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St. Mary’s routs Hoosac Valley 74-36 to take Division 3 state title

Brianna Rudolph, Jennie Mucciarone, and Sharell Sanders with D3 state title trophy

Brianna Rudolph, Jennie Mucciarone, and Sharell Sanders with D3 state title trophy

(Worcester MA) Hoosac Valley’s plan was to use their speed, force turnovers and make three’s.

Those three had carried the Hurricanes to a 23-win season.

Then along came St. Mary’s in the Division 3 state finals on Saturday morning at the DCU Center in Worcester.

Brianna Rudolph, Sharell Sanders, and Jennie Mucciarone on the break

Brianna Rudolph, Sharell Sanders, and Jennie Mucciarone on the break

Nothing worked for the team from Cheshire and they were buried by the Spartans from Lynn, 74-36, ending a seventeen-game winning streak.

Brianna Rudolph starts to drive

Brianna Rudolph starts to drive

Before the game I had a chat with someone who hadn’t seen St. Mary’s play.  I told them that I doubted that Hoosac Valley had faced a player like Brianna Rudolph.  (I had seen Brianna carry St. Mary’s past Archbishop Williams, 47-45, in the D3 state semi-finals.)

It didn’t take Brianna (Division 1 UMass Lowell commit) long to prove my point.  The Spartans broke away from the Hurricanes in the first three minutes with Brianna (26 points) tallying eight straight – three layups and a jump shot.

That run in the first period gave St. Mary’s (24-2) their initial separation and there was no looking back.

Jen Gale eyes the hoop

Jen Gale eyes the hoop

The ‘Canes were able to stem the tide a couple of times but the lead kept growing.

The Spartans, winners of nine straight, had point runs of: eight, ten, thirteen, eight, and nine.

The only run that the Lady Canes from the Berkshire Country League put together was eight, late in the final quarter.  Three’s by freshman Kailynne Frederick and Maddie Ryan keyed those consecutive points.  Those were the only 3’s Hoosac Valley would get.

This game went from “still undecided” to “out-of-reach,” four minutes into the second half.  During a five minute stretch, starting with a minute left in the second quarter, St. Mary’s outscored the Lady Canes, 21-2, on their way to a 53-19 advantage with twelve minutes of playing time left.

Gianna Moschella (14 points) looks for a rebound along side #22 Maddie Ryan

Gianna Moschella (14 points) looks for a rebound along side #22 Maddie Ryan

Jennie Mucciarone had a layup and three assists in the big run.  Reserve Gianna Moschella added an old-fashioned three and two layups.

Softball has a mercy rule and I couldn’t help thinking that the need for those final twelve minutes to be played (with a team down 34) didn’t seem necessary.  But it was played and St. Mary’s won, 74-36.

It was obvious early on that HV was not going to be able to force the Spartans into turnovers that would lead to quick baskets.  Too many good passers and dribblers on the St. Mary’s team.

Unable to turn pressure into scores the Lady Canes fell back into a half-court defense that had no answers for the take-it-to-the-basket Spartans.

Senior Sharell Sanders ended up with thirteen points including eleven in the first half.  The terrific point guard will be playing for Division 2 Caldwell College (New Jersey) next season.

Sharell Sanders (13 points) finds a direct route to the basket

Sharell Sanders (13 points) finds a direct route to the basket

Another Spartans senior, Jennie Mucciarone sat out the second period with three fouls but was big in St. Mary’s pull away in the second half.  Jennie will play at Division 3 Tufts next season.

Brianna Rudolph (26 points) ended her Spartans career in wonderful fashion.  She was part of a man-to-man defense that had HV going east-to-west in the front court most of the game.  Brianna will be at UMass Lowell in the fall.

Sophomores Kayla Carter (10 points) and Gianna Moschella (14 points) would suggest that the well is far from dry at St. Mary’s.

Maddie Ryan paced Hoosac Valley with ten points.

There was never a lack of effort on HV’s part.  They finish 23-2.

St. Mary’s boxscore

Hoosac Valley’s boxscore

(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)

McKenzie Robinson

McKenzie Robinson

Spartans coach Jeff Newhall with Brianna Rudolph afterwards

Spartans coach Jeff Newhall with Brianna Rudolph afterwards

team picture afterwards

team picture afterwards

Fallon Field drives on Sophia Holmes

Fallon Field drives on Sophia Holmes

Sharell Sanders

Sharell Sanders

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Brianna Rudolph brilliant in St. Mary’s 47-45 win over Archbishop Williams – Hoosac Valley next in D3 title game

Sharell Sanders gets open in the lane for game winner after pass from Brianna Rudolph

Sharell Sanders gets open in the lane for game winner after pass from Brianna Rudolph

Jennie Mucciarone signals the win as Brianna Rudolph (31 points) dribbles out the clock.

