AMHERST -- Granby coach Tom Burke didn't have to think very long when he was asked about the outcome of his team's Western Massachusetts Division III semifinal against Lee.
"It's one thing to lose the game. It's another thing to get beat," he said after the Wildcats won 70-56 at the Curry Hicks Cage. "We got beat by the better team, for sure, tonight."
Stephanie Young was held to two points in the first quarter Tuesday night, but she finished with a game-high 30 and pulled down a game best 18 rebounds for the second-seeded Wildcats. Lee turned a 3-point halftime lead into a 20-point advantage early in the third quarter, outscoring Granby 26-12.
Eileen Dooley finished with 20 points and 5 assists while freshman Courtney Picard also had a double-double for the Wildcats with 10 points and 12 rebounds.
"I think as a team, we have all come together and everyone's doing their part," said Dooley, "which makes us, as a whole, that much better."
The Wildcats return to the Cage Saturday morning at 10:45 to play for a Division III title. Head coach Gary Wellington, his staff and players will await the winner of tonight's game between top-seeded Sabis and No. 4 Lenox.
"Their whole team shot the ball so well. I was very impressed with the way they shot it," said Burke. "I didn't think our defense was that bad. They got an open look, they buried them.
"Every time we sagged off of somebody else to help on Stephanie, she gave it up and they scored."
Not right away, however.
The Wildcats actually found themselves down 14-9 with 1:51 left in the first quarter. Wellington's team went on a 9-0 run to close out the quarter. It took Young until the final seconds to get in the book, when she rebounded Dooley's miss from 3-point range and scored with 4.1 seconds left.
Wellington said after the game that he was a little concerned about Young's slow start, which included an air ball on a jumper just 3 minutes into the game. It turns out he didn't have to be all that concerned, because the senior scored Lee's first six points of the second quarter, finished up with 10 at halftime, and then exploded in the third quarter.
"I get kind of anxious if I'm not really scoring too much in the first quarter," Young said. "I knew I couldn't let my head get out of the game, and I knew what I had to do when I came back out for the second quarter. I was able to relax, calm down and have some confidence in myself. My shot started falling, and everything started to click."
While everything was starting to click, the Wildcats couldn't pull away. They went into the locker room at halftime up only 28-25.
"I was happy to be up and to be in the game," said Wellington. "We did have to straighten out a couple of things. I think we came out in the third quarter and kind of put it together."
The teams traded baskets to start the second quarter, but the Wildcats started pulling away when Granby's Meghan Sullivan sent Young to the line and Young made two free throws. Granby's Briannah Mercier missed a shot, Dooley rebounded and Young scored on the fast break. That forced Burke to call a time out.
The time out didn't seem to help as the Wildcats came out of the time out and extended a 6-point lead to 11 as Young scored on the rebound of her own missed shot. Picard got the run going in high gear when Young found her in the right corner and the freshman drained a 3-ball for what was then a 15-point lead.
It was 43-34 with 2:30 left when the Wildcats went on a 11-3 run to close out the third. Young scored six of those points and Picard got the final basket, scoring just as the horn sounded to end the quarter.
The freshman forward provided the secondary scoring and plenty of rebounding. Her 12 boards were more than anyone on the Granby side.
"It was a lot of fun" to start, said Picard. "I was really nervous. After I got through my nerves, I had a lot of fun with the game. We all brought our game and we did good."
Young started the fourth quarter with a trey from NBA range, giving the Wildcats a 57-37 lead. It was the kind of shot that would discourage some teams. But the Rams didn't get to be the No. 3 seed by being timid. They cut the 20-point lead to 12 on a 3-pointer by Brooke Labrie, the daughter of Springfield Central boys basketball coach Mike Labrie, but the Rams didn't get any closer.
Labrie finished up with a team-high 15 points, while Meghan Sullivan had 13 before fouling out. Rebecca Sapouckey finished with 11 points and 8 rebounds.
So, after a year away from the final, it's back to "Breakfast at the Cage" for the Wildcats, who are looking forward to the opportunity.
"It was a struggle to get back here," said Young. "We want it to be our time this year."
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