TMHS Girls Upset Chelmsford In Overtime, 52-45
Smith, Liggiero, Semenza play big roles as Redmen put together their biggest win of the season.
If Tewksbury High girls basketball coach Mark Bradley could just find a way to have his team start its season a month late each year, there's no telling how successful his Redmen would be.
Just like last year, the TMHS girls have shrugged off a disastrous 0-6 start and come on strong as January turns into February, winning four of their last six games. Tuesday night brought the biggest victory of the year for the Redmen, as freshman Shannon Smith hit a clutch free throw with 13 seconds remaining to send the game into overtime, and Tewksbury pulled out a 52-45 upset win over heavily-favored Chelmsford.
"This is our best win of the season by far, hands down," Bradley said. "We faced adversity by missing a key player. We faced a deficit and came back and responded."
The Redmen were without junior captain and leading scorer Nicole Chaet, who was recovering from having her wisdom teeth removed and could not play. They jumped out to an 11-2 first quarter lead, but Chelmsford roared back in the second quarter and took a 24-21 halftime lead. The Lions led 32-28 after three quarters, but TMHS hung tough, led by the play of sophomore guard Sara Semenza, who poured in 15 points, and Smith, who had a career-high 12.
Tewksbury fought back to within a point in the game's final minute, and Smith got fouled with 13 seconds left, needing to hit at least one free throw to tie the game. Smith missed the first and sank the second, and the game went into overtime.
Junior forward Caitlyn Morris came off the bench to score four points in the overtime period and senior guard Sheri Liggiero sank a momentum-switching three-pointer, as the Redmen out-scored Chelmsford, 12-6, in the extra period.
"Our shots just fell," Bradley said. "The 12-foot jump shots that usually haven't been going in were going in left and right. We told them that with Nicole out, it was a good opportunity for someone to step up, and a lot of them did. We played lights out basketball in the overtime period."
Liggiero had an outstanding defensive game and scored seven points. Sara Semenza had eight assists and seven rebounds in one of the best all-around games of her career, and twin sister Shannon Semenza drained two three-pointers and scored eight points. Sophomore center Chelsee Porcaro added six points.
"Everyone contributed," Bradley said. "We stuck to our game plan and our shots went down because we were making that extra pass and getting good looks."
In the end, it was Smith's play that impressed Bradley the most.
"I'm thrilled with the way she played," Bradley said. "She's really come along this year. She works hard and quietly does the things she's supposed to do. She has a very good left hand and she's strong enough to be ale to play down low. I think she can develop into a really nice basketball player."
The win improves Tewksbury's record to 4-8 and moves the Redmen into a three-way tie for first place in the Merrimack Valley Conference Division 2 standings, with Dracut and Chelmsford. TMHS must now prepare for its biggest game of the year, on the road at Dracut High School Friday night.
"We completely opened up the whole Division 2 small school race," Bradley said. "It makes Friday's game very important, but going there isn't going to be easy."