TOWNSEND — Sometimes the reason for an outcome of a game can be boiled down to the simplest of terms: That the team that wanted it more prevailed.
On Friday night, it was Parents Night for the North Middlesex girls basketball team in the final home game of the season. But it was visiting Milford that seemed to gain all the fever of the pre-game ceremonies as the Scarlet Hawks proceeded to outwork the Lady Patriots over the next 32 minutes to post a surprisingly easy 61-44 victory.
Milford owned edges in aggressiveness at both ends of the court and took control of the game in the second quarter. With the game still in doubt, Milford dominated the early minutes of both the third and fourth quarters to pull away.
“This was disappointing,” said North Middlesex coach Pat Murphy. “I thought we would play with more passion and desire. We were missing Hayley Lynch tonight and that changes our rotation, but our defensive effort wasn’t stellar tonight.”
The first quarter was evenly played. A 17-footer and a drive by Carly Hanna gave Milford an 8-4 lead before a pair of free throws by MacKenzie Sharp and a follow-up basket by Erin Picard tied the game at 8-8, before Milford’s Kendall Lindsey capped the scoring in the quarter by converting after grabbing an offensive rebound to make it 10-8 after eight minutes.
North Middlesex’s Hailey Connor (six points) opened the second quarter by draining a three-pointer to put the Lady Pats on top 11-10, but Lindsey proceeded to do her best Kevin McHale impression over the remainder of the quarter to shred the North Middlesex defense. She finished off a drive and added a lay-up to make it 14-11 with 5:30 left in the second quarter.
Sharp drew the Lady Pats to within 17-15 with a strong drive, but after Milford’s Brittany Hill doubled the lead with a pair of free throws, Lindsey took over down the stretch to give the Scarlet Hawks a 25-17 halftime lead. Lindsey connected on a hook shot, finished off a drive and added two free throws, finishing the first half with 12 points on five of five shooting.
A seasonlong bugaboo for the Lady Pats short-circuited the ability to make runs as it committed seven of its 25 turnovers in the second quarter as Milford continued to apply defensive pressure.
While still within striking distance, the Lady Pats saw the hole deepen quickly in the third quarter. Mikayla Pasciuto hit a 15-footer, before four consecutive free throws by Christine Fraga gave the Scarlet Hawks a comfortable 31-17 advantage.
Milford built the lead to 15 at one point in the third quarter, but the Lady Pats battled back by scoring nine of the final 12 points in the quarter to close to within 40-31 with eight minutes left. Julie Pecukonis, Brittney Nelson, Emily Gustafson and Maddie Balassie all had baskets during the spurt.
But any hopes of coming all the way back were quickly dashed as Milford scored the first eight points of the final quarter to extend the lead to 17. Nashley Gonzalez drained a three-pointer and a 15-footer, before Natasha Gonzalez converted a steal into a lay-up and added a free throw for a conventional three-point play and a 48-31 lead.
Emily Church led North Middlesex with nine points and nine rebounds. Sharp added six points, four rebounds and two steals, Kim Morgan five points, and Pecukonis and Balassie added four points each.