WILLIAMSTOWN - With a big prize - a trip to the state tournament - on the line, nothing comes easy.
Leading 43-39 entering the fourth quarter, fourth-ranked Williamstown made sure, though, that it was headed to Charleston next week, kicking its potent running game into high gear to outscore No. 10 Madonna, 29-14, in the final quarter to notch a 72-53 Class A, Region One victory Wednesday night and earn the Yellowjackets girls' their first state-tourney berth in eight years.
Williamstown (20-4) is expected to open play in the state tournament at either 9:30 a.m. or 1 p.m. next Thursday, while Madonna concluded its season at 17-8.
Yellowjackets senior Liz Flowers led all scorers with 26 points, 16 in the second half, while teammate Kenzie Smith added 22 points, including sparking Williamstown's fourth-quarter surge to victory with 17.
"Regional games are maybe the toughest games to get through to go to the (state) tournament," veteran Williamstown coach Fred Sauro said.
"Our kids had some nerves early because they knew what was at stake, but in the long run, they showed their class and especially their guts at the end."
Williamstown overcame its pre-game jitters after the Blue Dons went up 3-0 to zoom out to a 10-5 lead. But it took a Courtney Taylor basket at the first-quarter buzzer to lift the Jackets into a 16-9 advantage.
By the 5:04 mark of the second quarter, Williamstown had stretched its lead to 13 at 25-12. But Madonna, behind Lisa Parkins with five points and Nicollette Sellitti with eight, including two treys - the second with six-tenths of a second left on the clock - rallied to close the the gap to just four, 31-27, at the half.
After a third-quarter 12-12 standoff, the Jackets ''put the pedal to the medal'' on offense to tally 10 of the initial 12 points of the final period - four each by Flowers and Smith - to push out to a 12-point, 53-41, lead, and didn't let their foot off the gas, increasing the spread to as much as 21, 72-51, on a Smith 3-ball with 1:14 remaining.
Brooke Cieslewski netted nine points for Williamstown while Sellitti paced Madonna with 19, followed three eight-point scorers - Parkins, Isabella Anile and Sara Lyons.
"We were focused, but all nervous when we came out to start the game and it showed," said Flowers, Williamstown's all-time career basketball scoring leader. "I think, though, we were more excited than anything. But the second half, we calmed down and collected ourselves. In the fourth quarter, we weren't going to back down - we came out with heart and just ran 'em."