Wildcats swat away Tech, 50-25

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

For The Recorder

LEE — Walk into Tom Cinella Gymnasium and play on Coach C Court, and sometimes the ghosts of Lee High School Wildcat teams past come out. This is a school with seven state championship banners hanging from the wall.

Or sometimes, the press gets you.

Franklin County Technical School came into town Monday night with a No. 11 seed in the WMass Division IV Girls’ Basketball Tournament and was looking to pull off the upset against No. 6 Lee. For a while, the Eagles hung with the Wildcats, but in the end Lee was too much and eliminated the Eagles, 50-25.

“They’re an outstanding team. We knew that coming in,” said Franklin Tech coach Sean Knightly.

Karli Retzel had a game-high 16 points for Lee, while Brianna Hawley had 11 points and 10 rebounds. The Eagles were led by Brittany Andrews’ 12 points.

“I think they also had nerves tonight,” said the Franklin Tech coach. “The girls were coming out here to Berkshire County and playing a good team. All the banners in here, and the tradition in that building, is a lot to respect.”

Andrews said that it wasn’t the banners that beat them, it was Lee.

“It’s easy in a way” to not think about Lee’s history, she said. “Our coach teaches us to play every team like it’s the same team and like they’re not unbeatable.”

Lee called on some of Cinella’s classic tendencies, and used them to their advantage.

Lee pressed from the start, forcing Franklin Tech into 22 turnovers and when the Eagles didn’t turn the ball over, they didn’t have a lot of time to get into their offense. That played into Lee’s hands, because missed shots turned into Lee rebounds. The home team outrebounded the Eagles 49-33, and Lee also had 13 steals.

“We’ve been working really hard in practice these last few weeks, really trying to get our press where it needs to be,” said Wildcat head coach Jenna Gangell. “We did a much better job with it tonight. We’re getting there.”

Lee jumped out to a 10-4 lead and after Retzel hit a 15-foot jumper from the left baseline, Franklin Tech had to take a time out. Knightly used the time out to calm his players, and it worked as the Eagles stayed close to Lee and trailed only 17-12 after one quarter.

Any contact the Eagles had with Lee got lost in the second quarter. While the Eagles had six turnovers in their first seven possessions, Lee was scoring six straight points. And when Retzel took it to the hoop after the last of those six turnovers, Knightly had to call time out again.

“They penetrated the middle very well. They had amazing passing,” said Andrews. “We just couldn’t get out on their shooters fast enough. When we did, they had someone cutting in the middle. They just had very, very good ball movement.”

Franklin Tech was held without a hoop in the second quarter and didn’t score a basket until 3 minutes, 20 seconds were left in the third quarter. By then, Lee had built up a 19-point lead, and the rest of the game was academic.

“I’m a first-year coach and a lot of these girls are first-year players on our varsity squad. We wanted to get a feel for what kind of team this was, because we hadn’t played [Lee],” said the coach. “We thought we actually did pretty well in the first half, to be honest with you. They’re well-coached and they’re a good ballclub.”