ANDOVER — The No. 13 seed English girls basketball team ran into a strong performance from No. 4 Andover, and the Bulldogs watched their season end with a 67-31 loss on the road Tuesday night in the first round of the Division 1 North state tournament.
“Andover’s a good team like I thought they were going to be,” English coach Mackenzie Charles said. “But did I think we were going to lose by 36? No. We didn’t bring it tonight. I kind of expected that a little bit because this is a really young group.
“I think this group got a little bit too satisfied with just getting into the tournament,” Charles added. “They needed to turn that corner and say, ‘I want to go win a game in the tournament.’ But that’s a part of the learning experience.”
Mashayla Johnson led the Bulldogs with nine points and hauled in two rebounds. Kylia Reynoso (seven points, four rebounds) and Alana Espinosa (four points, six rebounds) also contributed.
Despite the loss, Charles was happy to get some of his younger players time in a state tournament game.
“I still got a couple really positive things out of today,” Charles said. “I got a lot of really young girls into a state tournament game. Our freshmen this year got state tournament minutes. My juniors, their freshman year they won five games. I give a whole lot of credit to our juniors on where our program’s going.”
Gia Bramanti was a force for the Golden Warriors, leading all scorers with 19 points and hauling in seven rebounds and four steals.
Both teams came out of the gate playing tough defense, with Andover taking a slight 3-0 lead two minutes in. But a pair of Bulldog turnovers turned into two baskets for Bramanti that helped the Golden Warriors jump out to 9-0 lead. Another steal and a 3-pointer by Brooke Hardock helped Andover push their lead to 14-0.
English finally got on the board with less than one minute remaining in the first quarter when Alana Espinosa grabbed a rebound and scored. Johnson hit a 3-pointer on the Bulldogs’ next possession to cut the Andover lead to 14-5.
In the second quarter Andover took complete control. Bramanti hit back-to-back 3-pointers to open the floodgates for a 14-point Andover run. English broke the run when Reynoso hit a pair of free throws and Johnson added a basket a few possessions later. The Golden Warriors took a 36-9 lead into the half.
Johnson got the Bulldogs off on the right foot with a 3-pointer to open up the third quarter but once again English struggled to gain momentum. With 5:30 remaining in the third Bramanti hit a 3-pointer to give the Golden Warriors 43-12 lead and scored her 1,000th high school point.
Reynoso led the way in the fourth quarter with a pair of rebounds and five points in the fourth but it was far too late to make a dent in Andover’s lead.
“I’m happy for the season these young girls had,” Charles said. “I’m just mad that we don’t get to go back to the gym tomorrow and get better. That’s the only let down to me.”
Looking back on the Bulldogs’ 10-10 season, Charles has been pleased with how much his players have grown on the court.
“I think the word that describes this year is growth,” Charles said. “It’s been great to watch these kids grow from where we started to now. It’s funny our first scrimmage was in this gym and our last game was in this gym. To see these young girls grow is really special. I think that’s my passion in coaching is to be apart of young kids’ lives and help them grow and maximize their potential. These kids are taking the steps towards that. I’m really proud of them.
“I’m proud of our juniors for getting us to this step,” Charles added. “But now next year and going into this offseason we have to want more. And I think we’re heading in the right direction.”