By TOM JOYCE
How many teams can say they’ve erased a 15-point deficit in the fourth quarter?
Not many, but the North Quincy High girls’ basketball team is one of them.
The #20 Raiders, who trailed by that much going into the final quarter of their MIAA Division 2 Round of 32 playoff game against the #13 Whitman-Hanson Panthers on Wednesday, Feb. 28, battled to the very end but came up short bowing 63-60. North had tied the game with under a minute remaining but were unable to make a full comeback. They ended up dropping a tight one by three points on the road. With the loss, the Raiders finished their season at 12-10.
Much of the first half was competitive, though Whitman-Hanson pulled away late in it.
The Raiders were sharp early, taking a 4-2 lead in the first minute of the game – but then Whitman-Hanson’s offense woke up. Autumn O’Campos (18 points) hit two free throws after Ava Bryan (19 points) made a basket, giving the team an early lead. However, Whitman-Hanson responded with a 7-0 run started by a three-pointer.
Back-to-back-to-back layups from O’Campos then gave the Raiders a 10-9 advantage, but Whitman-Hanson erased this lead in the final 90 seconds of the first quarter. The team hit a three-pointer and a layup, taking a 14-10 lead.
Whitman-Hanson then built on that lead late in the second quarter.
That 5-0 run late in the first quarter ended up being a 10-0 run for Whitman-Hanson that extended into the second quarter, as the team added five more points unanswered before the Raiders could respond.
The Raiders chipped away at that deficit. A three-pointer from Maeve Powers (12 points) and two free throws from two trips to the line for O’Campos made it a two-point game, 25-23, with 1:12 left in the first half, but Whitman-Hanson got some breathing room after that.
Whitman-Hanson scored eight unanswered points in the final minute of the first half: two three-pointers and a layup; the team went into halftime leading the Raiders by 10 points, 33-23.
Whitman-Hanson kept that momentum going in the third quarter, expanding its lead.
While Bryan scored six points at the free throw line alone in the third quarter, Whitman-Hanson outscored the Raiders 19-14 over those eight minutes and led 52-37 going into the fourth quarter.
The Raiders slowly but surely chipped away at that lead. Whitman-Hanson started the fourth quarter with a layup, extending its lead to 17 points. However, the Raiders responded with a 14-0 run that made it a three-point game, 54-51.
Powers hit a layup and a free throw to start the run. Then O’Campos made two free throws, and Caroline O’Donnell made back-to-back shots underneath the basket. A layup from O’Campos and a three-pointer from Bryan added five more points, making it a one-score game.
With 2:20 remaining, the Raiders made it a two-point game, 58-56, after Bryan hit a wide-open three-pointer; this came about 30 seconds after O’Campos hit a free-throw.
Then, thanks to free throws, the Raiders tied the game. Whitman-Hanson went to the line with 1:29 remaining and missed both free-throw attempts. However, when O’Campos went to the line with 33.7 seconds left, she hit both of her shots, tying the game at 60 apiece. She got the ball back for the Raiders after stealing it from a Whitman-Hanson player.
Ultimately, the Raiders were unable to make a comeback. They fouled a Whitman-Hanson player with 18.5 seconds remaining, and the girl hit a free throw, giving the team a 61-60 advantage. Whitman-Hanson then stole the ball in Raiders territory, and a foul with 3.5 seconds left sent an opposing player to the free-throw line. Whitman-Hanson hit both of its shots, giving it a 63-60 advantage.
Then, as the Raiders looked to make a couple of passes and then attempt a long three-pointer, Whitman-Hanson intercepted one of those passes, ending the game.
Whitman-Hanson advanced to the Round of 16 of the playoff tournament with the win.
The playoff game against Whitman-Hanson was a rematch for the two Patriot League teams. The Raiders hosted Whitman-Hanson on Valentine’s Day and lost a close one, 45-42.
A strong regular season finish helped the Raiders not only clinch a playoff spot but also secure better seeding. With three games left in the regular season, the team was 9-9 and needed to win a majority of its games to earn an automatic spot in the playoffs. The team did one better — winning each of its final three regular-season games to punch a ticket to the postseason tournament.
The Raiders had some experience on their side this season, with eight seniors on the roster. The team this year includes: senior guard Mary Saccoach, sophomore guard Maeghan Smith, senior guard Emma Cramond, senior forward Jillian Jaehnig, senior forward/center and captain Autumn O’Campos, junior guard Iris Gjoka, senior guard/forward and captain Ava Bryan, sophomore guard Ella Lynch, freshman guard Maeve Powers, senior guard Molly Toland, freshman guard Nora Geary, sophomore guard Harper Mergel, senior forward Grace Pickering, and senior forward/center Caroline O’Donnell. Quincy High alum Liana Cunningham served as the team’s head coach.