WORCESTER -- They were the last team seeded in. Fittingly, they are the last team standing.
Millis 48 Ayer Shirley 34
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 on 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 on Tuesday afternoon.
Ayer Shirley's season came to a close at 15-6. Halie Young and Taylor Wright led all Panther scorers with a team-high seven points, while Tina Babcock added five.
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A 14-4 second-quarter run was the difference in this one for Millis, which finished the regular season 10-10.
"We knew that at some point, their press was going to come," said Ayer Shirley head coach Pete Page, noting the 11 times his team 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 -- took over.
"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."
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 fiddled and diddled before drawing the hack as she put it up and in. She added the harm to give the Mohawks a 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's 16th turnover of the game and eighth of the second quarter to put the Mohawks up 23-13.
Ayer's Gabrielle Hebert ended the six-and-a-half minute scoreless skid by hitting a pair from the charity stripe, before 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 in the first half.