AYER -- When two schools are separated by a mere three-miles and a rotary, it makes for a healthy rivalry. Ayer Shirley forced three turnovers midway through the third quarter and used a 6-0 run to seize the momentum from Bromfield en route to a 48-41 victory on senior night in Ayer.
Ayer Shirley senior center/forward Gabby Hebert led the Lady Panthers with 10 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks. "Hebert is about as consistent of a player you will find in our league," Ayer Shirley head coach Pete Page said. "I thought the big turning point was that third quarter where we really put the press on them and created five or six turnovers. They converted on the turnovers and passed well, that was very nice to see."
The Lady Panthers honored their four seniors prior to Friday night's tip-off; Hebert, Melissa Belanger(nine points, seven rebounds) Jamie McKenna and Emily Goodman all chipped in with quality minutes.
"We try to always start the seniors on senior night, and we rode them for quite a while in the first half," Page said. "They really responded. I thought Emily Goodman and Jamie McKenna gave us some really good minutes. I was thrilled that we were able to give them an opportunity. They work so hard. To me, they really are the unsung heroes of the team."
Bromfield came into Friday night's game with a 4-11 record, but it played like a team who was still in the hunt for districts.
Meghanne Cullinan took a swing-pass from Hannah LoChiatto and swished a three-pointer from the elbow to give the Lady Trojans the 21-18 lead. Babcock stormed down the floor and answered with a three-pointer of her own to lock the score at 21-21.
Babcock's three spurred a 6-0 spurt by Ayer Shirley, and gave it a slim 25-23 lead at the half. The Lady Panthers went on an 8-0 run late in the third quarter to secure its largest lead of the night. Olivia Warilla rattled home a three-pointer with four seconds left to push Ayer Shirley's advantage to 41-31 after three. In the fourth quarter, Bromfield went on a 6-0 run to draw within four due to the hard work of its defense and Amanda Accorsi (10 rebounds) inside. Bromfield freshman Lexi Norcross netted eight of her team-high 10 points in the second half. "Lexi is a girl who realized mid-season that she really can play," First-year Bromfield head coach Mike Davidson said. "The points will come, and those 10 points are her best ever. She is coming along and getting stronger. We got down 10 after that bad end to the third quarter. I told the girls 'it's five possessions, that's it -- one-by-one.' It's a growing process, they're ninth-graders going against juniors and seniors. There has not been one game where I get on the bus or walk out of the home gym and say to mysef, 'boy, they did not put out an effort tonight.' It never happened. I want to just keep this bus rolling with these girls."
Junior captain Amy Jorgensen added eight points for the Lady Trojans in the loss.