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TOWNSEND — The Leominster and North Middlesex girls basketball teams battled back and forth over the first 29+ minutes of their game on Thursday night with the lead changing hands 17 times. But it was the final 2:27 of play that made the difference as North Middlesex failed to score a point during that span, allowing Leominster to post a 52-47 win.

North Middlesex’s Corey Conner hit a 15-footer and followed with a free throw to tie the game at 47-47 with 2:27 left. Twenty-two seconds later, Leominster’s Amanda Levasseur buried a three-pointer to put the Blue Devils on top for good.

North Middlesex had some good looks late in the game, but couldn’t find the range. Rachael Rich’s two free throws iced the game and sent the Lady Pats to their seventh defeat in nine games, including 2-3 in MidWach A play.

“This is a tough loss, one that puts us behind the eight ball,” said North Middlesex coach Pat Murphy. “I can’t fault our effort, and at times we played very well, but sometimes we are our own worst enemy. Amanda Levasseur played her best game of the season and she was the difference. On the bright side, we did a better job of taking the ball to the basket and shot 21 free throws, which is the most we have had in a game this season. Also, Angela Johnson played very well for us.”

The first half was close throughout with neither team being able to shake the other off. North Middlesex’s largest lead came with six minutes left when Kelly Donovan’s three-pointer put them on top. Leominster’s largest advantage was at 26-22 with just over a minute left after Kayla Hilt hit a free throw.

The Lady Pats got a free throw from Johnson and a Donovan 15-footer to draw within 26-25 at intermission.

Levasseur led Leominster over the first 16 minutes with 13 points while Katie Hayward topped the Lady Pats with seven points, with Johnson close behind with six points, three steals and a determined defensive effort.

North Middlesex hoisted up 11 three-point field goal attempts in the first half, but stepped just inside the line early in the second half with positive results. Johnson and Christine Kelleher drained 17-footers to put the Lady Pats on top 29-26.

After Leominster center Tristan Peasley (nine points, 12 rebounds) sliced the lead to one with a turnaround jumper, Johnson and Tracy Ericson answered with 17-footers to give the Lady Pats their largest lead of the game at 33-28.

The Blue Devils bounced back with five consecutive points, tying the game at 33-33 on a Levasseur three-pointer with 10:50 left.

Johnson nailed another perimeter jumper to put the Lady Pats back on top, setting up an amazing next six minutes when the lead changed hands six times.

North Middlesex appeared to have gained momentum when Johnson hit four consecutive free throws for a 44-41 lead with 4:48 remaining, but once again Levasseur came up big, stealing the ball at midcourt and hitting a lay-up. Rich, who didn’t have a field goal over the first 28 minutes of the game came up big, hitting a turnaround jumper, and adding a follow-up basket to put the Blue Devils on top 47-44 with three minutes left.

Leominster did an outstanding job off the boards in the second half with an eight rebound advantage as they owned a 42-32 edge in that department in the game. Levasseur was the catalyst, finishing with 22 points, four rebounds and five steals. Rich added eight points and seven rebounds.

Johnson led North Middlesex with 16 points, five rebounds and six steals. Hayward added ten points and seven rebounds, while Ericson had seven points and four rebounds. Conner and Donovan each chipped in with five points.

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