Jennie Mucciarone signals the win as Brianna Rudolph (31 points) dribbles out the clock.

(Amesbury MA)  St. Mary’s 47, Archbishop Williams 45.

Quite a remarkable game.  I saw the end of it and took some pictures of the excitement.

Anyone who saw that game on Tuesday afternoon at the TD Garden will use two words to explain how St. Mary’s won: Brianna Rudolph.

The MIAA may have had Brianna’s name wrong in the program (“Nicole,”) but both teams were keenly aware of her.  I never saw a Spartans’ possession in the frontcourt where the ball wasn’t in her hands.  For the Archies, every Brianna free-throw attempt was an opportunity to swing into the Christmas spirit with a student-section rendition of “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”

Brianna Rudolph took thirty shots including this tough one in traffic

Brianna Rudolph took thirty shots including this tough one in traffic

The second-half numbers clearly reveal the impact Brianna had in getting St. Mary’s a Division 3 state semifinals win.  The Spartans’ senior was directly responsible for twenty-three of St. Mary’s twenty-seven second half points.  After Brianna reached nineteen points in the second half she then assisted on the tying basket (Kayla Carter) and the winning basket (Sharell Sanders) late in the game.

Brianna (UMass Lowell commit) did finish with thirty-one points but those last two assists were more important to the final score than any of the points.

The entire early run of stories about the St. Mary’s/Archbishop Williams game missed the significant point that Alana Gilmer was defending Brianna.

The last two games I saw the Archies play were in last year’s D3 state semifinals and finals.  Alana put up points but it was her defense that paved the way for AW wins over Pentucket and Lee.

Alana Gilmer had six blocks including this one on Brianna Rudolph

Alana Gilmer had six blocks including this one on Brianna Rudolph

Against Pentucket (state semifinals), 6-foot Alana limited Coley Viselli to three points.  Against Lee (state finals) Alana held Stephanie Young also to three points.  Both of those talented seniors were 1000-point scorers who had shot over and driven around many previous defenders.  But not Alana.  She is tall enough to make the 3-point shot less wide open and fast enough to keep contact on a drive.  She is very good at blocking shots and got Brianna several times.

Anyhow, my point in that this was no random defender on Brianna.  But she got thirty-one points.  How?  Speed and a quick jump shot off the dribble.

That jump shot allows a shorter player to be into the jump shot before the taller defender is set to block the attempt.  Brianna used that jump shot to get open several times against Alana who is four inches taller.

The Archies did a terrific job against the Spartans’ 1000-point scorer Jennie Mucciarone.  A very helpful stat sheet (Thank you, MIAA!) revealed that Jennie missed all fifteen shots she took.  There’s more to that story………at least ten of those shots were blocked!  AW had sixteen blocks.  The Archies were able to throw Jennie off her game the same way Alana had thrown Coley Viselli and Stephanie Young off their games the previous tournament season.

St. Mary’s last two baskets were very similar.  Brianna drove in from the left into a double-team.  Both times she had the good basketball sense to realize that teammates were open……..and they were open in close.  First it was sophomore Kayla Carter in the low key wide open, and then it was senior Sharell Sanders in the same spot for the eventual game-winner.  In both cases, Brianna’s passes turned into perfect setups.

Alana Gilmer (18 points) takes a last-minute shot defended by Kayla Carter and Sharell Sanders

Alana Gilmer (18 points) takes a last-minute shot defended by Kayla Carter and Sharell Sanders

Archbishop Williams had a timeout and twenty seconds to do something about STM’s two-point (47-45) lead.  I never doubted that Alana (18 points) would get the final shot.  She ended up with a contested (Kayla Carter & Sharell Sanders) jump shot along the baseline which rimmed out.  After a scramble, Kayla came up with the rebound and called a timeout with 2.3 seconds left.  After a timeout, the Spartans got the ball into Brianna’s hands to dribble out the clock.

The win earns St. Mary’s a trip to the DCU Center in Worcester on Saturday for a title game against Hoosac Valley at 10:45AM.

Hoosac Valley is from Cheshire which is in the northwest corner of Massachusetts about fifteen minutes from the New York and Vermont borders.

The Hurricanes are 23-1 and won their state semifinals game by two points over Bellingham.  HV lost that same game last year.

