Knights ride high against Saints

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AUBURN -After winning just four games last year, the Poland girls’ basketball team set their sights high this season.

The Knights had playoff hopes from the first tip-off and are very much within reach of that goal after just seven games.

The Knights earned their third win of the season Wednesday with a 52-46 victory over St. Dom’s. Poland was ranked ninth in the latest Western B Heals. The Knights only playoff appearance was a preliminary game during the open tournament format.

“It’s exciting,” said junior guard Jen Dionne. “Playoffs is a big goal. To make it to the Civic Center, that’s been our goal all year. I think we can make it as long as we keep our momentum up and keep winning.”

Poland (3-4) got a balanced attack with Paige Piper leading the way with 15 points. Dionne added 12 while Kathryn Hall had 11. The Saints (4-2) had a fine effort from Abby Gilbert with 22.

“I think the second half, my kids played hard,” said St. Dom’s coach Chet Lenfestey. “I told them I was happy with their effort. If we get the shot we want, all we can do is hope we make enough of them. We were getting the shots we wanted, and we just couldn’t put them in.”

Poland opened a lead twice only to watch the Saints battle back. The Knights had a 10-point lead early in the fourth thanks to nine straight points from Dionne, Kacie Ford and Becky Brown. The Saints rallied midway through the fourth and used its 3-point shot and press to whittle the lead down to three points. Gilbert led the Saints’ push with eight points in the first four minutes of the quarter. The Saints, however, shot 8-for-22 in the final quarter and turned the ball over seven times.

“We made a couple of critical mistakes in the last two-and-a-half minutes,” said Lenfestey. “That’s really been hurting us all year long.”

Though the Knights struggled against St. Dom’s defensive pressure early in the quarter, Poland settled down and began executing effectively, creating easy buckets off the press.

“It felt good,” said Dionne. “It took us awhile to get used to it, but once we got it, we were fine and we broke it.”

After a Gilbert 3-pointer made it 42-39, Piper scored on a press breaker. A Katie Lyon hoop got the Saints within three with 3:10 left, but a free throw by Ford and a basket by Piper on a Dionne feed made it 47-41. A Hannah Beaulieu 3-pointer cut the lead to 47-44 with 1:59 left, but Poland got free throws from Hall, Danielle Belanger and Dionne to seal it.

“I think we all decided to pick up our momentum and just go for it,” said Dionne. “We really wanted to beat this team. We got our momentum and got our rhythm and kept going.”

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