Norwell girls basketball beat Angola 55-48 in the Bellmont regional semifinal on Saturday morning to advance to the regional final for a second year in a row.
Angola ends its season with a 19-6 record and remains in search of its first regional title.
The teams were tied 10 after the first quarter and the Hornets actually outscored Norwell 23-16 in the final period, but Norwell got enough separation during the second and third quarters, outscoring Angola 29-15 during that stretch.
The first few minutes of the second half were particularly key for the Knights as they came out of halftime with a 26-18 lead and sophomore Skyla Tomasek and senior Kaylee Fuelling immediately hit back-to-back shots to stretch that advantage to 29-18. The lead would grow to 15 points and remain there for much of the third quarter.
"Just playing four quarters here at this level, obviously we have to be able to do that and I think our kids did that really well. To be able to extend the lead at halftime from six to double-digits was really critical when it came down to the end," Norwell coach Eric Thornton said.
Angola senior guard Hanna Knoll, who finishes her high school career as the program's leading scorer, made four straight shot attempts to open the fourth quarter, scoring eight points. Her teammates Lauren Leach, Kylie Casell and Megan Nisun all hit 3-pointers in the final period and even cut the Norwell lead to as few as four points. But the Knights hit nine of 12 free throw attempts down the stretch to hold onto the lead.
"That's wanting to be there in the moment and being confident," Thornton said. "I think we shoot a lot of free throws just like everyone else does, but I don't think it's just that. I don't think you can just put in the repetition. Those are pressure. Those are different free throws to make, and our kids wanted to be there and they knocked them down."
The Knights had an inauspicious start to the game, as they fell behind 5-0 as Knoll knocked down the first basket of the game and Leach followed up with a 3. Even worse, while down 7-2 Kaylee Fuelling came down awkwardly on her ankle and left the court in tears. She was out for the rest of the first quarter while a trainer taped up her foot, and she returned early in the second quarter. Her teammates cheered when she hit her first field goal of the game to give Norwell a 21-15 lead, and she finished the game with 12 points.
"Our kids stayed connected there during Kaylee's injury while she's getting ready to come back out. Kennedy (Fuelling) steps up and played so well, did not play like a freshman, and Grace Bradtmueller coming off the bench, too," Thornton said. "Our bench did a very, very solid job today. They played their roles well. And then Kaylee comes back and it's almost like a little boost – actually a big boost – when she comes back on the floor.
"I think our team has shown a lot of toughness since the start of the sectional, and I think we saw it again today."
Maiah Shelton led the Knights with 19 points and Mackinzie Toliver scored nine and had four key steals that tripped up the Hornets.
Knoll finished her career with a 19-point performance and Leach scored 12.