Through defense, scoring, and sheer effort, Andover stars Anna Foley and Amelia Hanscom showed their determination to get back to the state championship game.
The senior duo carried the top-seeded Golden Warriors on both sides of the floor in a narrow 61-57 victory over fourth-seeded Wachusett in a Division 1 semifinals matchup at Woburn High.
The lone undefeated girls’ team in the state, Andover (25-0) will take on No. 2 Bishop Feehan (20-4) in the state final as the Golden Warriors look to avenge a 43-40 loss to Springfield Central in the finals last March.
“That took an insane effort from everyone. There were ups and downs and we pushed through as a team,” said Hanscom. “None of us wanted this to end tonight and now we’re one step closer to our goal.”
Wachusett (21-3) built an early 26-16 lead by scoring off turnovers and knifing through the Andover defense for tough interior buckets. The Mountaineers lead was cut to 31-25 by halftime after Michaela Buckley hit a pair of 3-pointers and Foley added a third triple.
In the second half, Hanscom (16 points, 8 rebounds, 3 steals, 3 blocks) set the tone defensively and Foley (23 points, 5 assists, 3 blocks) controlled the action on offense to get her teammates good shots.
“They’ve been in so many of these battles and this is just another one to add to the list,” said Andover coach Alan Hibino. “In the locker room at halftime, there was no doubt. Amelia is such an overwhelmingly positive presence that it’s just contagious. All of a sudden, Michaela is making shots, Ella [Vidoni] is making huge shots, all because of those seniors are their will to succeed.”
After starter Marissa Kobelski suffered a shoulder injury, Vidoni, a junior, came off the bench for 11 clutch points.
Junior guards Liz Cain and Mary Gibbons tallied 14 points apiece for the Mountaineers and senior captain Emmy Allyn led the way with 17 points. Rileigh Leary and Kate King both hit 3-pointers in the final minute to stay hot on Andover’s trail, but the Golden Warriors closed out the win.
“Our girls, when they get knocked down, they get back up,” said Hibino. “And [Wachusett] knocked us down early, they knocked us down again, but it’s that old adage: Fall down seven times, get up eight.”
Bishop Feehan 53, Woburn 47 — Shamrocks coach Amy Dolores and her players had a hunch Woburn wouldn’t go down quietly.
A few weeks prior, the Shamrocks watched a 17-point halftime lead disappear as the Tanners stole a stunning 3-point win. In the rematch, with the stakes magnified in the Division 1 semifinals, second-seeded Bishop Feehan withstood third-seeded Woburn’s second-half surge to cement a thrilling victory at Newton South High.
“We knew they were coming at us,” Dolores said. “We’ve seen them do it multiple times. The kids weathered the storm. Once Woburn made their run, we made our run back.”
Girls hoops final: Bishop Feehan 53, Woburn 47— Trevor Hass (@TrevorHass) March 13, 2023
Maddy Steel with 21 points, including three fourth-quarter 3s and two FTs late. Samantha Reale 17.
Cyndea Labissiere 17 for the Tanners. Absolute thriller. Shamrocks are headed to the D1 state final @GlobeSchools @Feehan_GBball pic.twitter.com/svdTB8caub
Sophomore sharpshooter Maddy Steel scored a game-high 21 points on six 3-pointers, including three in the fourth quarter, for the Shamrocks (20-4). The Feehan faithful serenaded Steel with “M-V-P” chants as she stepped to the line in the final seconds, and she calmly canned both.
The Tanners (22-2) had a 44-40 lead with 5:04 left in the fourth, then Steel splashed three 3-pointers in 65 seconds to put Feehan in front for good.
“Unbelievable,” Dolores said. “On the big stage. She turned 16 yesterday. For such a young kid to have the guts to do that, I just can’t say enough about that performance.”
Steel said that once she hit one, she was feeling it. She knew the Shamrocks needed points, and she trusted herself to let it fly.
“I like when I get the ball under pressure,” said Steel, a North Attleboro resident. “I feel like every shot means more, and I was just really feeling every shot.”
Great hustle from Feehan’s Julia Webster. She’s fouled, and she hits both. 42-40 Woburn with 5:22 remaining @GlobeSchools pic.twitter.com/jmNVj1ZASP— Trevor Hass (@TrevorHass) March 13, 2023
Junior Julia Webster, who made winning plays all night, snagged a huge offensive rebound for Feehan with 16.3 seconds left. Babson-bound senior Samantha Reale (17 points) made two free throws to push the margin to 5, and the Shamrocks held on from there.
Feehan is heading to the state final for the first time since 2016, where it will face the winner of No. 1 Andover and No. 4 Wachusett at the Tsongas Center.
“I feel like all of our work is finally paying off,” Webster said. “All the countless hours we spend at practice and in the weight room, early morning practices, they’re all paying off now.”
Wow, incredible Euro step from Cyndea Labissiere. And-one. Woburn chipping away, down 36-32 with 1:17 left in the third @cyndealabissie1 @WuGirlsBball @WMHSTanners pic.twitter.com/8GpDekysRW— Trevor Hass (@TrevorHass) March 13, 2023
Feehan led, 11-10, through one, then used an 11-1 flurry to build a 26-17 halftime edge. Woburn senior Cyndea Labissiere (17 points) spearheaded a third-quarter comeback, Euro-stepping her way to an eye-popping bucket and finishing again to tie the score at 36 through three.
The Tanners looked like an entirely different team and had all the momentum on their side.
“We started to play our game,” Woburn coach Steve Sullivan said. “We got some stops, we got fastbreaks going, we were able to exploit some things.”
After 3Q: Woburn 36, Bishop Feehan 36. Unreal quarter from Cyndea Labissiere (13 points) and her teammates. Great finish as time expires @GlobeSchools @WuGirlsBball pic.twitter.com/0NKCmM3n6h— Trevor Hass (@TrevorHass) March 13, 2023
Steel said the Shamrocks were determined to not let the Tanners finish another comeback. She’s proud of how far they’ve come.
“It means so much,” Steel said. “This is what we’ve been working toward for the whole season. People really doubted us from last year. They told us they didn’t think we would get this far.”