Boston High School: Hannah Hackley

Recap: No. 9 Westford 58, No. 21 A-B 46

January, 24, 2014
WESTFORD, Mass. -- Most Dual County League basketball games will not win any awards for their beauty, and Friday’s matchup between No. 9 Westford Academy and No. 21 Acton-Boxborough was no different.

Rebounding and post play were the keys in the game as Westford came away with a 58-46 victory. The win gives them sole possession of first place in the DCL Large.

“I’ve seen them play a few times and they are tough, they’re gritty,” said Westford (10-1) coach Russ Coward. “Honestly, they shot the ball a little better than I thought they would. They’re very good, they’ve improved a lot, and they’re going to be tough to beat when we play again.”

Neither team shot the ball particularly well from the outside for a majority of the game. A-B (8-3) air-balled its first three 3-point attempts of the game, sending them far over the basket. A-B had a difficult time getting anything started offensively until sophomore Tyler Keohan (15 points) hit three three-pointers later in the first half to keep the game close. Westford lead 26-20 at halftime.

The Grey Ghosts switched to a 3-2 defense to try and combat the open looks A-B was getting, and also to try and keep it out of the lane for any second-chance opportunities.

“I think the 3-2 was an adjustment that I didn’t expect,” said Acton-Boxborough coach Tim Basset. “I didn’t expect any 3-2 out of them, they haven’t shown that against us in the past. Russ is a good coach and he made a good adjustment, but I thought the kids adjusted to it well and started scoring to get them out of it later in the game.”

On one A-B possession, Westford tried to set up its full court trapping press defense, but the visiting team solved it quickly. From then on, the game was back to a half court game. In the end, the young A-B squad could not keep up with the senior-laden Grey Ghosts.

“Twice a year we play Westford, and we always expect a hard fought, physical game with good defense on both sides,” said Basset. “This group of seniors they have, it seems like they’ve been playing for 12 years here. We knew coming in it was going to be a hard fought game. They get after it on defense and are really tough on the glass so we knew we were going to have to play well and work hard. I’m happy with the effort and the way the kids played. This is definitely not a demoralizing loss by any stretch.”

Hyslip finishes strong: Early in the second half, Hannah Hackley (12 points, five rebounds) picked up her third foul and Coward took her out of the game. As a result, most of the Westford offense started running through Sam Hyslip. She had a quiet first half with only six points, but was fed the ball early and often in the post. Acton-Boxborough had no answer for her and she finished with 18 points and five rebounds.

Her physicality and effectiveness in the post was a key reason why Westford was able to build a comfortable lead in the second half.

“I thought in the halfcourt that our kids played very well,” said Basset. “I thought we kept them to tough shots and defended very well, but it was second-chance points. Whether it be offensive rebounds, second, third chance or loose balls on the floor. I swear they must have gotten to 90 percent of the 50-50 balls and in the end, I think that’s what the difference was. They got to loose balls and dominated the glass, so I think there’s your 12 points.”

Hyslip scored her 1,000th varsity point Tuesday in a win over Bedford. Her play Friday showed why she has been so proficient over her high school career. She fulfilled her roll scoring in the post when she was one-on-one while her co-captain, Hackley, was on the bench.

“Hannah is an excellent shooter and when she goes out, I think we look inside a little bit more,” said Coward. “Some other players stepped up tonight, so I think Acton kind of spread their defense out a little bit, and we recognize when Sam is guarded one-on-one we like to get her the ball as much as possible.”

Hitting stretch run of DCL race: Coming into the game Friday, both teams were tied atop the Dual County League Large standings with 3-0 conference records. The two teams will meet again on Feb. 13 and both are expecting another physical, hard-nosed game with the highly-coveted league title hanging in the balance.

Coward is not looking that far ahead though, knowing there are a more imminent tough games on the schedule.

“We’re going to be away at Newton South and we’re going to be away at Acton-Boxborough and both are going to be very tough games,” he said. “If we’re focused and really clamp down on defense, I don’t think we’ll win by double digits, but if you win by two or you win by 10, it doesn’t really matter.

