AYER- The Ayer-Shirley Lady Panthers, (1-0 Mid-Wach D, 5-1 overall) looked to make a statement against Mid-Wach D foe Tahanto (0-1, Mid-Wach D, 1-3 overall) after falling in the Pete Trainor Memorial Tournament final last week.
Ayer-Shirley did just that, by blazing past the Lady Stags 58-31 at home. The Lady Panthers' full-court press forced 21 Tahanto turnovers.
An 8-0 run, provided Ayer-Shirley the catalyst they needed to pull away.
At the start of the season, Ayer-Shirley said they expected to use every player on their roster in some capacity.
The Lady Panthers' up-tempo offense fatigued Tahanto's starters from the opening tip. Ayer-Shirley's stifling defense successfully prevented the Lady Stags from establishing any offense under the basket.
Olivia Warilla paced Ayer-Shirley's offense with 14-points, and five-rebounds. Junior center, Gabby Hebert contributed 13-points, and 10-rebounds.
Ayer-Shirley held the lead from the opening tip, and successfully kept Tahanto from tying the game. The Lady Panthers with the win are 1-0 in Mid-Wach D play, and 5-1 overall.
Freshman, Mary-Kate O'Day, led the Lady Stags in a losing effort with 11 points.
The Lady Panthers controlled the action from the opening tip.
Ayer-Shirley took just 20 seconds, to light up the scoreboard on a layup high off the glass by Warilla from Ginger Gamelin to give the Lady Panthers a 2-0 lead.
Ayer-Shirley galloped out to an 8-0 run, sparked by an Emily Goodman three-point missile, that flushed through the net with four seconds remaining in the first.
The Lady Panthers defense limited Tahanto to four points in the first quarter, outscoring the Stags 14-4.
Tahanto traded baskets with Ayer-Shirley for the majority of the second quarter.
O'Day plucked the ball at half-court, and drove up the floor for a coast-to-coast layup to cut the Lady Panthers' lead to 20-8, with 3:33 left in the half.
The Lady Panthers claimed their largest lead of the first-half with 1:30 remaining. Hebert crashed the boards hard, and distributed the ball to Warila for the lay-in under the basket, to push Ayer-Shirley's lead to 26-14.
In the second quarter, Ayer-Shirley outscored the Lady Stags 14-13, to take a 28-17 lead into halftime.
At the half, Page and his staff told their team that they needed to demoralize the Lady Stags' hopes at a comeback. Ayer-Shirley went on an 8-0 run midway through the third quarter with key steals by Peck and Gamelin.
Baskets by Hebert and Warilla, gave the Lady Panthers the push they needed to double their lead to 43-21 after three quarters.
"We preached coming out of halftime that we needed to get one-or two quick runs early," said Page on the 8-0 third-quarter run. ". Peck, Hebert and Warila were our top-three girls on the press. I believe that really helped us out in that run."
Ayer-Shirley refused to turn down the pressure, and continued to cause the Lady Stags headaches on both sides of the hardwood.
The fourth quarter was a very special one for senior Hannah Levensailor(eight points, two rebounds) and freshman Ryleigh Levensailor.
The two sisters played on the floor together for the first time this season. Ayer-Shirley outscored Tahanto 14-8 in the final quarter. Ayer-Shirley never trailed in the game.
Ayer-Shirley will travel to Littleton Wednesday to face the 2-1 Littleton Tigers. Last year, the Panthers won both meetings with Littleton by a combined margin of 105-92.
Hebert was the leading scorer in both of last year's meetings with 10 and 13 points.
Page believes that after Wednesday, the Lady Panthers will know where they stand.
"Littleton will probably be the toughest challenge we face this season," said Page. "Rick Hastings is a close friend of mine. We coach AAU teams together. We know them, and they know us. It is going to be an absolute dogfight."