2017-02-02 / Sports & Recreation

WRHS girls’ basketball team squeaks by rival Holy Name, 56-55

By John Orrell

Left: Rachel Vinton fights for ball possession. Right: Rachel Vinton moves the ball up-court. Center: Jillian Post fights for ball possession. 
Joyce Roberts photos Left: Rachel Vinton fights for ball possession. Right: Rachel Vinton moves the ball up-court. Center: Jillian Post fights for ball possession. Joyce Roberts photos WORCESTER – It has been a decade and then some but on Jan. 27 the Wachusett girls’ varsity basketball team finally went where no team before them has in recent memory and accomplished a milestone for their head coach in the process.

Holy Name High has been a perennial Achilles Heel for these Mountaineers who have not been victorious in their rival’s building in the ten-year coaching span of coach Jim Oxford. Call it the ‘Napoleon Hex’, ‘the House of Pain’ or just the building where nothing goes right, but that all changed when visiting Wachusett squeezed out a 56-55 white knuckle affair that had all the excitement that could be expected when these two teams square off.

“These games (versus Holy Name) are always tense and tight,” Oxford said. “They’re nail biters. You just try to survive it and hope that at the end of the game you’re the last team standing and I’m glad that finally we’re the last ones standing.

“Holy Name plays fantastic here. Records don’t matter nor does how good we are. When we play them, we’re rivals so these games are usually tight. There are battles and we went at it for 32 minutes tonight and were very fortunate to come out on top. We had some good plays down the stretch with some kids stepping up and that was big for us.”

“They’re a very good team and coming into their gym was a challenge because we’ve never won here,” acknowledged senior captain Hannah Everidge. “We knew that that factored into the game plan but we knew that if we stuck to what we’ve been doing we’d have a good chance at coming out on top and we were able to execute at the end of the game.”

This matchup would see an exchange of leads throughout as each team scratched and clawed at one another to find any advantage that could be taken. Everidge wasted little time getting the Mountaineers (8-2) on the board collecting a pass off the opening tipoff for a basket just three seconds in. Three-pointers in the first half from Everidge, Hallie Johnson and Jillian Post sparked the team to a 32-32 deadlock at the break.

More fierce basketball was in store with Wachusett clinging to a 45-43 advantage heading into the final and decisive fourth quarter. The defining moments of the contest occurred late with the Napoleons clinging to a 55-51 lead with just over a minute remaining. Refusing to submit to a long bus ride home, the Mountaineer offense steadied itself when Everidge snapped home a three-pointer with 45 seconds remaining to close the gap to 55-54.

With time winding down, Johnson intercepted a pass, was fouled and cashed in on one from the stripe to tie the game. Wachusett would corral the ball off of Johnson’s free throw attempt and work it to Everidge who was fouled. Her one of two conversions from the free throw line was just enough to squeeze out the 56-55 final score despite a frantic effort by Holy Name to advance the ball down floor with just eight seconds left on the clock.

“Coming in to tonight, you could see that the energy level was here,” said Everidge post-game. “Everyone was mentally prepared and that started at practice yesterday. This is really exciting. It’s our first win here against a very good team.”

“We work so hard at practice and when we work together we know we have a spark and that’s what we did in the fourth quarter,” explained senior forward Kenzie White. “We knew it was our time. We had our game face on and we were ready for this. We’ve been preparing at practice and we knew what we had to do.”

Leading scorers on the night for Wachusett were Everidge with 16 points while Rachel Vinton and Johnson each added a dozen. Laura Vinton knocked home ten to reach double-digit scoring.

The Mountaineers find themselves in the midst of nine of their final twelve regular-season matchups to be played outside the friendly confines of the Wachusett Regional High gym. The team will have an opportunity to come home for a pair of games versus Shrewsbury on Feb. 3 and Marlborough on Feb. 7. Tipoff for both contests is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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