Emma Tanner watched the last 14.4 seconds of the Western Massachusetts Division 2 championship game from the bench.
Northampton’s senior guard earned a chance to soak it all in after a 19-point night Saturday. The Blue Devils knew they’d already sealed a sectional championship with a double-digit lead over Tantasqua.
“The last quarter was like three years long,” she said. “It was agony watching (time) go off.”
When the buzzer finally sounded, Northampton won 57-44 to claim its first Western Mass. title since 2008. The Blue Devils will face Central Mass. champion Hopkinton at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at Worcester State.
The Blue Devils built the majority of their lead in the last 3 minutes, 14 seconds of the second quarter. Northampton (19-3) outscored Tantasqua 13-1 during that stretch.
“We were just thinking ‘attack, attack,’” Northampton sophomore Amanda Mieczkowski said. “(Northampton coach) Perry (Messer) never lets us forget that it all starts on the defensive end.”
Northampton forced two shot clock violations in the first quarter and leaned on its defense when the offense wasn’t clicking. The Blue Devils trailed 10-8 after the first then outscored Tantasqua 25-7 in the second quarter.
“We definitely go on runs. We’re in pretty good shape, and I think the other team was a little bit tired before halftime,” Tanner said. “We capitalized on that really well.”
Tantasqua reined Northampton in during the second half. The Warriors cut their deficit to 9 at the third quarter buzzer. The Warriors got as close as 7 before the Blue Devils smothered the rally.
Jill McGrath made a 3 to start the fourth then Mieczkowski, who finished with a game-high 21 points, hit a layup to make it 45-33 with 6:01 left.
“She’s the engine that runs this show. I don’t feel there’s any situation that’s too big for her,” Messer said. “I’ve been yelling at her all year to shoot the ball.”
Messer made sure the ball was in Mieczkowski’s hands down the stretch when Tantasqua looked to foul and extend the game. She made 7-of-8 free throws in the fourth quarter.
“Perry told me I had to get the ball,” she said. “I didn’t really have a choice, but, you know, step up to the challenge.”
After the final horn sounded, Tanner led the charge off the bench to hug the players still on the floor. Northampton’s captains rushed out of their lineup to retrieve the championship trophy from Northampton athletic director Kara Dupre as soon as they could.
“We’ve never won Western Mass. or anything like that before,” Tanner said. “It means a lot to win it with this group of girls.”
Kyle Grabowski can be reached at [email protected]
Northampton 57, Tantasqua 44
Boland 2-0-4, Way 4-7-15, Godek 1-0-2, Varney 3-1-7, Smith 2-2-6, Zak 3-0-6, Routhier 0-4-4. Totals 15-14-44
Sledzieski 0-0-0, Kesin 0-0-0, McGrath 1-1-4, Mieczkowski 5-11-21, E. Tanner 5-4-19, Babbott-Bryan 2-0-5, Kerwood 0-0-0 C. Tanner 0-0-0, Maurer 3-0-7, Jones 0-2-2, Dubuque 0-0-0, Campedelli 0-0-0, Lewandowski 0-1-1. Totals 16-19-57
3-Pointers—Northampton 6 (E. Tanner 3, McGrath, Babott-Bryan, Maurer)