WORCESTER - They were the last team seeded in.
Fittingly, they are the last team standing.
Behind a 26-point, 15-rebound effort out of junior sniper Amy Assad, No. 15 Millis captured its first Central Mass. Division 4 title with a 48-34 win over No. 8 Ayer Shirley Regional at Clark University's Kneller Athletic Center Thursday night.
The win lifts the Mohawks to 14-10 overall and into the state semifinals, where they'll take on either Quaboag Regional or Ware at the MassMutual Center Tuesday afternoon.
The Western Mass. Division 4 Final will take place at the Curry Hicks Cage Saturday morning.
Ayer Shirley's season came to a close at 15-6.
A 14-4 second-quarter run was the difference in this one, putting Millis -- which finished the regular season 10-10 and were tied with St. Mary's of Worcester headed into the seedings meeting; in essence, Millis won the seedings lottery as it brought the pain to Parker Charter, Greater Lowell Tech and West Boylston en route to Downing Street --i nto the ascendancy against a Panther team that simply could not keep control of the basketball.
"We knew that at some point, their press was going to come," said Ayer Shirley head coach Pete Page, noting the 11 times his gals turned the ball over in the second quarter.
We practiced it a lot, but unfortunately, you can't duplicate what they bring on the press.
We didn't do a good job reversing the ball, and instead of eight-to-10-foot passes, we were trying to make 22-to-25-foot passes.
They have five athletes that just know what they're doing, and they were stepping in front of balls left and right.
That stretch was the game. You take away that run, it's a different story. But they are a great team; we're a man-to-man team, and we didn't run into a team with their size all year."
During the run, Assad --already a 1,000-point scorer in her third campaign --caught fire.
"We mixed defenses pretty well," said Millis head coach David Fallon, whose team won the South sectional in 2009.
"We got a rhythm. We struggled to score in the half-court, so we needed every one of those transition baskets.
"I'm proud of these girls. We went into the South sectional last year and lost, so we had experience. They know the seedings don't mean anything, we come from a tough league in the Tri-Valley League, playing all Division 2 and 3 schools, so we're battle tested."
Panther guard Olivia Warilla had opened the quarter with a 3-pointer that caromed off the window and in, but for the next three minutes, there was nothing but free throws.
It wasn't until the 3:30 mark when Assad just took this contest over.
Assad drawed the hack as her shot went up and in.
She added the harm to give the Mohawks a four-point, 17-13 lead.
But, it did not end there. Nearly a minute later, Camden Morrison scored for Millis on a pair of offensive rebounds, before Danielle Ciolfi stole the ball away from the Panthers.
Assad grabbed the offensive rebound and put it back up and in, before she stole the ball less than 10 seconds later and scored again, this time on Ayer Shirley's 16th turnover of the game and eighth of the second quarter to put the Mohawks up 10, 23-13.
After a time out, Assad hit a 3-pointer, her first of three, to double the advantage.
Ayer Shirley's Gabrielle Hebert ended the six-and-a-half minute scoreless skid by hitting a pair from the charity stripe, before Taylor Wright just a long deuce from a smidge inside the elbow to hit Ayer's second and final field goal of the quarter.
Morrison hit a baseline jumper to end the run.
Ayer Shirley shot 2 of 6 in the second quarter and was 4 of 20 shooting at the open end of the Kneller in the first half.
In all, Ayer Shirley shot 10 of 42 from the field.
Hailie Young and Wright led all Panther scorers with a team-high seven points, while Tina Babcock added five.