"Those are the games right now we’re thinking about as far as the DCL. Our home court has been very good to us, it’s been a long time since we’ve lost here. I think the last time we lost a home DCL game, Hannah and Sam were freshmen (three years ago). We want to be focused and take care of our home court, and then go out and take care of business on the road.”

Basset is looking forward to getting another crack at Westford, but this time it will be on his team’s home court. He was happy with his team’s effort and resiliency Friday night and is looking forward to facing the challenge again next month.

“A lot of the DCL Large games that we have had have been on the road and we were able to go 3-1,” he said. “So now, the second time around, we get everybody at home. If we can hold serve on our home court, then knock on wood, we can set up a showdown later in the year. I don’t really want them to focus on that though, we have a lot of games between now and then. I’m confident the kids won’t let this effect them. They’re going to come back and be ready to work and we’ll get after it again next week.”

Recap: No. 5 Westford 70, No. 23 Newton South 54

January, 10, 2014
WESTFORD, Mass. -- The No. 5 Westford Academy girls’ basketball team proved Friday night it is often the less glamorous aspects of the game that can be the biggest different between victory and defeat.

Behind a strong defensive effort and a willingness to attack the glass at both ends of the floor, it came away with a 70-54 victory over No. 23 Newton South.

Seniors Hannah Hackley (20 points) and Sam Hyslip (19 points) combined for 28 rebounds, which was more than the 21 the entire Newton South (3-3) team amassed in the game. Westford (6-0) as a team finished with 43 total boards.

“Rebounding to me is like scoring to any other player,” said Hyslip. “I don't focus on points, I focus on rebounds. If I’m not rebounding than I’m not having a good game. Hannah probably has a similar mentality. We both just know we’re the ones who need to be low and have our hands up and we always have to get those boards because they’re key. How else are you going to switch from defense to offense or go back up on an offensive board, so I really think we have that mentality down.”

Defensively, Westford made it a point to stop Newton South’s Emily Chang and Jessa Rubera. Chang was on last year’s South team that made a deep run in the state tournament as a 17-seed. She tore her ACL in last year’s semifinal loss and is now sporting a brace on her knee. She showed no effects of the injury Friday night, scoring 16 points including a 3-pointer that was well behind the line.

Rubera finished the game with 21 points, 12 which came from three.

Late in the second quarter, Newton South cut the deficit to 29-28. It took advantage of Westford’s long-range misses to push its offense up the floor and create easy baskets. It tried to work the ball into the post, but with the defense keying in on Sam Hyslip, the most available shots were from the outside. With all the momentum seemingly with South, it became a point in the game where a team’s character was on display. Would Westford tighten up and let South take the lead? Would Westford go back to what was working and assert itself on the backboards? Westford was able to push back and go into halftime with a 38-30 lead.

“People know that Sam is very good, so they’re doing a great job of double-teaming her and sending help over every time she gets the ball,” said Westford coach Russ Coward. “What we sometimes forget is there is a nice mid-range shot there at the top of the free throw line that is wide open because teams try to take away the three and they try to take away the layup down low with Sam. What we talked about at halftime was get Sam up a little higher and have our guards and Hannah try to attack the middle of the lane, which for most teams is going to be soft. When we started attacking that are, I think it opened up a lot of stuff for everybody.”

South was able to get the lead Westford lead back down to four points in the third quarter off its timely three-point shooting. However, it could never overcome the deficit.

Entrapment: In the first quarter, Westford amped up its defensive pressure with a 1-2-1-1 full court press. It let South inbound the ball in the corners, and then two players quickly converged on the ball handler. South wanted to break the press by inbounding the ball to the middle of the floor and then passing it to the wing and having its wing players work the ball up the floor, but the Grey Ghosts did their best to take that option away and force the ball to go to the corners.

As the South players tried to pass out of the double team, the defenders would often slap the ball away or a help defender would be around to steal possession away.

Over the course of the game, South found ways to get the ball to its bigs, which allowed it to execute its press break the way it intended to. That forced Westford out of its system and into less pressure-based defenses.

