BOSTON -- Nicole Boudreau's eyes lit up as she stared down her defender and paced the floor.
Working around the perimeter, the senior stepped forward, eased back again, and followed through just gracing the net for three. The next play Boudreau called for the ball again, and with one quick release nailed another planted 3-pointer to drive her team ahead for good, on the way to a 54-39 win over Braintree (24-1) in Division I state semifinals.
It had taken a simple blocked layup to light a fire in Boudreau in the final minutes at TD Garden yesterday, but two-time defending champs do not let little defeats go unnoticed.
“I just want to win,” said a grinning Boudreau. “When you're down, you have to step up, and my teammates trust me. I am a competitor.”
Andover (26-0) will have a chance to defend its state title when it plays tomorrow night's winner of the Division 1 Central/West semifinal between Wachusett (18-3) and Holyoke (21-2), at the DCU Center in Worcester on Saturday.
After trailing most of the first three periods, the Golden Warriors came out swinging in the final quarter and never looked back. A lay-in by sophomore Rebecca Alois off a bounce pass from Boudreau to open the period gave the Merrimack Valley champs a 35-34 lead they would never squander.
After assisting a pair to put her team ahead 39-36 at 5:30, the Boston College signee nailed a pair of treys with four minutes left to pull her team ahead by by nine as the Golden Warriors rolled to victory.
“We told each other we did not want this to be our last game,” said Boudreau. “We started to make some shots. When it comes down to it, I know I need to try to make plays for my team.”
Entering the game with a starting lineup that included three freshman, Braintree attacked the boards early to score the first six points and exit the first period up 13-7.
However, Andover senior Ally Fazio responded by draining a pair behind-the-arc to even the game early in the second. A fade-away finger roll by Boudreau put the Golden Warriors up 20-17 a couple minutes later.
“(Braintree) did a good job on the wings and just played their two big kids in the paint,” said Andover head coach Jim Tildsley. “They had a great press breaker and made some pretty good passes. (Boudreau) is probably one of the best ever to come out of here and she proved it tonight.”
With Braintree scoring off lobbed counters to freshman Molly Reagan (10 points), the teams stayed within one score throughout the third period. A three-point play off a boxed-out layin in from senior Paige Marshall sent the Wamps into the final period up 34-33.
“Everything we do is contact and physical,” said Braintree coach Kristen McDonnell. “(Paige) did shut (Boudreau) down. The only time she got some looks was coming off some screens.”