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Nipmuc Girls Hoops Take Aim at Playoff Run

The Nipmuc girls basketball team has pivoted their suffocating defense into a turnaround that has the Warriors believing they can run the table and earn a spot in the district tournament.
"We have to win the next four games to qualify for the playoffs and they are really determined to do so," first year head coach Missy Rhodes said. "There is no quit in these girls, so it's going to be an exciting couple of weeks."
Some might have counted Nipmuc out after a 1-7 start to the season, but a five-game winning streak has helped get the team back to 6-9 and within striking distance of a .500 record.
"The girls stepped up and fought hard and got some much-deserved wins over that stretch," Rhodes said. "Winning five in a row is really helpful for where we are sitting now."
Rhodes said the defense has been the key to the run. Nipmuc allowed just 31 points per game during the run. They held three teams under 30, including a 23-point defensive effort against Blackstone Valley Tech.
"Our defense has been outstanding," Rhodes said. "We hold teams to pretty low numbers when we play well on D and the rebounding as also been huge. If we beat a team on the offensive and defensive boards, we do well. Rebounding and team defense is working well for us right now."
Sparking the rebounding effort are junior Kylie Gallagher and senior Hannah Barrows, both of whom regularly pull down double-digit boards. Gallagher is the team's top scorer, and her 13 points per game ranks second in the Dual Valley League. She scored 25 points in a 49-33 win over Hopedale, nearly out-scoring the entire Blue Raiders team on her own. Barrows averages eight points per game, as does fellow senior Taylor Leacy. 
"Between the three of them, we usually get enough scoring," Rhodes said.
The head coach also noted how well her team has been sharing the ball, something she attributes to the backcourt made up of freshman Ashley Ambrosino and senior Elizabeth Hilton. Hilton is one of six seniors on the Nipmuc squad, joining Leacy, Barrows, Meg McElreath, Grace Merten and Amanda St. Germain. Rhodes said the group is not ready to have its season come to an end before the playoffs and the rest of the team is equally determined to make sure that doesn't happen. While three of the final four games — beginning Friday with Whitinsville Christian — are on the road, Nipmuc has already played all four teams and beaten three of them.
"We think its doable and getting into the playoffs would mean a lot," Rhodes said. "We have six seniors and all of them are leaders on this team. The younger players look up to them and they are not ready for their season to end. Collectively, the underclassmen and I want this for our seniors."




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