BOSTON – When Oliver Ames took a one point lead over Watertown into the fourth quarter it looked like Tuesday’s Div. 2 girls baskebtall state semifinal would be a nail biter. The Raiders had other ideas, however, and celebrated the 48-34 win on the floor of the TD Garden.
Watertown survived a slow start when the Raiders missed some “bunnies,” as Head Coach Patrick Ferdinand described them. They also dealt with the loss of senior guard Nicole Lanzo, who hurt her knee just minutes into the game.
Losing a key player – who Ferdinand called the heart of the team – could have been a blow, but the team used it as inspiration, said senior guard Michaela Antonellis, who scored 11 points.
“Nicole is a huge contributor on this team is one of the hardest workers on this team,” Antonellis said. “Pat said this to us, that Nicole would give her leg to be out on that court. We really took that all to heart. We wanted to do it for her. We hope she will be back Saturday.”
The Raiders started slowly and fell behind by one point at the end of the first quarter. Senior forward Felicia Korte (11 points) said this is not the first time Watertown found itself in this position.
“It has been kind of a re-occurring theme. The first half we start off slow,” Korte said. “We may be a couple points down going in to halftime, then, we really pick it up and do what we need to do – making our shots. making our free throws, making that pass, rebounding.”
The second quarter was much more positive for Watertown. The Raiders outscored the Tigers 14-6 to take a 21-14 halftime lead.
In the third quarter, Oliver Ames showed why they were the South Section Champs. The Tigers outscored Watertown 19-11, including seven from junior Francesca Galabraro (who lead her team with 9 points). Oliver Ames led 33-32 at the end of the third.
Watertown junior center Shannon Murphy, who scored a game-high 20 points, expected a tough game from the Tigers.
“We knew from the beginning they were very good on the glass, very physical, making contact,” Murphy said. “The coach made it clear that whoever wins it on the glass was going to win it over all. It was a huge goal.”
In the fourth quarter, the Raiders’ defense clamped down and the offense kicked into high gear. Watertown made baskets, grabbed rebounds, blocked shots and made five free throws. Including a basket late in the third, Watertown finished the game on an 18-1 run.
Oliver Ames head coach Eliane Clement-Holbrook said her game plan was to stop the ball from getting to Murphy and senior guard Katelyn Rourke. Murphy, in particular, proved too much for the Tigers.
“She just dominated the glass,” Clement-Holbrook said. “We lost her and she created contact and made it to the line.”
Overall the Raiders went to the free throw line 30 times and made half of the shots.
“We gave them a lot of points by stopping the clock and allowing them to get back in it,” Clement-Holbrook said.
The Raiders had the game at the Garden on their minds since last year, Korte said.
“We had the added motivations. We went out at this stage last year and we wanted to make it further,” Korte said. “We had one of our starters go down with a knee. That and, for us seniors, this is our last chance to accomplish our goal of winning a state championship. We did it for the town, our supporters, everyone who has always been here for us – and for each other.”
Watertown will play Longmeadow in the Div. 2 state final on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. at Springfield College.