Panthers’ comeback stymied, then a one-point nail-biter

Masuk Panther Alannah Tremalio passes the ball to a teammate in a game against Brookfield.

MONROE, CT — Trailing by 13 points early in the fourth quarter and down 11 with less than two minutes to play, Masuk High’s girls’ basketball team didn’t give up in a clash with visiting Brookfield on Thursday. In the end, the Bobcats held off the Masuk Panthers for a 45-42 win. Two nights later, visiting Bethel got past the Panthers in a tight battle, 34-33.

Masuk Coach Scott Corchard was pleased with his squad’s effort in both games.

Sophie Gustinis of Masuk battles two Brookfield defenders for possession of the basketball in a home game Thursday.

“We’re still building and working. They’re progressing very well,” Corchard said after the Brookfield game.

Masuk fell behind 16-7 before twice pulling to within two points, and trailed 21-17 at halftime.

In the third quarter, Masuk again got to within two on a Natalie Lieto basket and it was 23-21 with 5:35 to go in the stanza. The Bobcats took momentary control and led 35-24 heading to the fourth. It was 37-24 early in the final period before the Panthers chipped away.

A pair of baskets by Hannah Fagan sandwiched a baseline drive for two points by Sofia Lieto to bring Masuk to within seven. A free throw by Maia Ventresca got the deficit down to six at 37-31 with 5:17 to go.

Brookfield responded and went up 13 before a furious Masuk rally. Natalie Lieto scored on a layup and Sofia Lieto’s putback made it 44-35 with 1:37 remaining. The Panthers forced a turnover and Sofia Lieto cashed in with a 3-point play. It was 44-38 with 41 seconds left.

Masuk fouled; Brookfield couldn’t close things out at the foul line. Fagan’s putback made the score 44-40 with 20 seconds to go. After a Brookfield free throw, Fagan scored in close to make it a three-point game as the seconds ticked away, but Masuk ran out of time.

Masuk Panther Hannah Fagan races down the court in a home game against Brookfield Thursday.

“Defense was good. We made stops,” said Corchard, adding that the Panthers just needed to make a few more baskets in this one.

Fagan had 15 points, Natalie Lieto scored 11 points, Sofia Lieto had seven — all in the final quarter — and Ventresca had six.

Against Bethel, Fagan had nine points and Natalie Lieto scored eight. Sofia Lieto dropped in four, Ventresca scored five, Alanna Tremalio had three and Samantha Dube added two. Brooke Lacey had half of Bethel’s point total with a 17-point performance.

“Very happy with the effort; girls played really hard,” Corchard said.

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