Maddie Balassie and the Lady Patriots defeated Groton-Dunstable Monday evening to advance to the championship game on Wednesday.
Maddie Balassie and the Lady Patriots defeated Groton-Dunstable Monday evening to advance to the championship game on Wednesday. (Nashoba Publishing/Kent Boynton)

AYER - The third annual Pete Trianor Memorial Christmas Tournament tipped off Tuesday night, pairing two regional foe in North Middlesex and Groton-Dunstable against each other in the opening round of the four-team tournament. The Lady Patriots surrendered the lead only once in their 58-48 win over Groton-Dunstable.

"I like how the Lady Crusaders made a run at us, and we didn't wilt," said North Middlesex head coach Pat Murphy. "We had them by 15 at one point, and they could've said 'OK, that's it.' They didn't lay down and die. We had to respond with a couple key baskets, and I think we did that."

North Middlesex was led in scoring by senior captain Maddie Balassie. Balassie dropped 18 points in the win, and was three-of-four from three-point range. Mackensey Farina was impressive on the glass, tearing down 10 rebounds and scoring 16.

Both the Lady Crusaders and Patriots had trouble getting in any sort of rhythm in the first two minutes of the game, committing consecutive turnovers. North Middlesex would finally break the stalemate when senior captain Kimberly Morgan crashed the boards hard following a missed shot by Farina and put it back through the cylinder with six minutes left in the first quarter.

"I think we were very inconsistent to start the game," said Groton-Dunstable head coach Mark Hennelly. "We were very inconsistent coming out of the half. I don't feel we have come close to what our potential is. I am proud of how they didn't quit.


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We made a run at the end, but unfortunately there wasn't enough time left in the game."

The Lady Crusaders and Patriots would trade the next couple baskets as the game remained level at 4-4. UMass Lowell bound senior captain Rachel McCarron gave the Lady Crusaders their only lead of the night when she rattled home two from the charity stripe with 3:47 remaining in the first.

As soon as North Middlesex tried to pull away, the Lady Crusaders kept trying to answer the bell. The Patriots went on a 6-0 run midway through the first quarter, keyed by the one-two tandem of Farina and Balassie. North Middlesex enjoyed their biggest lead of the first quarter on a streamlined feed from Sam Lynch to Farina, who layed it up just as time expired to give the Lady Pats a 14-8 lead.

The second quarter was pretty even as far as total points go. North Middlesex had a slight 16-14 edge over the Lady Crusaders in the second quarter. Balassie made a three-point rainmaker from the elbow to give the Pats a 25-17 lead with 2:30 minutes left in the half. On the ensuing Patriots' possession, Farina clanged her first attempt off the front iron, and she then tore down the board and deposited the ball back in the cylinder for North Middlesex's largest lead of the half. At the end of the first half, Groton-Dunstable trailed the Lady Patriots 30-22.

The Lady patriots took over the third quarter and began to heap the pressure on the Lady Crusaders defense. North Middlesex closed the third quarter on a 7-0 run, keyed by two three-point missiles from Balassie. Groton-Dunstable was outscored in the third quarter 17-9.

Maria Amichetti was fouled and sent to the line, where she knocked down both free-throws, giving the Patriots their largest lead of the night at 49-21. Hennelly called a timeout midway through the third quarter to try and rally his girls back into the game.

Cate Cullen knocked down a three-point basket with 3:40 remaining in the game to cut the Lady Patriots' lead to 12 with less than four minutes left in the game. The closest Groton-Dunstable would come to North Middlesex in the fourth quarter was eight points. The Patriots held their ground and hung on for the semifinals win. Lindsay Werner and McCarron led the Lady Crusaders in scoring. Werner pitched in 14 points, and McCarron added 12 in the loss.