PITTSFIELD -- In tournament games, teams usually follow the lead of its veteran players. On Thursday night, a youngster showed Pittsfield the way.
Freshman guard Peyton Steinman showed poise running the point, leading the Generals to a 57-42 win over Belchertown in the Western Massachusetts Division II quarterfinals.
Steinman made her presence felt early. Calmly pulling up from 3-point range and draining the first basket of the game. She scored 14 of her team-high 19 points in the first half. Her aggressiveness on offense gave Pittsfield an 11-point halftime lead. The Generals led by as many as 18 on the night.
"We were No. 4, they were No. 5. It could've been them at No. 4. ... The bottom line is you've got to play the game," Pittsfield coach Joe Racicot said. "The kids did a good job in the first quarter. They played some good defense and got us the lead."
Steinman did most of her damage from the perimeter, but junior Lauren Carnevale did the heavy lifting down low. Carnevale pulled down a game-high 15 rebounds. Setting up second-chance opportunities for her team.
"It helps everybody works harder by getting second and third chances whenever we needed to get the ball in the hoop," Carnevale said.
Limiting Belchertown's second-chance points really stymied the Orioles' offense.
Tera Spellacy did a good job of keeping Belchertown in the game; driving hard to the rim and finishing. But Pittsfield had an answer for her every time. Trinity Cookis drew the responsibility of guarding Spellacy, and Racicot said she did a good job sticking to her.
"We watched them play a couple different teams. ... You've got to distract [Spellacy] and get in her face," he said. "When she does get it we weren't backing off. We were chasing her a lot and once we made that adjustment we did a pretty good job."
Midway through the second quarter, Spellacy scored 11 straight points for the Orioles, cutting Pittsfield's lead to nine. But Carnevale answered with back-to-back buckets of her own, allowing the Generals to take a 11-point lead into halftime.
"In the first half we couldn't buy a basket, and they shot very well all game long," Belchertown coach Jason Woodcock said. "We got beat behind the arc, and they out-rebounded us. Give them all the credit in the world. They played very well."
A layup by Spellacy cut Pittsfield's lead to nine with more than 5 minutes remaining in the third quarter. But Carnevale's free throw with 3:22 left in the third pushed the Pittsfield lead to 10. The Generals would not trail by less than 10 the remainder of the game.
Racicot said even though Steinman's a freshman, the guard is mature beyond her years. And she's only getting better.
"She's been playing basketball her whole life," the Pittsfield coach said. "She loves the game and you're going to see her play better than she did today and she did a good job today."
After having over a week away from game action, Racicot said he's happy with the way his team played.
"What I told the kids in the locker room is that we haven't played in 10 days," he said. "To play in spurts like we did. ... I give them a lot of credit. They just want to play basketball."
Pittsfield advances to face No. 1 Longmeadow in the Western Mass. semi-finals at the Curry Hicks Cage on Wednesday.
To reach Akeem Glaspie:
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