“We’re so used to attacking and sometimes we don’t play as smart as we need to on defense,” said Coward. “When they’re passing the ball to their big kids, we don’t need to trap their big kids, we need to keep it away from Jessa Rubera and Emily Chang. We don’t want them with the ball, we want the big kids with the ball and try to steal the pass from them.”

Wakeup call: Two weeks ago, Westford beat, defending Division 1 State Champion Central Catholic in the finals of the Commonwealth Motors Classic. That win helped build the confidence of the team and set the course for the last two months of the regular season. However, after the game Friday, Coward said he felt his team might have came into the game “thinking we were probably a little better than we actually are, and it was nice to get smacked and kind of get a wakeup call here.”

Hackley acknowledged the importance of the Central win as a building block early in the season, but also agreed with her coach that the team was not where it could have been mentally coming into the game.

“We try not to take any games easy and we work really hard in practice,” she said. “We keep saying, even after we beat Central, ‘This isn’t the end, this is only the fourth game of the season. We have a lot more goals to reach.’ We didn’t come into the game not focused, but I think not as sharp as we needed to.

"We definitely learned from this, and I think it’s important to see and to have that confidence that even though we were able to get out of a close game, that should not happen because as we get into the playoffs it is not going to be easy to climb out of holes like that.”

Comm. Classic: No. 7 Westford 49, No. 6 Central 42

December, 29, 2013
NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. -- It was a game of runs and in the end it was Westford's 7-2 run over the final four minutes that sealed the Grey Ghosts 49-42 win over Central Catholic and win the Commonwealth Motors Christmas Classic at Merrimack College. It was Westford's first ever appearance in the tournament.

“They basically kicked our ass for three years and it's nice to finally beat them,” Westford coach Russ Coward said. “I'm thrilled that we played tough today, we played composed. We're just really happy we came away with the win today.”

No one was more composed than the duo Hannah Hackley and Samantha Hyslip. Westford's frontcourt tandem combined to score 25 points and pull down eight rebounds for the Grey Ghosts.

Hackley led all scorers with 13 points. Hyslip hit both of Westford's three-pointers.

“I think she played to her ability and even a little bit more,” Coward said of Hackley. “That's kind of what we've been hoping for her for a long time. I couldn't be happier right now.

“Sam's been working on her outside shot. They are both very good players down low. I think the two are finally starting to believe what we've told them: you're two of the better players in the state. You should start playing like them. They played great today.”

Westford's defense forced Central to shoot from the outside and the Raiders failed to convert on most of the looks Westford gave them. The Raiders shot six percent (1-17) from three-point range.

“Obviously I think that certain players of ours had trouble tonight,” Central coach Sue Downer said. “I think one of the things we are is a balanced team. We have the potential to have four, five, players score in double figures, and that's how we have to attack every game. That just didn't happen tonight.”

Courtney Walsh led the Raiders with 12 points while fellow captain Amanda Williams chipped in seven of her own. Caitlin Dell'Orfano had a sneaky good game, pumping in eight points while also pulled down a game-high seven rebounds.

After falling behind 16-5 in the final minute of the first quarter Central battled back to take a 23-22 lead into halftime. Westford tied the game at 29 four minutes into the second half and put some distance between themselves and Central with a 9-4 run to open up a five-point lead.

Central closed the gap down to less than three twice more before the Ghosts ended the game from the free throw line.

At a glance, twin sisters Cathryn and Rebecca Sennott didn't make much of an impression on the score sheet. Rebecca had six points and Cathryn had only a bucket in the first quarter. However, it was the Sennotts' ability to win in the ruck and muck of the paint that made them invaluable in Westford's win.

“When we need steals when we need tough defense [they do it],” Coward said. “Cathryn guarded three people. Rebecca played great, composed. This is what happens when you have four kids that have been playing on the team since they've been freshmen.”

The sisters combined for nine rebounds and Cathryn picked three steals.

“They're amazing; they're tenacious on defense,” Hackley said.

While the points were few they were big. Rebecca scored five of her six in the final quarter, including two free throws that helped seal the win.