BOSTON -- One thing became obvious about the No. 7 Archbishop Williams girls basketball team in their Div. 3 South Sectionals finals win over No. 9 Ashland, 59-42, at the Clark Center on the campus of UMass-Boston on Saturday morning:
Adversity makes them better.
After losing in the finals the last two seasons, the Bishops used their experience for motivation this season.
“We thought a lot about our losses this year and losing last year at UMass,” said Williams sophomore Alana Gilmer. “We worked so hard this year; we needed to get this win.”
No one made sure more than Gilmer that the Bishops would punch their ticket to an EMass. final game against North Sectional champion Pentucket (24-1) on Tuesday at 4:45 at TD Garden.
The 6-0 forward tallied a game-high 21 points while pulling down eight rebounds, to go with her four assists, four steals and two blocks in the win for the Bishops (21-5).
"That's why I love her,” said senior captain Sara Ryan. “This was one of her best games, but you expect the most out of Alana. I think she's one of the greatest players in the state."
Added Williams coach Jim Bancroft: "She plays like that consistently. Maybe not quite those stats but always something pretty close. She's been impressive every game this year."
She was especially impressive in the second quarter, where she connected for 11 points, outscoring the Clockers by herself.
Even with Gilmer’s pre-halftime surge, the Bishops only took a 28-22 halftime lead.
"We knew we had to clean up our half court defense," said Bancroft. "We were giving them too many good looks, too many opportunities and too many easy cuts to the basket. At halftime, we knew if could tighten that up and rebound a little better we'd have a chance to run away with it."
Archbishop Williams certainly did that in the third quarter.
After Ashland (17-7) got a 3-pointer on its first possession from Megan Ianiro, the Bishops turned up their intensity and rattled of the next 18 points.
By the end of the quarter, Archbishop Williams led, 47-27, and from there they cruised to the easy win.
"We just didn't want to let up because we knew how important this game was,” said Gilmer. “We wanted to keep pushing all game."
Williams also got strong games from Ryan (8 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, three blocks), Jaylen Williams (6 points, 8 rebound, 3 blocks) and Leah Spencer (7 points, 3 assists).
CLOCKERS STRIKE THREE
Archbishop Williams may have run away with this one before halftime if not for the sharp-shooting of senior Ilyza Holman.
The 5-foot-4 guard knocked down a 3-pointer from NBA range as the first quarter expired, giving Ashland a 13-10 lead after one.
She recreated the act from nearly the same exact spot – just above the wing in front of Williams’ bench – as the shot clock expired with 1:49 to go in the first half. That bucket pulled the Clockers within two points, and they tied the game on the next possession on a pair of free throws from freshman Samantha Leone.
“The truth of it is, she’s been doing that all year,” said Ashland coach Jon Kirby. “We had a great first half. If we could’ve got a few foul calls or hit those same shots in the third to kind of stem their tide, we could have hung in there longer and maybe competed down the stretch."
She added a another two threes in the second half and finished with a team-high 15 points in the final game of her high school career.