CLINTON — The Ayer-Shirley Lady Panthers came out with a full head of steam and cruised past nonconference foe Clinton in their season opener, 70-34, led by senior center Gabby Hebert, who dumped in 15 points to lead the team in scoring.
Hebert checked out after getting into foul trouble early in the game, but she was able to keep her composure and pace the Lady Panthers to victory.
“Gabby got two early fouls within the first two minutes of the game and came out,” said assistant head coach John Megan. “She came out and composed herself. She ended up being the game’s leading scorer. That just shows you the type of player she is.”
Hebert had a dominating performance on the glass and helped pave the way to victory by creating second chances for her teammates. The Lady Panthers played great defense by blocking the passing lanes and creating chances in transition. Ayer-Shirley turned the game into a track meet and wore down the Lady Gaels. Anna Peck did a great job on the glass and tore down her fair share of rebounds.
Emily Megan and Olivia Warila did a fantastic job shutting down the Lady Gaels top player, senior Laura Hazel, limiting her to 14 points. All 11 Lady Panthers saw the floor and each were able to find their way onto the score sheet. Melissa Belanger was the first player in off the bench and she contributed strong minutes for Ayer-Shirley, scoring six points.
Belanger gave the Lady Panthers a spark with her tenacious defensive play and leadership. Sophomore Tina Babcock was Ayer-Shirley’s second highest scorer with 13 points, all of them scored off the bench. The Lady Panthers roster is loaded from top to bottom with athletes, and that suits their up-tempo playing style.
“The balance of this team is remarkable,” said Megan. “The starters put up 35 points and the players coming in off the bench put up 35. That just shows you the balance this team has. We were fortunate to get everyone in. This was definitely a feel-good game, and we are happy about it.”
Ayer-Shirley travels to Lunenburg to face the Blue Knights tonight at 7 p.m.