By Christopher Smith
NORTH ANDOVER — Nikki Karalis missed the easy shots but knocked down the difficult ones against Gloucester in the Division 2 North first round yesterday.
The North Andover senior swished two 3-pointers in the fourth quarter.
Her second trifecta gave her team the lead for good with 2 minutes, 53 seconds left in the game as the No. 6 seeded Scarlet Knights prevailed, 50-48.
Karalis' go-ahead 3-pointer came 31 seconds after she made a nice steal, sped down the court but then missed a layup that would have put her team ahead by four points.
"I was going so fast ... and then it just clanked," she joked about her missed breakaway.
"Honestly, I just shot (the 3s) and was thinking to myself, 'This is going to go in,' " she added. "With the layups I was just rushing more. With the 3s, I was like, 'We need these.' "
Karalis' second 3 gave North Andover a 47-44 lead. The Scarlet Knights increased their lead to 49-44 on a pair of free throws by Amanda Foote with 1:28 remaining.
But Gloucester cut its deficit to 49-48 with 31.7 seconds left and then put a strong full court pressure.
Katie Moroney was then fouled when the Scarlet Knights finally were able to get the ball past midcourt with 15.5 seconds left. She missed her first free throw attempt.
"I was freaking out at the foul line," said Moroney. "I was also just thinking in my head, 'Relax. You've taken a million free throws. You take 10 minimum every practice.' I think missing the first one honestly helped me because I was like, 'OK, I can do this. I got the miss out of me and now I'm going to make this one.' "
Moroney did make her second three throw, putting North Andover ahead 50-48.
The Knights then put some strong pressure on Gloucester, not letting ballhandler Olivia Lufkin drive in like she had been.
Lufkin scored a game-high 20 points, many of which came when she drove in toward the basket for layups.
"It finally clicked with 15 seconds left," Moroney joked. "We were like, 'Hmmm, we need to stop this girl.' "
Lufkin got off a shot under pressure and it clanked off the rim and fell into Moroney's grasp as the buzzer sounded.
"We didn't play very well," Moroney said. "There's a lot of mistakes that we can work on."
Karalis added: "It was a weird game. It was up and down but obviously it was exciting to win."
Karalis scored 10 points and made four steals.
"I thought Nikki played a great game," North Andover coach Sue Breen said. "I thought her defense was excellent. And she came up with some big steals."
Four players scored 10 points each for North Andover. They were Karalis, Foote, Erika Zahoruiko and freshman Morgan Lumb.
North Andover 50, Gloucester 48
Division 2 North First Round
Gloucester (48): Knowlton 4-0-8, Lufkin 9-2-20, Cain 4-0-8, Keefe 1-0-2, Unis 4-1-9, Saputo 0-1-1. Totals: 20-4-48
North Andover (50): Foote 1-8-10, Moroney 2-3-7, Karalis 4-0-10, Zahoruiko 2-6-10, Medlock 0-1-1, Lumb 4-0-10, Enright 1-0-2. Totals: 14-18-50
3-pointers: NA — Lumb 2, Karalis 2
Gloucester (11-10):13âÇ10âÇ13âÇ12 — 48
North Andover (15-6):14âÇ13âÇâÇ9âÇ14 — 50
Next game: At Arlington Catholic on Feb. 25 at 7 p.m.