By Ed Niser
HARVARD — Whenever Ayer Shirley and Bromfield get together on the hardwood, it’s sure to be a battle from start to finish.
Friday night’s Mid Wach D clash had a little more on the line than bragging rights — sole possession of second-place was the victor’s bounty.
The Trojans trimmed the Panthers’ fourth quarter lead to five points with 2:31 remaining following a Lexi Norcross three-pointer at 43-38. However, junior Natalie Carroll came up with a huge steal to ice the game with a minute left.
“Natalie came into this season a bit of a wild card for us,” Ayer Shirley head coach Pete Page said. “She thinks of herself as being more of a softball player — she has really been our unsung hero. She usually pumps in between 8-12 points per night. She is a little underrated as far as defense and rebounding go.”
Ayer Shirley senior Taylor Wright scored 15 points to lead the Panthers to a gritty 46-38 win over Bromfield.
Panther junior Natalie Carroll added 11 points, five rebounds and three steals.
With the win, Ayer Shirley improves to 7-5 overall and 5-2 in the Mid Wach D.
“What Mike has been able to do with that Bromfield team is very impressive,” Page said. “They have made the playoffs the last two years. You always leave here thinking — man, that team plays really hard.”
The Panthers are riding a bit of a hot streak after defeating cross-town rival Parker Charter.
Page went into Friday night knowing that the Panthers needed to shut down fifth-year senior Amanda Accorsi in the low blocks.
Accorsi finished the night with 14 points, 12 rebounds.
“Amanda is one of my favorite players,” Page said. “Her motor never stops. Our scouting report was to not give Accorsi shots in the paint and to her credit, she still got them in.”
Bromfield received strong performance offensively from Hannah LoChiatto (11 points, 7 rebounds, block, steal) and Norcross (10 points).
“It is a 20-game season and the approach we like to take is that you can’t get too high after an upset over Oakmont or low after losing a battle for second place,” third-year Bromfield head coach Mike Davidson said. “We will see we can do this next week against Maynard and West Boylston.”
Ayer Shirley led by as much as seven points in the opening quarter following a three-point play from Hailie Young (9 points), a layup from Wright and a steal and score at the buzzer by Carroll.
The Panthers took the upper-hand in the second quarter growing its lead to 12 points — the biggest of the evening — following a corner three by Carroll. Wright found Carroll for the open shot from the wing with 2:30 remaining in the second.
The Trojans scored the final four points of the quarter as the Panthers went to the half up 26-16.
Bromfield shaved the Ayer Shirley advantage to six in the third quarter when Lexi Norcross converted a layup in transition off a pass by Accorsi to make it 28-22 with 5:10 remaining. Ayer Shirley led 37-31 at the end of three.
“Our team just does not like losing — it is that simple,” Davidson said. “We need to put this in the rearview mirror as quick as we can and get back to work.”
Follow Ed Niser on Twitter/Tout: @EdNiser.