AMHERST >> Down seven points going into the fourth quarter, the message in the Mount Everett huddle was simple: Believe.
The Eagles did, and because of that the team will have a shot at a Western Mass. Division IV championship.
No. 2 Mount Everett turned around the deficit to tie things up at 48-48 after regulation, and in the overtime period the Eagles pulled away for a 59-54 win.
"Throughout the whole season, our thing is always believe, we always say believe," senior Jessica Abbott said of the huddle. "We just had to believe in ourselves and we had to pick it up."
The Eagles got the deficit down to three in a minute, with Gwendolyn Carpenter (game-high 29 points) scoring on a drive to the rim to make it 41-38. No. 6 Lee responded, Mount Everett answered again, then Carpenter scored on a putback and Kelsey Netzer scored her only three points of the day to make it 46-46 with 4:46 to go.
The next four minutes were long. Lee got the lead back on free throws from Brianna Hawley (9 points) and Taylor Fera (6 points) to make it 48-46 with 2:39 to go. Carpenter pulled one point back at the line with 1:06 to go, then one outrageous sequence of events set up overtime.
The sequence started with a miss from Carpenter. The ball was pushed up quickly by Lee, and Hawley found herself wide open under the hoop. Unfortunately, her shot was off and Abbott was there to grab the rebound. Hawley fouled Abbott on the rebound, sending Hawley to the bench with five fouls and Abbott to the line with 20 seconds to go.
"It was definitely nerve-wracking," Abbott said of her trip to the line, "and with everyone yelling it made it a lot worse. I just took a deep breath and shot."
The first went in, the second did not. Lee got off a final look after taking a timeout, but that shot missed out, as well.
In the extra period, Maura Robitaille scored for Mount Everett and Kendra Williams got one back for Lee to start. From there, the Eagles went on a 7-0 run to seal the game. Abbott hit two buckets off Carpenter assists to start it, then Robitaille hit a free throw with 20 seconds to go to cap it.
"The difference there, the kids believed," Mount Everett coach Scott Rote said of what changed for his team. "The group that was on the floor. Maura Robitaille coming through. The poor kid, she sees very few minutes a game and is a defensive specialist. To hit that little shot, to make the foul shot, things like that are key.
"Jess Abbott came through big tonight. She played really tough on the boards, she hit a couple shots for us. We told her she could be the difference."
Mount Everett also got an edge through the foul line. Lee battled foul trouble all night, and had to shuffle through players to keep everyone playing. The Eagles went 29 of 45 at the line, including a 14 of 23 performance in the second half and overtime. Carpenter herself went 17 of 25 and was 11 of 15 in the final 20 minutes. Lee shot 11 of 20 on the night.
"Our game, with someone like Gwendolyn, is to try and take the ball to the hole and get them in foul trouble," Rote said.
The Eagles themselves had to deal with foul issues as Emily Coon and Netzer both fouled out in the fourth, but Rote said his team's ability to cut down on fouls when it mattered was important.
Lee capitalized on that in the third to take the edge into the final frame.
After battling back and forth to start, Lee led 9-8 after one and Mount Everett was up 25-22 at the break, Lee kept the game close over the opening four minutes of the third, then closed on a 12-3 run to take a 41-34 edge.
In the run, Mikayla DeSantis started with a 3-pointer and Fera ended it with one of her own.
"At halftime, we talked to each other and were putting each other up, to keep our heads up," Hawley said. "We came out strong, we passed the ball more, we broke the press, our shots started falling and everything just worked."
But in the fourth, Hawley said the fouls really hurt her team.
"The girls that had close to five fouls, we kept hacking," Hawley said. "We hacked the rebound, we swatted when people went up for the layup. ... We just got foul after foul, and things didn't work out."
Karli Retzel had a team-high 17 for Lee, but was held to just five points in the second half.
Abbott finished with 15 rebounds in the win, and Carpenter added 10 rebounds and four assists. For Lee, Hawley had nine boards and Retzel finished with seen rebounds, four steals and two assists.
Mount Everett advances to play No. 5 Quaboag, which knocked off No. 1 Ware 46-43 on Monday.
Rote will have his hands full trying to gameplan for Quaboag, but in the meantime he might need to be pinched to be reminded of what his team is playing for on Saturday.
"It hasn't total sunk in to me yet that we have to come back on Saturday. But boy, I'll tell you what, these next three days are going to be three of the greatest days Mount Everett has had in a long, long time," Rote said.
Williams 3-0-6, Walker 0-0-0, Bartini 2-0-4, Retzel 6-4-17, Fera 2-1-6, Finnegan 1-1-3, Hawley 2-5-9, DeSantis 4-0-9. Totals 20-11-54.
MOUNT EVERETT (59)
Coon 2-6-10, Carpenter 6-17-29, Ullrich 0-0-0, Robitaille 1-1-3, Abbott 3-1-7, Snyder 1-4-7, Netzer 1-0-3. Totals 14-29-59.
3-point goals — L 3 (Retzel, Fera, DeSantis), ME 2 (Snyder, Netzer).
Contact Geoff Smith at 413-496-6254