MANSFIELD — The Abington High girls’ basketball team has advanced to the quarterfinals of the Division 3 South tournament each of the last two seasons.
But this year, the postseason will have a different feel: It will make the end of a 10-year journey for the eight Green Wave seniors, who have been together on the court since the third grade, when they suited up for the Waves, a travel team.
“It’s so sad,” said senior captain Amanda Hawkesworth of her scholastic basketball career nearing the end. “So I think ending senior year with something big would just be awesome.”
Led by Hawkesworth, a 5-foot-10 forward who paces the South Shore League champions (20-1 overall, 14-0 league) in scoring (13 points per game) and rebounding (10 per game), the Green Wave has a good chance of pulling off something awesome.
In a matchup against Lincoln-Sudbury Regional in the first round of the Mansfield Roundball Classic on Monday, Hawkesworth scored a game-high 21 points in a 62-54 win.
Two of those points came in the final minute of the second quarter when she took a pass on the left side and drove to the hoop for an easy layup.
Seemingly a routine play — senior forward Stephanie Cornish instantly remembered the team’s code word for it after the game — the basket was significant not only because it gave the Green Wave the lead going into the half, but also because Hawkesworth beat 6-1 L-S star Ashley Lutz to the hole.
“We had just got out of a timeout, I’m pretty sure, and our assistant coach [Jen Clifford ] just told us we need to attack their zone,” Hawkesworth said. “I just had the mentality that I saw a lane and just took it. Once you’re driving to the basket you forget about who’s there and keep going.”
Abington coach Steve Moore called the win, against a perennial Division contender, the biggest of the season for the Green Wave, which also topped Duxbury, 48-43, at home on Dec. 27.
But like any team with deep postseason hoops, Abington is not fueled by a single player.
Cornish (eight points per game) and senior point guard Nora O’Neil (six points per game) are also key cogs in a balanced attack that outscores opponents by more than 20 points per game.
Both captain and coach also gave much credit to senior forward Haylee Rogers, who only gets a bucket or two per game, but regularly holds the other team’s best player to up to 10 points under their average, according to Moore.
“Haylee Rogers is kind of a kid that’s not always in the paper, but she plays 28, 29 minutes. She’s always playing the biggest kid,” Moore said. “She has the highest basketball IQ on the team. . . . She’s just an unsung hero for us.”
Even with postseason experience, scoring balance, and a strong defensive presence in the paint, Moore is wary of what is ahead. There is always the possibility Abington could receive a tough draw in the tourney, as was the case a year ago when the Green Wave was ousted by Archbishop Williams.
Moore said that idea is particularly potent for the eight seniors — nine when he counts team manager Alicia Reid , who “does as much as they [the players] do,” according to Moore — for whom each game could be the last.
“We gotta get them ready for that because they know it’s going to be a big stress,” Moore said. “Once it’s all done, it’s all done.”
That said, Abington heads into the tourney with what could prove to be a useful mind-set: expect a very hard time.
Nerves are “still there, but I think we know what to expect now, more or less,” Cornish said. “ The players know that “not every game is going to be easy. [Teams are] in the tournament for a reason.”
Four other girls’ programs to watch in the tourney (the pairings were released Friday):
■ Oliver Ames (19-1): It’s hard to argue with near-perfection. Senior forward Caitlyn Abela (21 points per game) paces the Tigers, who lost their regular-season final to Medfield, 61-55, in the Rebel Hoop Classic Wednesday night.
■ Braintree (19-2): Since a two-game skid at midseason, sophomore Ashley Russell and the young Wamps have ripped off eight straight wins.
■ Duxbury (18-2): The Dragons are dangerous with a pair of 6-foot-2 senior captains,
Michela North (18.2 points
per game) and Bridget Quilty , but guard Katelyn Norton ,
also a captain, is a pivotal player.
■ Quincy (10-10): The Presidents are one of the most interesting teams in the tourney. After a slow start, they battled back from injuries to win four of their last five games and earn a playoff berth. Freshman Nicole Jorgensen, a 6-foot-4 center, no stranger to 20-point, 20-rebound games, could very well steal a win or two.
Boys’ teams to watch
There are no shortage of contenders on the boys’ side. But here are five to watch:
■ Mansfield (19-2): Since they are averaging nearly 70 points a game, it should not come as a surprise that the Hornets boast four starters in double digits. Sophomore Brendan Hill’s 13.9 points per game lead the way for the Hockomock League’s best team.
■ Rockland (17-2): Senior Tyler Gibson is the star, but take note of senior point guard Bryan Tavares and junior forward Matt Nicholson . If teams focus too much on Gibson, a 6-6 center headed to the University of Massachusetts Lowell, the Bulldogs will make them pay.
■ Wareham (18-1): The Vikings have not lost since their season opener (North Quincy, 61-58) and are determined after last year’s run to the Division 3 state semifinals. Senior point guard Darien Fernandez
, leads Eastern Massachusetts
in scoring (21.8 points per game).
■ Cardinal Spellman (17-3): The Cardinals suffered two of their three losses to Westport, which will be seeded a division lower, in the D4 South. Rory Donovan, a 6-6 junior, leads an imposing lineup.
■ Brockton (12-8): The Boxers ran into some problems after a very good first two months, but their tough nonconference schedule — with games against Mansfield, BC High, and New Bedford, among others — will help them in the tourney.Tim Healey can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @timbhealey.