Sunday March 10, 2013

AMHERST -- Stephanie Young doesn't even remember one of the biggest shots she's taken all season.

Her Lee girls basketball team was tied in the fourth quarter with Sabis in the Western Massachusetts Division III championship on Saturday, and Young had just missed a layup and traveled on consecutive drives. She didn't hesitate to try again, launching a 3 that swished in.

"I don't even remember taking a 3! I wish I remembered now," Young said. "I remember, I was kind of losing my head for a little bit there. ... I got to step in, set my feet and make the shot.

"It's confidence and a lot of practice."

What the senior will remember now is going out as a Western Mass. champion. The No. 1 Bulldogs never pulled even after that basket in the Wildcats' 58-51 victory inside the Curry Hicks Cage at the University of Massachusetts. Young had a game-high 27 to erase the memories of a loss to Lenox in last year's semifinals.

"Oh my god, this is unbelievable," said fellow senior Eileen Dooley. "Honestly, we just wanted to make it back. That was our goal. ... Our goal was to get back and to win it all is incredible."

Dooley added 14 to help No. 2 Lee (18-5) to its 20th title in 25 appearances in the D-III sectional final. There have only been 36 championship games.

The Wildcats last won the title in 2011, eventually falling to St. Mary's of Lynn in the state championship game.


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This year's club moves on to face University Park of Worcester on Monday in the state semifinals. Tipoff is slated for 4:15 p.m. at the DCU Center in Worcester.

Lee led most of the championship game, answering the call when Sabis (23-2) pushed. The Bulldogs had three players in double figures, led by Jazmine Collins' 16, but couldn't escape big shots from Young all night.

"Steph has worked extremely hard all these years, way back in the garage with her dad," said Lee coach Gary Wellington. "Coming up now, she wants to win so bad. She wants to carry the team. It's almost like you have to back her down a bit. She wants to do too much."

She had plenty of help from Dooley, Megan Gaul (nine points) and freshman Courtney Picard (eight points). Wellington, who said this will be his last year as coach, called his team "more relaxed" than in a 22-point loss to the Bulldogs in January.

Sabis' Casie Thurber, who had 14 points, said the challenge her team couldn't overcome this time came down to Young.

"Most bigs can't shoot 3s like that," Thurber said. "I think that was probably the hard part. I did my best. We all did our best to try to block her, stuff her, prevent her from getting in the paint."