LEE — The gameplan for Mount Greylock was simple: get the ball inside to Jenna Benzinger early and often. The Mounties' post player established her presence from the opening tip, scoring a career-high 31 points en route to a 56-43 win on Monday. She added 15 rebounds as well.
"Jenna scored early and when you're a basketball player, you score early and you get confidence," Greylock coach John Jacobbe said. "I thought our team did a good job of getting [the ball] to her inside. She got good looks, she got putbacks. ... It was a team effort tonight."
Benzinger's play down low created driving lanes and open jumpers for her teammates. She scored 12 points in the first quarter, but in the second, the Wildcats did a good job of double-teaming her, forcing her to pass out to teammates. Elena Cerveira and Ari Walden attacked the basket in pick-and-roll situations making the Wildcats pay for doubling Benzinger. Cerveira had 10 points.
Karli Retzel's free throws cut Lee's deficit to one late in the first half, but four quick points to end the half extended Greylock's lead to five at halftime. Lauren Howard's 3-pointer capped a 9-0 run to start the third quarter, putting the game out of reach for Lee.
"It's tough," Lee coach Jenna Gangell said on stopping Benzinger inside. "We weren't able to contain her on the block or on the offensive boards."
Lee did get within nine points in the fourth quarter with strong free throw shooting, but Cerveira's steal and score pushed the lead back to 11 with less than two minutes remaining in the game.
Outside of Brianna Hawley (16 points), Lee struggled to find offense. Jacobbe said his team made a conscious effort to stick tight to Retzel after the quick guard scored 21 points in the team's first meeting. Retzel scored 10 points, but she had to fight to earn every one.
For Benzinger, she said spent extra time practicing her post moves after struggling during recent games. The extra work showed with baskets through contact and her teammates fed off her plays as well.
"It's a big help [scoring early], it helps my confidence in terms of finishing and it helps rally the team, to get some more points," Benzinger said. "Me and Ari [Walden] do a lot of give-and-go's and it helps that I'm a big body. I can seal off my defender and it helps my teammates get open shots."
The win moves Greylock to 6-1 in the South, giving them a half-game lead over Mount Everett. The Mounties end their season against the Eagles, looking to avenge their only division loss.
Byrnes 0-0-0, Walden 2-1-5, Flynn 0-0-0, Reinhard 0-0-0, E. Cerveira 5-0-10, Stripp 2-0-5, Howard 2-0-5, Benzinger 14-3-31. Totals: 25-4-56.
Williams 2-0-4, Retzel 3-3-10, Fera 0-0-0, Finnegan 0-1-1, Hawley 5-6-16, DeSantis 4-0-8. Totals: 15-12-43.
3-point goals — MG 2 (Stripp, Howard). L 1 (Retzel).