Brianna gets inside Alana for two

Brianna gets inside Alana for two

Their only loss?  To a team from Ohio (Austintown Fitch) in Florida during winter break.

In twenty-two of the Hurricanes’ wins they have won by more than ten points.

According to Hoosac’s coach (Ron Wojcik), Austintown Fitch was the, “only team able to handle our pressure and keep turnovers down.”

St. Mary’s had only six turnovers against Archbishop Williams.  Look for them to keep the ball in the hands of Sharell Sanders and Brianna Rudolph.

St. Mary’s won the state title in 2011 over Lee.

Halftime box

Full-game box

(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)

team picture

team picture

Leah Spencer (14 points) leads a break

Leah Spencer (14 points) leads a break

Alana Gilmer

Alana Gilmer

Brianna Rudolph shoots

Brianna Rudolph shoots

Jennie Mucciarone gets her shot blocked by two Archies

Jennie Mucciarone gets her shot blocked by two Archies

Sophomore Victoria Dean

Sophomore Victoria Dean

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St. Mary’s Takes the Division 3 Girls Title Defeating Lee 64-54

St. Mary’s Spartans (2010-11 Division Three State Champions)

Kirsten Ferrari (16 points including four late free throws)

(Worcester) St. Mary’s of Lynn captured the Division 3 girls crown on Saturday morning over Lee, 64-54, at the DCU Center.

Anyone who watched this game were impressed with the Spartans (24-4) as they shot and defended their way to a huge lead (60-38) after 27+ minutes.

Good thing because over the last 4+ minutes of the game Lee (24-2) rattled off eighteen straight points to close to 60-54 with twenty-seven seconds left.

After a timeout, the Spartans finished with four Kirsten Ferrari (16 points) free throws and a blocked shot by Tori Faieta on Stephanie Young (14 points) to capture the crown.

Lee had lost in February to the Spartans in Lynn by a 71-60 score.  In that one, Lee fell behind 27-4 after one quarter before rallying to make a game of it.

St. Mary’s had more than too much size for Lee.  They also knew how to take advantage of it.  Nineteen of St. Mary’s twenty-six baskets came on layups.  Many of them involved interaction between Cassi Amenta (16 points) and Tori Faieta (16 points).

The Spartans had an alarming twenty-seven turnovers but it was Lee that was bitten by the miscue bug early.  They committed four of their seven for the game in the first 4 ½ minutes and St. Mary’s jumped in front, 12-3.  All six Spartan baskets were layups with two each by Cassi and Tori and one each by Brianna Rudolph (11 points) and Kirsten Ferrari.

Cassi Amenta (16 points)

Tori Faieta (12 points and numerous blocks)

St. Mary’s ran seven straight (layups Cassi and Tori, jumper and free throw Brianna) to move ahead, 26-16, halfway into the second quarter.

A three by Kirsten and another layup by Tori and the Spartans were in command, 33-20, at the half.

St. Mary’s built the lead to 45-28, five minutes into the third period with five straight points with the familiar; Tori layup, Cassi layup, and Brianna free throw.

Eileen Dooley (seven points in Lee’s late-game rush)

Later, in the final quarter it was more of the same for the Spartans.  This time the segment was 10-2 as Ann Marie Idusuyi, Sharell Sanders, Cassi, and Brianna hit 2’s and Kirsten hit her second three of the game.  Eileen Dooley had the lone response for Lee.

We’re talking commanding lead (60-38) with 4:15 remaining.  But ten empty possessions with seven turnovers later, Lee was close but Kirsten’s four free throws prevented St. Mary’s from being on the wrong side of what might well have been the biggest collapse in state final history.

I saw Lee defeat Pentucket last year in the state final.  I went in underestimating Lee because I didn’t know their history.  I learned that their girls basketball program has won more state championships (seven) than any other school in the state in any sport, boys or girls.  They aren’t used to losing and they play that way.  That St. Mary’s could defeat them twice (in a season) is noteworthy.

Stephanie Young (14 points) defends Cassi Amenta (#5).

If Lee was looking for an excuse they could have referred to Alex Young being on the bench wearing one of those fearsome knee braces.  She didn’t play, and apparently hasn’t played most of the season.  Last year she had twenty points in the championship win over Pentucket.  At 5’10” she might have offered some answers to Cassi and Tori.

Tori had at least five blocks (by my count) on Stephanie Young (14 points).  She should shine at Stonehill next season.

The Spartans shot a sizzling 26-for-44 (59%).  A great inside game will do that for you.

