WMass Div. 4 Girls Tournament: Paige Loughman lifts No. 10 Pioneer past No. 7 McCann, 45-42

  • Paige Loughman scored 21 points and No. 10 Pioneer picked up a 45-42 road victory over No. 7 McCann Tech in the first round of the Western Mass. Division 4 tournament on Monday in North Adams. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 2/24/2020 9:51:09 PM

NORTH ADAMS — Looking to pull off an upset in the first round of the Western Mass. Division 4 tournament, the Pioneer girls basketball team had McCann Tech on the ropes at the half.

Paige Loughman came in and threw the knockout punch in the third quarter.

The 10th-seeded Panthers led 22-14 at the half before Loughman scored 15 points in the first five minutes of the second half to open up a 37-24 lead with three minutes left in the third quarter.

The seventh-seeded Hornets stormed back in the fourth, but the hosts were never able to take the lead as Pioneer advanced to the quarterfinal round behind a 45-42 victory on Monday night.

The Panthers (11-10) advance to play No. 2 Ware (16-5) on the road, Thursday at 7 p.m.

“I was shooting around at halftime and pretty much every shot I took went in,” said Loughman, who led all scorers with 21 points. “I said, ‘I guess I have to shoot now.’”

Loughman opened the second half by draining a 3-pointer and followed it by getting to the rim for an easy two.

After making two free throws, the junior then knocked down another 3. A 6-0 McCann run cut the Pioneer lead to 32-21, but Loughman once again answered with a shot at the rim.

The Hornets (11-10) answered with three points of their own, but Loughman got open and drilled another 3 to make it 37-24 five minutes into the third, with all 15 of the Panther points coming from her.

“That was a huge run for us,” Pioneer coach Michael Churchill said. “We talked in the locker room that we had done 16 minutes of good work. We needed to come out and put the ball in the hoop and not let up.”

While Loughman was doing her best to take over the game, McCann adjusted in the fourth quarter.

Trailing 39-28 with eight minutes to go, the Hornets locked down Loughman the rest of the way, keeping her off the board over the final quarter.

McCann slowly cut into the Panther lead, getting it to 45-40 with under two minutes to play thanks to a layup by Isabella LaCasse. A series of turnovers gave the Hornets multiple chances to cut into the deficit even more, and they finally did so with 50 seconds to play off a layup by Kaylee Tatro.

Steph Scoville missed a shot on the other end for Pioneer, giving McCann a chance to tie the game with 15 seconds remaining. Like they had all game however, the Panthers locked down on the defensive end, as Tatro got off a pair of shots that fell well short.

Loughman was fouled with one second left to send her to the line, where she missed the front end of a one-and-one. With a full-court heave the last hope for McCann, Loughman made sure they didn’t have a prayer, blocking the shot and sealing the win. 

“I was nervous at the end,” Loughman said. “I knew we could overcome it, but the team was working hard. With one second left, I knew it was pretty much over.” 

Scoville chipped in 11 points for the Panthers, while Sophia Walker scored six points in the win.

LaCasse led the Hornets with 17 points, seven coming in the third quarter.

“In the second half, we had a big lead but McCann never quit,” Churchill said. “We knew they had a couple of great shooters. We were going to have to play hard inside and fight for every rebound. It’s satisfying to come out with a win. It was a full team effort.” 

The Panthers led 8-6 after eight minutes of action, with their press giving McCann problems. 

In the second quarter, Pioneer went on a 8-0 run in the final two minutes before Scoville drilled a 3 as the first-half buzzer sounded to put the Panthers up 22-14 into the locker room.

After having to win its final three games of the regular season to make the postseason, Pioneer was prepared for the atmosphere, not phased by the pressure of the moment.

“This is our second week of playing elimination games,” Churchill said. “Every single game has been win or go home. We knew defense would travel on the road and we knew if we came out and gave a full 32-minute effort, we could get it done.” 

The Panthers now take on a tough Ware squad Thursday that they’ve seen twice this year, both ending in defeats.

The Panthers played much tougher in the most recent meeting however, and Loughman said her team is looking to build on their momentum and try to earn a spot to play in Amherst next week. 

“We’re really excited,” Loughman said. “We’re ready to go to Ware to fight our hardest to get to the Cage.”


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