Rebels Run Over Holliston Tournament Opener

James Cullinane

     All season long, the Walpole Rebels Girls Basketball Team has set their sights on a tournament berth.  Through dedication, hard work, and perseverance, they reached this goal with multiple impressive wins at the end of the season.  While these wins were greatly important, Head Coach Stacy Bilodeau refused to let the squad lose focus, reminding them that their goal was not to be a “one and done” team in the state tournament.  The Rebels avoided this on Tuesday night  with a 69-53 victory over Holliston. 

     From the opening tip off on, it became clear that Holliston Head Coach Kristen Hedrick, like Bilodeau, also had no intentions of being one and done.  Holliston Captain Erin Chipman scored the first bucket of the game putting Holliston on top 2-0.  This would be the Panthers’ only lead of the night.  Rebel Captain Brooke Waite responded with a three of her own on the next possession.  The stingy Rebel defense put pressure on the Panther backcourt all night, forcing turnovers from the beginning of the game.  Senior Christine Carty and Sophomore Shannon Cullen gave the Panthers fits for the entire game starting in the first quarter.  This combination of interior defenders cleaned up the boards, leaving the Panthers with very few second chance opportunities.  Carty and Cullen energized the Walpole defense by fighting for loose balls, repeatively hitting the hardwood, and making hustle plays on the defensive end of the court.  Midway through the first quarter Cullen sprinted from the opposing paint to half court to make a great steal from behind, leading to a fast break layup from senior guard Liz Malone, who has provided a boost to the Rebels after returning from a wrist injury that had sidelined her.  Freshman Bridget Nicholson would be Walpoles first sub to come in off the bench, replacing Malone at the end of the first quarter.  Walpole led 7-3 with 1:39 left in the quarter.  By the end of the quarter, they had doubled this score on fast break baskets by Captain Molly Grimes and Malone.  Grimes would also hit a deep three at the end of the period, putting the Rebels up 14-7. 

    The story for the Rebs in the second quarter was hustle.  The Panthers simply couldn’t keep up with Walpole.  Behind Carty and Cullen, the Rebels offense took off due to many second chance opportunities.  Carty, Cullen, and Grimes all had offensive rebounds that were converted into points for the Rebels in the first three minutes of the quarter.  Nicholson showed her speed and explosiveness by taking off down the court for a layup on the fast break, energizing the Walpole faithful.  Holliston’s Vicky Sostilio provided much of the Holliston offense but spent most of her time on the bench due to foul trouble.  At the end of the second quarter, the Rebels led the Panthers with a score of 28-16. 

    The third quarter was a different story for both teams.  Holliston coach Kristen Hedrick must have said something at halftime that got her team fired up, because they played like a team on a mission in the third quarter.  The Walpole defense began to falter at times in the third.  The Panthers looked as though they wouldn’t miss for the rest of the night.  The Walpole offense kept the Rebels on top, but the once large lead, was now narrowing quickly.  Cullen battled down low with Sostilio, who tried to deny entry passes to Cullen.  She often succeeded at this, but when Cullen did get the ball, she could not be stopped.  Waite found her way to the free throw line frequently by slashing through the paint on her way to the basket.  Despite their solid offensive play, the Rebels still found their lead growing smaller and smaller with every possession.  After a timeout, the team seemed to get right back on track with a Grimes three pointer.  Nicholson then electrified the Walpole gym with a crossover that left a Holliston defender on the ground, on the way to an uncontested layup.  At the end of the third period, the Rebels lead 44-39.

     The fourth quarter proved to be a battle for the Rebels.  For those in attendance, it seemed to have a “who wants it more” vibe.  The quarter began with Holliston’s Maryalice McKenna burrying a fade away three pointer to bring the Panthers within two points.  Waite, once again responded, by hitting a three from the corner to put the Rebs up by five.  Fast break points from Grimes and Nicholson, along with clutch free throw shooting, gave the Rebels a more comfortable cushion later in the quarter.  A pair of jumpshots from Grimes gave the Rebels their biggest lead since the start of the third.  After two Holliston buckets, Malone converted a three point play, by finishing at the hoop despite a hard foul.  Christine Carty also showed this ability after being hit hard in the air on a layup.  At the end of the game, the Rebels were on top by a score of 69-53, a very impressive victory for the Rebels who will look to continue their run in the playoffs against powerhouse Oliver Ames.