SPRINGFIELD — Senior center Samantha Hyslip set the tone early for Westford Academy in a 63-51 defeat of Springfield Central on Tuesday night at Mass Mutual Center, helping secure her team a ticket to the girls’ Division 1 state final.
It started on Central’s first possession. The Dual County League MVP made a big block and took the ball the length of the court for an easy layup. Hyslip went on to score the first 6 points of the game.
The Grey Ghosts fed the ball to her in the paint early and often as they built a 40-23 lead going into the half.
“My teammates did a great job getting me the ball inside early,” said Hyslip, who had 13 points in the first half. “We have been playing against our boys’ team in practice to prepare and if we can score inside against those brutes we can against anyone.”
The Golden Eagles were committed to stop Hyslip in the second half, allowing her teammates open 3-point opportunities. The Grey Ghosts took advantage of these opportunities as senior sisters Rebecca and Cathryn Sennott each hit two 3-pointers and senior Hannah Hackley (15 points) added three 3-pointers of her own.
“We did a tremendous job shooting the basketball tonight,” said Westford coach Russ Coward. “They really clogged up the inside in the second half and focused on Hyslip. This forced our other seniors to step up and hit outside shots and they couldn’t have responded better.”
Westford will face Braintree on Saturday night for the the Division 1 state championship at the DCU Center. The Grey Ghosts lost to Braintree last month, 57-29, but remain confident going in.
“We have faced a few teams this season that we had already lost to and were able to make adjustments to get a win the second time around,” said Hyslip. “We just need to do the exact opposite of the first game.”
Senior forward Kendra Hicks led the Golden Eagles with a game-high 18 points. However, Springfield was unable to connect on any 3-pointers, while the Grey Ghosts had seven.