AYER — The Mid Wach D league is wide open. There is little separating the top from the bottom, but for all intensive purposes, West Boylston came into Tuesday night’s game at Ayer Shirley as one of the league favorites under former Bromfield girls’ basketball head coach Mike Dube.
“We ran into some foul trouble early in the first quarter,” Ayer Shirley head coach Pete Page said. “We had to rely on our bench a lot more than we hoped we had. I am proud of the fight we showed. West Boylston is one of the best teams in our conference, and they are well coached. I am overall pleased with the effort — we need to execute better.”
Sophomore forward Taylor Wright had a monster game for Ayer Shirley, draining 19 points, in addition to ripping down 16 rebounds.
“Taylor started the season as our point guard,” Page said. “She is one of the best rebounders on our team, so it was a natural fit to move her back inside.
“We had to switch her to playing down low because we were not getting enough production on the glass. Taylor is really doing some big things for us down low. She does everything we ask of her and more.”
Ayer Shirley and West Boylston battled tooth-and-nail in the opening half. The Lions opened the game on an 8-3 run behind baskets from Melissa Hayes, Erin Flemming and Kerri Daugherty.
The Panthers countered with a 7-0 behind three-pointers from Olivia Warila and Wright. Ayer Shirley drew back within two, 12-10, at the end of one.
The well dried up for the Panthers in the second quarter, as it managed to scrape together five points. Wright and a three-pointer from Warila accounted for the Ayer Shirley points in the quarter.
West Boylston carried a 27-15 lead into the second half. The Lions lead ballooned to 19 points midway through the third quarter. Ayer Shirley failed to chip away in the third quarter, but it continued to battle and scrap for each loose ball.
The Panthers used a 7-0 run in the fourth to cut the West Boylston lead to single digits at 55-46 with 2:30 remaining in the game. Wright’s three-pointer helped give the Panthers new life, but West Boylston did what good teams do.
They clung on for the victory, as Ayer Shirley dips to 3-5 overall and 2-2 in the Mid Wach D. West Boylston improves to 7-1 and 3-0 in league play.
Hayes (15 pointsm 5 rebounds) and Daugherty (14 points, 6 rebound) paced the Lions’ offense.
“I absolutely loved the fight from our team,” Page said. “We talked about how we were going to stop their best player — Kerri Daugherty. She is the type of player who will steal the ball and go to coast-to-coast. We need to get better on team’s main scorers. We gave up too many points defensively. We need to sure that up if we want to make a run for districts, but the girls are working hard every day in practice and making improvements.”