Clutch Free Throws Preserve St. Mary’s 53-50 Victory Over Coyle and Cassidy in State Semis

Cassi Amenta (nineteen points including four straight free throws in the last seventeen seconds.)

St. Mary’s celebrates their state semi-final win.

(Boston) St. Mary’s of Lynn reached the state D3 finals but it wasn’t easy at the TD Garden for them last night.  The Spartan girls led from beginning to end but there were numerous times when the perpetually rallying Coyle and Cassidy squad had the ball and were within a made basket of tying the game or getting a lead.

St. Mary’s (23-4) won 53-50 and will advance to Saturday’s championship game in the DCU Center in Worcester.

Cassi Amenta (19 points) turned out to be the late-game star for St. Mary’s by surrounding a Brenna Gonsalves three (the talented senior had 25 points) with two free throws before and after, in the last seventeen seconds of this crowd pleaser.  The second pair gave the Spartans a three-point cushion (53-50) with 3.8 seconds remaining and left little time for Brenna to get close enough for a last-second, backcourt heave that had much of a chance.

Brenna Gonsalves (twenty-five points including thirteen in the last quarter)

When Brenna’s shot fell short, the Warriors (22-3) could only look back and wonder if things would have been different if they’d been the ones starting fast.

The Spartans turned the ball over the first three times they had it (25 turnovers in the game) but then put up points in their next five possessions to get ahead, 9-2, after 3 ½ minutes.  St. Mary’s showed in this run that their size was going to be trouble for Coyle as 6-2 Tori Faieta (11 points) and 5-11 Cassi Amenta had two inside scores.

The Warriors rallied back to contention, as they did all night, and trailed 22-19 at halftime.

The Spartans had yet another fast start in the second half putting a 9-3 segment in place.  Freshman Jennie Mucciarone notched St. Mary’s only three during a run that gave them a 31-22 edge after three minutes.

St. Mary’s still was in command at the quarter’s end, 37-29, and 2 ½ minutes into the 4th quarter, 40-33.  But then the Warriors, led by Brenna Gonsalves and Missy Perry (13 points), began put up points and force the Spartans into a turnover-strewn final five minutes.

I overheard St. Mary’s coach Jeff Newhall say afterwards that his team shouldn’t have had trouble against the press but in front of a large crowd it sometimes feels like there are 3,000 defenders on the other team.

The Spartans had seven of their miscues during the last five minutes.  Two of those backcourt turnovers led to Brenna layups and a score, after the first (40-37), and the second (45-42), with three minutes left.  However, this was a game in which St. Mary’s always had a response to keep them in the lead.

Good thing, because the challenges from Coyle to their lead kept coming.

The most dangerous late-game challenge to St. Mary’s was when Brenna took the rebound of a missed free throw and dribbled the length of the court for a basket with twenty-seven seconds left, closing the gap to, 49-47.

After a timeout, Brianna Rudolph (10 points) was fouled but missed both free throws.  The Warriors had time (twenty-four seconds) but a traveling violation forced Coyle to foul and set up Cassi Amenta for her free throw shooting heroics.

(I collect my own stats, although the TD Garden boxscore helped, take my own pictures and draw my own conclusions.  Mistakes are sometimes made for which I apologize for in advance.)

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