(Lowell) There were seven lead changes.
The score was tied in all four quarters.
Rockland had two possessions after the final tie (44-44 with 1:28 left).
But it was St. Mary’s making the outcome-deciders thereafter to slip away with a 46-44 win in the Division 3 girls title game on Friday night at the Tsongas Arena.
Yirsy Queliz (17 points) gave the Spartans the lead with a jump shot over two defenders with twenty-four seconds left.
Then it was Kellyn Preira blocking the tying basket as time ran out for the Lady Dogs.
“What a heckuva game,” said Rockland coach Diane Mitchell afterwards. “It was an absolute battle. We didn’t come away with the win but no way was it from lack of effort.”
“Give Rockland credit,” said St. Mary’s coach Jeff Newhall post-game. “They were excellent. Emotionally, we were a little bit spent from the other night (against Bishop Fenwick). We had just enough, and Kellyn made a huge play at the end.”
In each of the first three quarters, high-scoring St. Mary’s looked ready to gain significant separation from Rockland (21-4). But persistent half-court defense and consistent rebounding by the Lady Dogs wouldn’t allow it.
“To hold that team to forty-six points was doing our job defensively,” said Coach Mitchell.
Down 15-8, Rockland rallied around baskets by Sydney Blaney, Maggie Elie (11 points), and Julia Elie to begin the second quarter even (15-15).
Behind 26-19 at the half, Maddy Hermenau and the two Elie sisters, generated points to even the score at 28-28.
After a drive and a free throw from Kellyn Preira (16 points) was followed by a three from Niya Morgen, Rockland trailed by six points but once again rallied into a tie (34-34) to start the 4th quarter.
Then the lead changes started, and the excitement built. Both teams and their active student sections had plenty of highs and lows the rest of the way.
No one play ever wins or loses a team game.
“She could have made the two free throws and we wouldn’t have had the problem at the end with my heart rate,” said Coach Newhall.
“We missed free throws and had turnovers before the final play,” added Coach Mitchell.
Coach Newhall: “Yirsy (Queliz) is a scholarship guard. I am grateful to have her for another year. She lives for basketball. She was our steadying presence all night on offense while everyone else was pretty much helter-skelter. She makes that (final) shot more often than not.”
Coach Mitchell: “Maggie (Elie) reached a new level in the tournament. She turned the page and realized that beyond bringing the ball up she could be a facilitator. She could take over. She could get to the hoop. She could get points and still get assists.”
Great setting at Tsongas. Great views and well managed. I was impressed with the lighting.
St. Mary’s 15 11 8 12 = 46
Rockland 13 6 14 11 = 44
(The pictures will enlarge.)