By Steve Rogers
WESTPORT — The Westport High School girls’ basketball team closed the first half with a 14-point run to pull away from Tri County Regional en route to a 56-37 win in the opening round of the Division 4 South Sectional Tournament Thursday night.
Visiting Tri County, which fell behind 8-0 to start the game, had just completed a 10-2 burst to pull to within 17-15 with 4:12 left in the half. But the Cougars failed to score the rest of the half and Westport took a 31-15 lead into the locker room.
“When we went on that 14-0 run at the end of the quarter, that really changed the complexion of the game,” Westport coach Glenn Lincoln said.
Alyssa Kochman scored five of her nine points during the game-changing run to help lift the No. 6 seeded Wildcats into a quarterfinal game against No. 14 seeded Millis Saturday, March 2, at 4 p.m., in Westport.
Westport has not seen Millis play this season but the Wildcats had seen Tri County. Westport beat Tri County 43-36 and lost to the Cougars 37-33. So they knew Kate Cornell and Megan Mulcahy were the players to key on.
“I thought our defense was pretty good,” Lincoln said. We held (Cornell) in check most of the night. She had 18 points last time so we knew we had to shut her down. We let (Mulcahy) shoot too often toward the end but we kind of knew those were the two shooters for the team.”
Cornell was held to two field goals and had six points. Mulcahy had a game-high 19 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter, and made nine free throws. Tri County had just 12 field goals in the game.
Westport’s six-girl team, three of the players have been out for a month with concussions, almost ran into trouble as Layla Moran, Reaghan Tripp and Kochman all had four fouls when the final whistle blew.
“I was having trouble keeping people on the floor with all the fouls that we had,” said Lincoln. “We were trying to substitute. It’s tough. They got tired today but they can rest one day and then get another game. They can get tired after the season’s over.”
Westport had 11 field goals in the opening half and nine of them came from within the paint. Some came on drives to the hoop, others on layups off fast breaks. Then Moran found the range from beyond the arc and sank a trio of three-pointers. Brittany Arruda, Sam Medeiros and Moran combined to score 41 points and grab 24 of the Wildcats 31 rebounds.
“I think we got a lot of inside baskets and Layla started hitting from the outside as well to open up a lot of things,” said Lincoln. “Brittany drove the middle and Sam drove underneath. We got a lot of contributions from a lot of people.”
Arruda and Kochman carried the scoring load in the opening half with each dropping in nine points. Tri County got the first hoop of the third quarter but the Wildcats widened their margin by taking the quarter 12-6 and opening a 43-21 lead.
Moran started the fourth quarter with a three from the left corner to spark a 10-4 burst which elevated the lead to its acme at 53-25 with 4:02 remaining. Medeiros and Arruda each had 14 points and Moran scored 13 and snared nine rebounds.
“I’m really pleased to win the first game,” Lincoln said. “I was really proud how the girls played.”
Westport won the statistical battles except for rebounding where it was edged 33-31. The Wildcats were 19-for-50 (38 percent) from the floor, made four of eight three-point tries and sank 14 of 20 free throws, a 70 percent rate.
Tri County was 12-for-49 (24 percent) from the floor, made two of 10 three-point attempts and went 11-for-19 (58 percent) from the free throw line. The visitors from Franklin, MA had 20 turnovers, three more than Westport.