McCann Tech girls drop Pope Francis to secure tournament spot

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NORTH ADAMS — It was getting pretty dim for the McCann Tech girls basketball season, but the light never went out on their Western Massachusetts Division IV tournament hopes. With a record of 5-9 the Hornets pulled a complete 180. Friday's 50-31 win over Pope Francis extended McCann's winning streak to five and, more importantly, qualified the girls for the tournament.

"It took a lot of hard work [to turn the season around] — I am going to stress that," junior Grace Towler said. "At the beginning of the season it felt like we were separated sometimes and having a hard time.

"As the season went along, we merged and started playing as a unit, how a team should be and it's been great."

The Hornets (10-9) scored at least 50 points in three of the last four games since Towler returned from an injury and that streak continued with the help of her hot hand.

She hit two 3-pointers in the first quarter to get the offense going early.

"I always prefer to score early in games to give us a good start," Towler said. "We want to bring that momentum through the rest of the game."

Not only were the long balls good for six quick points, but it opened up the offense for Kaylee Tatro and Izzy LaCasse.

"Hitting from outside opens up the paint for Izzy to drive and Kaylee to get into position for a good rebound to put back," McCann coach Kathy Budaj said. "They all work really well together, it was a great team effort."

It didn't take long for Tatro and LaCasse to leave their finger prints all over the score sheet. In fact, the trio scored all of McCann's 15 first-quarter points as the Hornets led 15-6 at the end of the first quarter.

"It is a lot of help when we all are here and healthy," Tatro said. "We just needed to keep pushing, no matter what happens."

After hitting a shot from deep in the first quarter, it didn't take LaCasse long to start slashing to the rim. The sophomore finished with a game-high 16 points, along with six rebounds.

McCann's big-3 of LaCasse, Tatro and Towler all finished with double digit points on the night. Tatro had five in the first quarter and finished with 13 to pair with four rebounds. Meanwhile, Towler had 11 points, six rebounds and four assists, but the scoring wasn't what caught Budaj's eye.

"I am liking how everyone is playing good defense and working hard," Budaj explained. "It's nice because everyone contributes so we can have a bigger rotation and get a lot of kids in."

The Hornets held Pope Francis under 10 points in three of the four quarters with tough-minded defense. Tatro set tone defensively by fearlessly diving onto the hardwood in order to secure loose balls.

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"You see that ball on the ground — you need to get it," Tatro explained. "I hope when people see me dive for a ball, they want to be the next one on the ground fighting and making that play."

The Hornets followed suit as Friday's win made it five-straight games of allowing 37 points or less.

It was also Senior Night for the Hornets, who honored Arianna Vincent, their lone senior, in a pregame ceremony.

With a playoff spot secured, McCann Tech has two games remaining on their schedule. On Feb. 18 they'll travel to Smith Academy before ending the regular season at Smith Vocational a day later, before preparing for the tournament.

"The tournament is going to be loaded with tough teams," Budaj said."You have to show up every night if you want to win and we've been working hard at practice. They've challenged each other in practice and that is what we'll have to keep doing."

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POPE FRANCIS (31)

Turmel 2-0-4, Simis 3-0-7, LaPrade 3-0-8, Cavanaugh 2-0-4, Caudie 0-2-2, Galinski 0-2-2, Roncarati 1-4-6. Totals 11-6-31.

MCCANN TECH (50)

Clark 0-0-0, Stack 0-0-0, Lesure 1-0-2, LaCasse 6-2-16, Towler 3-2-11, Dean 0-0-0, M. Tatro 3-0-6, Hayer 0-0-0, Glasier, Tatro 6-1-13, Vincent 0-2-2. Totals 19-7-50.

Pope Francis     6     8     10     7     —     31

McCann Tech     15     13     7     15     —     50

3-point goals — PF 3 (LaPrade 2, Simis); MT 5 (Towler 3, LaCasse 2).

Jake Mendel can be reached at jmendel@berkshireeagle.com, at @JMendel94 on Twitter and 413-496-6252.


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