Girls basketball: Central takes down Amherst in Class A final, 61-47 (PHOTOS)

By KYLE GRABOWSKI

Staff Writer

Published: 03-02-2023 9:06 PM

WESTFIELD — Blood pooled in the cut on Audrey Bowen’s lower lip.

She and the Amherst Regional girls basketball team took a punch against Springfield Central in the Western Massachusetts Class A championship game Saturday.

The defending champion Golden Eagles scored 15 of the game’s first 18 points and held the No. 3 seed Hurricanes at bay in a 61-47 victory at Westfield High School.

“You get hit, you hit back,” Amherst senior Tessa Kawall said. “You get punched, you punch back. You want to throw the first punch. You see all these other teams quit after the first quarter and give up 40 points. We’re not quitting.”

The Hurricanes (17-4) shaved that initial 12-point deficit to five with 4 minutes, 17 seconds to halftime after Bowen sank two free throws. She scored 18 points, 13 of which came in the second half.

“At halftime we knew we could win. It wasn’t an impossible game,” Bowen said. “If we kept fighting, it’s not an unbeatable team.”

Central (18-3) pushed its six-point halftime lead to 15 over the first five minutes of the second half. The Hurricanes closed it to 10 and eventually nine but couldn’t get closer.

“I was really proud of the defensive effort,” Amherst coach Ralph Loos said. “I’m not a big believer in moral victories, like we want to win this game and I think we can beat that team. No disrespect to them whatsoever, but we put the fear of god in them, that’s for sure.”

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Kawall poured in a game-high 19 points despite battling foul trouble the whole game. The newly-minuted 1,000-point scorer never needed an extended break after she managed the second half masterfully.

“That’s the biggest change in Tess this year, she keeps herself in games,” Loos said. “Last year she probably would have picked up a frustration foul, and she didn’t.”

Amherst, playing in its first sectional final since 2011, isn’t done. The Hurricanes are the No. 16 seed in the MIAA Division 2 state tournament and will host No. 17 Tewksbury in the Round of 32 on Friday at 7 p.m.

“This honestly is the perfect game because it doesn’t affect our seeding for state,” Bowen said. “We got better, we obviously got better from that.”

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