Lady Vikings win state tourney thriller
“The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat” is a phrase well-known in the wide world of sports, and for the Winthrop High girls basketball team and their fans, it was an axiom they came to understand well during their Journey in the Tourney this past week.
The thrilling part came last Wednesday evening in their opening round encounter of the Division 3 North Sectional against Weston at a packed Holland Gymnasium. Both Winthrop (the host fifth seed in the D-3 North with a 16-6 record) and Weston (the 12th seed with a 10-10 record) play in conferences in which they are the smallest schools and thus compete against bigger schools throughout the regular season. The Lady Vikings were well-aware therefore, that Weston’s .500 record was deceiving, especially because Weston featured a girl who is a 1000-career point scorer and who has been the MVP of the Dual County League Small Division the past three years.
The contest lived up to its billing of an evenly-matched affair from the outset. The teams battled to a 10-10 draw after one period and Weston held a slim 26-11 edge at the half. The Lady Vikings sliced that margin to two, 35-33, after three frames, setting the stage for what would prove to be an epic final eight minutes that will go down in Winthrop girls basketball annals as one of their greatest victories.
Defense reigned supreme for both sides at the start of the period, with Weston clinging to a 38-37 advantage with about four minutes to go. That’s when Lady Viking Nikki Tsiotis, a sophomore, stepped to the foul line and cooly sank a pair of free throws to give Winthrop its first lead of the game, 39-38. Weston struck back with a bucket a minute later, but another free throw by Nikki T. with 2:41 on the clock deadlocked matters at 40-40.
The visitors quickly retook the lead with another hoop which was partially offset by a free throw by senior Temison Meggison (who had grabbed two offensive rebounds before she was fouled), to make it a 42-41 contest with 2:09 to go.
Weston then forged a three point advantage with a basket with 1:01 left to play. After a timeout by Winthrop, sophomore Kristen Siscamanis came through with a running jump shot that began at the top of the key and ended just inside the free throw line, making it 44-43 with 36 ticks left on the clock.
After a Weston timeout, the frantic play on the court resulted in a traveling call on Weston’s star player, turning the ball over to the Lady Vikings with 14.4 seconds showing on the scoreboard.
Another Lady Viking timeout set up a play that started on the left side of the court, but eventually reversed the ball over to the right, where junior Ashelyne Babb was stationed near the three point line. Ashelyne got the ball and, despite the entreaties of her benchmates to “Shoot!”, pump- faked the first Weston defender who came at her, dribbled past her toward the basket along the baseline, and then employed the so-called Euro side-step move (Dwayne Wade shows how it’s done on YouTube) to get around the next defender who came over to help. Ashelyne’s momentum carried her to the basket for a layup, sending the Winthrop fans into a state of delirium with a mere 2.6 seconds left in the game.
Weston tried a half court pass on the ensuing inbounds play, but Babb deflected it away to preserve the dramatic victory.
Babb ended up as the Winthrop high scorer with 14 points. Meggison (who had nine rebounds) and Siscamanis hit for 10 points each, followed by Theresa Jones with four, Nikki T. and Liana Ferullo with thee apiece, and Nina Bartlett with an all important free throw in a game in which every point counted.
In addition to Babb’s heroics, WHS head coach Ignacio Oyola lauded the stellar defensive efforts turned in by Ferullo and Nikki Tsiotis on Weston’s star player. “We set a goal of not letting her beat us, and Nikki and Liana primarily were responsible for holding her to six points,” said the coach. “She averaged 17 points per game and is capable of hitting for 40, so for us to hold her in check the way we did was a big key to our victory.”
The win earned the Lady Vikings a date on Sunday afternoon at fourth-seeded Ipswich, which easily handled North Reading in its opening round contest. The encounter proved to be a frustrating one for the Lady Vikings, who never were able to get untracked. Winthrop trailed 16-7 after the first period, but got within five, 21-16, midway through the second frame. However, the Lady Vikings were outscored 5-0 over the final 3:49 of the first half to enter the locker room trailing 26-16.
“That little run of theirs at the end of the half proved to be crucial,” said Oyola. “We’d established some momentum when we got within five points, but we couldn’t keep it going.”
With the score standing at 38-24 in favor of the home team at the third buzzer, a comeback on the enemy floor was not to be in the cards for the Lady Vikings. The final tally in Ipswich’s favor was 49-37.
Babb struck for 15 points and Bartlett hit for eight to pace Winthrop in the scoring department.
“It’s never fun to end the year on a losing note, but as I explained to the girls, unless you are the champion, that’s the way the tourney ends for everybody,” said Oyola.
“But as I also explained to the team, we had a fantastic season with more wins this year (17) than the 16 wins we had in the past two seasons combined,” added the coach. Indeed, for the Lady Vikings, it was quite a season, as they not only won a tournament game (after being ousted in the first round in both of the last two seasons), but also were the South Division champions of the Northeastern Conference, going 10-0 against their NEC South foes and 4-2 vs. their NEC North rivals.
“We had three great senior leaders in Temison Meggison, Alyssa Mackey, and Liana Ferullo and they will be greatly missed,” said Oyola. “But we also have a great group of girls coming back who have learned what it takes to be a winner.”
Heartbreaking loss for WHS hockey team
The Winthrop High boys hockey team, displaying a never-say-die attitude, scored two goals in the final six minutes of regulation, including a goal with their goalie out of the net, to force overtime, but eventually lost in a shootout, 3-2, to Lincoln-Sudbury in a quarterfinal round contest of the Division 2 North Sectional of the state hockey tournament last Friday evening at Stoneham.
Although the seventh seeded Vikings (10-5-5) came into the contest as an underdog to the second seeded Warriors (15-2-3), that ranking clearly meant nothing once the teams hit the ice.
Lincoln Sudbury took a 1-0 lead in the opening period, but Viking Chris “Buddy” Page knotted matters before the frame ended.
Although L-S would score two unanswered lamplighters in the middle stanza (one of which was of a “fluke” variety), it was clear that Winthrop would not go down without a fight.
The Vikings got the break they needed when an L-S penalty gave them a power play with six minutes to play, an opportunity they made the most of when sophomore Pierce Lamberton reached the back of the L-S net to make a it a 3-2 affair. With the momentum on their side, the Vikings pulled goaltender Ray Feeley as the clock wound down under two minutes. Lamberton then created some Winthrop tourney magic with a blistering shot from the wing as he broke past the blue line to knot matters at 3-3 and send the game into overtime.
After a scoreless OT session, that left the final outcome up to a shootout. Winthrop took a 2-1 lead on goals by Page and Lamberton, but L-S put home its final two shots for a 3-2 win.
“It was a very tough way to lose a tournament game,” said Dunbar. “We battled hard the whole game and found a way to overcome a 3-1 deficit to force it into overtime. The entire team showed a lot character and I was very proud of the way we played and represented our school and community.”
Dunbar noted that a date is being finalized for the team’s annual break-up banquet.
Six Vikings named all-stars; Feeley named all conference
Six members of the Winthrop High boys hockey team were named to the North Division all-star team: seniors Jake McKinnon and David Capone; juniors Chris Page, Steven Goddard, and Ray Feeley; and sophomore Pierce Lamberton.
In addition, Viking goaltender Feeley was named to the all-conference team (the best of the North and South divisions).