudlo, who had 11 rebounds to go with seven points, scored off a nice pass from Julia O'Connor to start the final stanza. O'Connor rebounded a miss by Emily Casella, one of her 10 boards, and started a fast break that McIlquham ended with a trey.
Out of a Wahconah time out, the Warriors kept inching up, and when Zink caught a pass from Pudlo and drained a 3-ball, the Warriors had a 36-35 lead. Wahconah rebounded a Casella miss and McIlquham hit a trey off a Zink assist for a 39-35 lead with 3:58 left.
Athol got two free throws by Carey and a basket by Casella with 1:49 left to tie the game at 39. Both teams had chances to take the lead, but it was Pudlo who gave the Warriors the lead for keeps.
Casella had six points and a game-high 13 rebounds. Hope Parker led Athol with 11 points and Carey had 10.
"We played a good three quarters but we didn't show up in the fourth. I don't know if we got tired," said Athol coach Dan Bevis. "It was a lack of execution on both ends."
Carey 4-2-10, Jillson 2-0-5, Parker 4-2-11, Ricko 1-0-2, Casella 2-2-6, Hamlett 1-0-2. Totals 15-6-39.
Zink 2-0-6, Cote 1-1-4, Dougherty 0-0-0, Gagliardi 2-0-5, O'Connor 2-1-5, Tobler 0-0-0, Gamberoni 0-0-0, McIlquham 5-1-13, Pudlo 2-3-7. Totals 14-6-40.
3-point goals — A 3 (Jillson, Parker, Robideau). W 6 (Zink 2, McIlquham 2, Cote, Gagliardi).