Andover nips Bishop Feehan in 55-51 thriller
LOWELL >> One year ago, the Andover girls basketball team left the floor of the Tsongas Center after falling in heartbreaking fashion to Springfield Cathedral in the Division 1 championship game, vowing to themselves to get back and change the outcome
Back on the same floor Friday night, the Golden Warriors completed their mission.
Led by the duo of Amelia Hanscom and Anna Foley, Andover finished an undefeated season to capture the program’s second state title in the last three seasons, and sixth overall, thanks to a 55-51 win over No. 2 Bishop Feehan.
“Amelia and Anna weren’t going to let anything stand in the way of the outcome that they wanted,” Andover coach Alan Hibino said. “They were quietly confident and they projected that confidence on the rest of the team.”
That quiet confidence got put to the test in the final minutes of regulation when Hanscom, who finished with 18 points, exited the game with 4:05 left and Andover (25-0) leading 51-44 when she fouled Julia Webster (13 points) as part of a threepoint play.
Hanscom’s exit gave the Shamrocks, who’d playing catch up almost from the opening tip, a chance to try and steal a title.
Mary Daley cut the lead to five and then Sam Reale drove to the basket and scored to get Feehan (205) within three at 51-48.
“Feehan just kept coming and they were relentless defensively,” Hibino said. “And Sam wasn’t going to let them lose. I kept taking a peek down there and she was doing everything she could to get them going.”
In need of something to steady a suddenly rocking ship, Foley scored the final of her game-high 21 points with just over a minute to go. Daley answered at the other end with a three following an Andover turnover with just under 30 seconds left.
It was as close as Feehan could get.
Michaela Buckley was fouled with 4.2 seconds left and the junior point guard calmly stepped to the line and sank both ends of a one-and-one to finally let Andover begin its long-awaited celebration.
“It was almost fitting that Michaela hit those shots at the end,” Hibino said. “She has the innate ability to just move on to the next play and never let things bother her.”
Both teams came into the game with elite defenses and they were on display for much of the first half. The difference was that Hanscom and Foley were able to use their size in the paint and on the perimeter to make life difficult for the Shamrocks.
How good were the Golden Warriors on this night? They never trailed as Hanscom and Yates scored back-to-back buckets to open the scoring. Andover opened the lead to six but Feehan kept fighting back as Maddie Steel had six first quarter points to help cut the gap to 17-14 after one.
The teams traded scores at the beginning of the second quarter before Hanscom and Ella Vidoni accounted for a 9-3 run that gave Andover some breathing room at 29-21.
Foley and Michaela Buckley then followed up two Mary Daley free throws with back-to-back baskets to give Andover its biggest lead at 33-23.
The Golden Warriors tried to deliver the knockout blow early in the second half as Foley, Kathleen Yates and Hanscom all scored to up the lead back to 10. Feehan had a counterpunch though, as Olivia Franciscus hit a pair of critical threes to keep the Shamrocks in striking distance.,
But a free throw from Hanscom followed by a top of the key three from Foley gave Andover its biggest lead of 12 at 47-35 and looked for all the world like they were on their way to a title.
Then came the frantic fourth quarter where Feehan made them sweat right down to the final buzzer.