NEW BOSTON — Going out with a right bang is always nice.
And if that goal was indeed the case in a Saturday afternoon contest against Rock Hill, the fans in attendance for the New Boston Tigers’ girls basketball program’s Senior Day had to be thinking job well done.
New Boston seniors Kaylee Stone, Mariah Buckley, and Ali Hamilton all reached double-figures in a 51-point first half, while Sammy Oiler knocked down three consecutive triples in the fourth quarter to join the trio in that category as the Lady Tigers led for all but the opening two minutes of a nonconference battle against the Redwomen in the final regular season game for New Boston.
For Kayla Wiley, there couldn’t be a better way to send off each of the five seniors who have meant so much to this program — Buckley, Hamilton, Stone, Peyton Helphenstine, and Bri Humble — especially considering how they played.
“I thought that all five of our seniors did really well tonight,” Wiley said. “Bri did really well rebounding, and Ali did really well down low as well. Kaylee came out on fire, so that helped us offensively, Peyton did a great job being an all-around presence, and Mariah had some good drives and distributed the ball really well.”
Initially, Maddie Scott and Rock Hill posed a couple of issues for New Boston as Scott scored each of the game’s first three points en route to establishing an early 3-0 advantage while holding the Lady Tigers scoreless over the game’s first two minutes. But while Scott continued to star throughout the game en route to a game-high 31 points, New Boston’s balanced team effort quickly took control and won out the rest of the way.
Behind the play of Stone, Buckley, and Hamilton, the trio ultimately led New Boston on a blistering 17-0 run that completely changed the complexion of the affair as all three players combined for all 17 points during the spurt. Stone, especially, was feeling the touch from deep, as the senior nailed three treys in the opening quarter of action en route to establishing a 28-14 lead for New Boston at the end of the first quarter. Stone ultimately scored 10 of her 19 points in the opening frame.
“Last year, Kaylee was shooting the ball really well,” Wiley said. “This year — at the beginning of the season — her shooting was a little slow to get going. I don’t know what it was, but she’s starting to hit a lot of shots here in the second half of the year. That’s good for us with tournament time approaching.”
New Boston, however, wasn’t done. After nailing four treys as a team in the first quarter, the Lady Tigers combined for three more triples in the second quarter of action as another long-range connection from Stone, in addition to shots from Buckley and Oiler, allowed New Boston to build its advantage. The trio’s shooting from deep, along with six points apiece from Hamilton and Humble down low, allowed the Lady Tigers to ultimately outscore the Redwomen 23-8 in the second frame en route to taking a 51-22 halftime lead.
“It shows the work that they’ve put in during the years that they’ve been here,” Wiley said of the seniors and their contributions during the contest. “They’re experienced and they’ve all made their teammates better in different ways. Bri and Peyton, this year, have really made a difference in all of their teammates’ lives, and Kaylee, Ali, and Mariah have made a difference with all of the teammates that they have had throughout their careers. It means a lot having five seniors that you can put out there and trust that they’re going to leave everything they have into what they do.”
With the game well in hand, contributions from the bench were sure to come — and, behind the form of Oiler and Taylen Hickman, the bench did just that. Hickman provided solid rebounding and scored a basket inside to give New Boston its largest lead of the third quarter, while Oiler — who nailed three straight treys from the left side — and Adrianne Shultz nailed four treys in the final frame as New Boston built as much as an 81-46 lead before cruising to victory.
“Our bench usually comes off and gives us energy,” Wiley said. “Taylen brings energy to our team. Every time she gets out there on the court, we get a boost of energy and confidence. Then, down the stretch, Sammy started hitting (shots) for us.”
With the victory, New Boston finished the regular season with a strong 17-4 overall mark. The Lady Tigers will begin their postseason journey on Saturday when the Lady Tigers play the winner of a Division IV Sectional Semifinal between Paint Valley and Whiteoak — which will occur on Wednesday evening — on Saturday afternoon at Northwest at 1 p.m.
But the thought after the game wasn’t about the tournament journey. In fact, it was about celebrating the careers of the very seniors who many hold near and dear to their hearts.
“They’re good teammates and good players, but they’re awesome people,” Wiley said. “That’s the most satisfying part, knowing that they’re going to go out in the world, do something, and change other people’s lives as well.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @KColleyPDT