On a mission

Fall Mountain’s Avery Stewart brings the ball downcourt during a fast break against Hopkinton in the Division III semifinal at Keene State College on Wednesday night.

After holding a 16-point lead at the end of the first half, the Fall Mountain Regional girls basketball team hit a skid and the advantage was cut to four points by Hopkinton.

The Wildcats needed somebody to step up and Avery Stewart delivered in a big way. The sophomore guard scored nine of her 15 points in the fourth quarter, knocking down all seven of her free throws and propelling Fall Mountain to a 44-34 victory in the NHIAA Division III girls basketball semifinals at Keene State College’s Spaulding Gymnasium.

“Looking at the scoreboard I knew that we needed those to finish the game strong so that’s what really motivated me to make them,” Stewart said. “It felt good to make them and I was confident in it.”

She said she understood the situation, but experience helped. “I did feel pressure, I always do because I put a lot of pressure on myself,” Stewart added. “I feel a lot more comfortable this year than last year though.”

With the win, Fall Mountain will face unbeaten Conant in the championship game at Keene State on Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m.

The two have met twice this season already, with the Orioles winning each contest by a combined 49 points. In order to pull off the upset, Wildcats’ head coach Matthew Baird-Torney thinks his team can take something away from their win against the Hawks and implement it Saturday.

“Our problem all year is if we’re not scoring, are we finding other ways to win games?” Baird-Torney said. “We did that in the second half, which didn’t necessarily go our way. That’s a testament to the girls. Even though we don’t have seniors, they have the senior leadership and they rally around each other when we make a mistake and they go earn it back.”

Stewart, Morgan Beauregard and Makenna Grillone got the Wildcats off to a fast start. Beauregard hit a layup to begin the game, Grillone and Stewart each knocked down a three-pointer and Stewart added a mid-range jumper to quickly go up 10-0.

It couldn’t have been a better start for Fall Mountain.

“At first we came out and it looked like we were going to have a good shooting night. And then we hit quite a slump at one point,” Baird-Torney said.

After seeing the lead shrinking quickly, Baird-Torney yelled to the referees for a timeout.

“We didn’t get discouraged, even though the score was getting closer and it looked like we were playing tighter, I called a timeout and the girls had no doubt in their mind that we were going to figure it out,” Baird-Torney said. “For a coach, that’s all you can ask for.”

Foul trouble became a major problem for Fall Mountain in the second half as three of its key players, Erin Brady (4), Sophie Bardis (3) and Makenna Grillone (3) were all being monitored closely. Their presence on the floor would be needed in a game that looked to be going down to the wire.

Brady had a strong game on the glass for the Wildcats, finishing with 10 rebounds. Despite her rebounding, Fall Mountain was still out-paced by the Hawks 43-33 in the rebounding category.

Grillone finished second on the team with nine points, Bardis had seven, Beauregard chipped in with four and Brady added three points to go with her 10 boards.