If Lee is searching for a stat that did them in here’s one: they were 0-for-14 on 3-pointers.  Hit a couple of those and things would have been even more interesting in their late-game rush.

(I collect my own stats and take my own pictures.  Any mistakes are unintentional.)

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St. Mary’s Holds On to Edge Pentucket Girls 62-60 in D3 North Semi-Finals

St. Mary’s celebrates their semi-final win over Pentucket.

(Wilmington)  The Pentucket girls took an excruciating exit in the Division 3 North semi-finals coming up just short in a 62-60 loss to St. Mary’s of Lynn on Wednesday night at Wilmington High School.

Kirsten Ferrari – 13 points

Cassi Amenta – key rebound and free throw in last minute

This was the third straight year that these two teams have met in the D3 North semis and the first time that the Spartans were successful.  They now move on to the Tsongas Center on Saturday where they will play the winner of the Stoneham/Ipswich game being played at Wilmington on Thursday night.

This game was tied (47-47) with five minutes left and you just knew it would be a close finish.  Actually St. Mary’s scored the next four points (layups by Cassi Amenta and Tori Faieta) and never trailed thereafter although the Sachems were a made shot away from overtime or a regulation win.

With the pressure mounting, Coley Viselli hit a three from the top of the key with forty seconds left and suddenly Pentucket was within one (57-56).

Tori Faieta (#32) hit two last-minute free throws

Tori Faieta followed with two free throws while Sarah Higgins made one and we had a two-point game (59-57) with twenty-nine seconds left.

Pentucket then gave the quick foul to freshman Sharell Sanders.  When Sharell missed, teammate Cassi Amenta got the rebound, got fouled and drained two free throws in what may have been the biggest sequence of this game, giving the Spartans a four-point cushion (61-57) with twenty-five seconds left.

Those free throws became real important when Coley Viselli hit yet another three, this time from the left corner to make it a one-point game again (61-60) with fourteen seconds left.

The Sachems followed with another quick foul and sent Kirsten Ferrari to the line.  Because Pentucket was over the limit she had two free throws.  She missed the first and made the second and so it was 62-60 with nine seconds left.

Coley Viselli (18 points) heads for the corner for this game’s last shot.

You knew the last shot would be Coley from somewhere.  She dribbled into the left-hand corner with Kirsten Ferrari guarding her and took what looked like a 2-pointer to me that wasn’t close to going in and the game ended in the scramble for the rebound.

The key for the Spartans was having experienced seniors (Kirsten Ferrari, Cassi Amenta, Tori Faieta) step up down the stretch.  Cassi’s offensive rebound of a missed free throw followed by two made free throws couldn’t have come at a better time for St. Mary’s.

Pentucket (20-5) now knows what St. Mary’s felt like the past two years when their season ended in the semi-finals.  With the nucleus Pentucket returns next season you’d like to believe that they could well be back in another D3 North semi-finals next season with more experienced players.

The Sachems had a classic good/bad first half.  In the first quarter they collected twenty-three points (23-16 lead) on ten-for-eighteen shooting with no turnovers.  In the second quarter, the same team scored only THREE points making just one-of-fourteen shots and turning the ball over seven times.

There is no way to explain how such a thing happens but I do know that it left Pentucket trailing, 29-26, at halftime.

St. Mary’s still had the three-point lead (41-38) after three quarters.

An early layup by Sarah Higgins (assist to Alex Moore) put Pentucket within one before consecutive three’s from Kirsten Ferrari and Sharell Sanders gave the edge to the Spartans, 47-40, 1 ½ minutes into the final quarter.

The Sachems rallied with seven straight (47-47) – Vanessa Cahill layup from Sarah Higgins, a 3-pointer by Coley Viselli off the backboard, and a Tess Noguiera layup.

This set the stage for the final five minutes which ended with the Spartans celebrating a trip to the D3 North finals.

The Spartans (21-4) had four players in double figures – Kirsten Ferrari (13), Tori Faieta (12), Sharell Sanders (11) and Brianna Rudolph (10).

sophomore Tess Nogueira (13 points) shoots over Cassi Amenta and Tori Faieta

Pentucket was led by Coley Viselli (18), including eleven in the final quarter, Sarah Higgins (14) and Tess Noguiera (13).

This makes two tough basketball losses in two days for Pentucket.  The boys bowed out to Newburyport on Tuesday night.  Ironically, in both games bad second quarters had a bearing on the losses.

( I collect my own stats and take my own pictures.  I draw my own conclusions.  Mistakes happen……..unintentionally.)

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