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Third time, no charm for Lady Mallards vs. MA

GARDNER — In two previous games this season between Tri-County Conference rivals Marquette Academy and Henry-Senachwine/Lowpoint-Washburn, only seven tallies separated the two clubs, with the Lady Crusaders coming away victorious over the Lady Mallards in a pair of hard-fought outings that realistically could have gone either way.
But Marquette left no doubt in the third meeting of the year.
The No. 4-seeded Lady Crusaders used some stifling and active zone defense to help do away with the No. 6-rated Lady Mallards 40-24 in the semifinal round of the Gardner-South Wilmington Class 1A Regional on Tuesday evening here in Gardner.
Marquette held HSLW scoreless for 7 minutes, 30 seconds spanning the first and second quarters while also limiting the Lady Mallards to only seven points in total throughout the second and third periods.
Add to that some fine offense provided by senior forwards Emma Thomas and Aubrey McCallum — who tossed in 14 and 11 points, respectively, to lead the way – and the Lady Cru now advance to Thursday evening’s regional championship game at 7 p.m. versus No. 1 seed and host Gardner-South Wilmington (26-4).
Marquette (16-13) will be seeking its first regional title since 2012. Henry finishes the season 11-17.
“We really felt we had a very good game plan coming into the third game versus Marquette this season after a couple of pretty close contests,” said HSLW coach Erik Greenwood. “We gave them all they wanted twice before, but tonight we couldn’t do it a third time.
“We just could never find the spark this evening, but I’m very proud of this team with only one senior, who we’ll sure miss a lot, but our future is very bright, and this program will be back and even better next year, I can assure you that.”
The Lady Cru (16-13) also received nine points from sophomore guard Ellie Eager, while Thomas added a team-best eight rebounds.
HSLW (11-17) concluded a competitive season after junior Keally Braman paced her team’s effort with nine tallies, while sophomore Tandyn Vanetten added eight off the bench. Juniors Nadia Kessling hauled down a contest-best nine rebounds, but the Lady Mallards just couldn’t keep up after the long dry spell and the shortage of points throughout the middle two stanzas along, shooting a frosty 10 of 39 (26%) from the field and an ice-cold 1 of 15 (7%) beyond the 3-point circle.
“The girls worked really hard defensively tonight, and we threw a few different sets out there just to see which rotation and defense would work the best,” said MHS coach Kayli O’Flanagan. “We ultimately found one that did, and we stuck with it, leading to a big payoff tonight in the third time around against a team that’s battled us very hard in three games this season.”
Both ballclubs battled neck-and-neck in the first quarter, forging an 8-8 stalemate.
Marquette would go on a 7-0 run to open the second stanza, while HSLW went silent until Braman and Vanetten finally hit back-to-back buckets at 1:45 and 0:50 that ended a scoring drought of better than seven minutes between quarters to cut the gap to 15-12.
But McCallum added a pair of free throws at 0:32 and a right-wing 3-ball with 12 seconds to go that pushed her team’s lead to 20-12 at halftime.
There, the Lady Cru stoned the Lady Mallards defensively once again, holding them to a mere three points while increasing the lead to 28-15 with eight minutes to contest.
Thomas then would add an old-fashioned three-point play with 4:15 to go, while Eager nailed a left-wing trey at 3:30, and McCallum finished with a pair of charity tosses at 1:30 that helped send the Lady Cru into the regional title tilt.

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