By John Orrell
Worcester / Grafton — The Grafton High girls’ varsity basketball team engineered a series of nearly-improbable comebacks in its Central Mass. Division 3 final versus Lunenburg High on March 11 at WPI’s Harrington Auditorium, but a late OT burst by the Blue Nights was just a bit too much allowing them to escape with a 55-54 victory. The Indians finish their successful 2016-2017 campaign with a record of 16-8.
Lunenburg struck quickly in the first quarter converting on a series of scoring opportunities to forge a 21-7 lead. Grafton regrouped in the second stringing together a 13-2 run that closed the gap. Erin Tyldesley struck for a timely three-pointer that was followed by a Gigi LeMay steal and score that amped up the Indian bench while closing the deficit to 23-20 at the halftime break.
The Blue Nights lead teetered back and forth from two points to eight in the third but the late-game fireworks were just minutes ahead. Trailing 47-39 with just over a minute to play, sophomore guard Anna Kopyra managed to hit for quick back-to-back three-pointers before Lunenburg’s Kylie Hill hit for one at the free throw line.
With two seconds remaining and trailing by three, sophomore Jenna Gordon was fouled on a three-point attempt and was awarded three shots from the stripe. With all the pressure on her shoulders, Gordon remained poised and methodically hit for all three to force overtime with the score knotted at 48-48.
Grafton wasted no time in the extra session with Abigail Rogers and Gordon hitting for back-to-back baskets for a 52-49 lead with just over a minute remaining. Lunenburg managed to reach deep and converted in the last seconds from the floor and at the free throw line to squeeze out the one-point victory.
Leading scorers for Grafton were Lauren Eddy with 17 points, Rogers with 11 and Gordon with 10. LeMay and Kopyra chipped in with 7 and 6 points, respectively.
Grafton advanced to the title round with a 60-48 victory over Littleton High in a semifinal matchup on March 9 at Worcester State University. Rogers led the Indian offense with a game-high 22 points while Kopyra was close behind with 16 points. Grafton earned its berth in the title game with an earlier round victory over Oakmont Regional before squaring off with Littleton.
“What I love most about this team is their attitude,” said GHS first-year head coach Jessica Shlager. “They never give up and they work hard. I love their spirit. Every game they come out and play hard with so much heart. They always leave everything they have out on the court. They’ve really meshed well together.”
Members of the 2016-2017 Grafton High girls basketball Central Mass. Division 3 finalists are seniors Gabriella LeMay, Lauren Eddy, Meghan Montgomery; juniors Erin Tyldesley, Mackenzie Breen; sophomores Delaney Pilotte, Nicole Sweeney, Peyton Walker, Jenna Gordon, Anna Kopyra, Calleigh Herren and Abigail Rogers along with freshman Taylor Paulauskas.