TOWNSEND — When the Groton-Dunstable girls basketball team traveled to meet North Middlesex, the motives of the two teams were different. Groton-Dunstable came into the game looking to wrap up a strong regular season and tune up for the upcoming Central Mass. Division 2 playoffs. North Middlesex was hoping to spring an upset, but the Lady Pats saw any chance of that evaporate with a turnover-prone first half. Keyed by the strong play of seniors Heather Moody, Kasey Pelletier and Kat Falco, Groton-Dunstable built a 31-13 halftime lead and rolled to a 51-42 win.
Two things hurt the Lady Pats in the contest, their 16 first half turnovers which led to some easy transition baskets for the Lady Crusaders, and North Middlesex’s inability to get to the free throw line. In the game, the Lady Pats attempted only six free throws, hitting four, while Groton-Dunstable attempted 22 freebies, connecting on 10. The Lady Pats did do some things well in the game, battling hard off the backboards and finishing with a 37-34 rebounding edge, and working hard defensively, forcing 20 Groton-Dunstable turnovers.
“We missed some easy shots early and turned the ball over way too much in the first half,” said North Middlesex coach Pat Murphy. “We dug ourselves a deep hole, one that we just couldn’t climb out of.”
The Lady Crusdaders trailed just once in the game, when North Middlesex’s Mackenzie Sharp opened the scoring with a follow-up basket.
The score was tied at 4-4 midway through the first quarter when Kayla Meijer finished off a drive and added a free throw for a conventional 3-point play to put the Lady Crusaders on top for good at 7-4.
Moody, who finished with 18 points and three steals, scored Groton-Dunstable’s final seven points of the quarter as the Lady Crusaders extended the lead to 14-7 after eight minutes.
Groton-Dunstable upper their defensive intensity a notch in the second quarter, forcing nine North Middlesex turnovers, which fueled their transition game and allowed them to pick up some easy baskets.
With five minutes remaining in the first half, North Middlesex’s Kim Morgan scored on a drive to make it 18-11, but Groton-Dunstable spurted over the remainder of the quarter to build their comfortable 18-point halftime lead. Pelletier was solid in the run, draining a 3-pointer and adding an assist on Falco’s fast break lay-up. Moody chipped in with three free throws, while Rachel McCarron added a lay-up.
Morgan, a freshman, provided a lift off the bench for the Lady Pats in the first half with five points, including a 3-pointer.
“Heather is just relentless and is able to take charge when we need it,” said Groton-Dunstable coach Mark Hennelly. “She is one of the toughest kids to play for me at Groton-Dunstable. Kasey did an excellent job of distributing the ball, and Kat does all the little things that make a difference.”
The lead remained between 13 and 16 points throughout the third quarter. North Middlesex started quickly with a fast break lay-up by Ally Watkins and a drive by Brittney Nelson, who led the Lady Pats with 11 points to go along with three rebounds and two steals.
Groton-Dunstable rebuilt the lead to 16 when Meijer hauled down an offensive rebound and converted, but Nelson’s strong drive drew North Middlesex to within 38-25 late in the quarter, before Kasey Pelletier capped the scoring in the quarter with a drive to send the Lady Crusaders to the fourth quarter with a 40-25 advantage.
The Lady Pats didn’t go away and started the final quarter strongly when Nelson picked up a conventional 3-point play, and Morgan converted a steal into a lay-up to make it 40-30 with 6:44 remaining.
At the midway point of the quarter, Nelson’s drive sliced the lead to nine, but Moody stepped up to put the game out of reach, draining a 3-pointer and adding a pair of free throws to make it 47-33.
North Middlesex battled to the final whistle, twice cutting the lead to nine.
“I’m glad we didn’t fold after the first half,” said Murphy. “We played a good second half. We didn’t turn the ball over, we made some shots and we played better defense. Brittney played with a passion and fire at both ends of the court in the second half, and Kim played very well off the bench. We are still really young and these girls are going to continue to get better.”
Pelletier did a nice job of running the offense and finished with 10 points and three rebounds and she showcased her post-up ability. Meijer (10 rebounds) and Anna Towle (four rebounds) each scored seven points while Falco added four points, 10 rebounds and two steals.
Morgan was impressive for the Lady Pats with seven points while Ally Watkins added six points and eight rebounds. Sharp (seven rebounds), Jenn Kirk (four rebounds) and Lynch each chipped in with four points.
Groton-Dunstable improved to 15-5 with the win and will now await the pairings for the Central Mass. Division 2 Tournament.