BROCKTON, Mass. -- Newton North led by as many as 19 points in the first half, but had to hold off a late rally to pull out a 58-45 victory over Brockton in the Division 1 South sectional semifinal on Monday night at Massasoit Community College.
Holy Cross-bound senior guard Infiniti Thomas-Waheed had the line of the night with game highs of 22 points -- including nine in the third quarter, as the Tigers held off the Brockton comeback -- and 24 rebounds.
“For me, it was just whatever I could do to help us win and if it was rebounding than it was rebounding,” said Thomas-Waheed following the win. “In the end, if you’re playing a scrappy team then it is going to come down to who’s willing to work and who’s willing to sacrifice their bodies.”
Discipline was the word of choice for both the star guard and Newton North coach Linda Martindale when talking about what was needed in the second half as the Boxers imposed their style of play on the game.
“We knew that they were scrappy and athletic and we knew that our team had a high basketball I.Q. and we needed to be smart,” said Martindale. “I think we dropped back and let them set the tone for the game and all of a sudden we realized that if this is going to be a run down the court and shoot the ball up kind of game [and] we’re going to have to cross our fingers and hope for the best.”
She added, “We trusted our offense and our work ethic and our discipline and I think that was the difference in the game.”
As the game entered the second quarter, it did not appear that discipline was going to be needed for the Tigers, who scored 20 consecutive points and built a 22-3 lead. Senior Maddie Bledsoe had seven points in that stretch and Thomas-Waheed added four points, including an impressive block on a Brockton shooter that she gathered for a fast break layup.
The Boxers slowly crawled back into the game and were able to cut the lead to 14 by halftime. In the third, junior Geornaisha Silva-Moore heated up with nine of her 12 points and freshman Jalani Jackson scored six of her team-high 16 to cut the lead down to seven before a Thomas-waheed layup made it 39-30 heading into the fourth.
“I think the nerves got to them and this atmosphere,” said Brockton coach April Dingwell about the slow start for the Boxers. “We told them that we were so proud of them that they didn’t hang their heads and quit because that 20-0 run that is kind of difficult.”
In the fourth quarter, Newton North settled down and started to get back into playing its game rather than the frenetic pace that Brockton prefers.
“Coach kept telling us to be disciplined and that was going to win the game and to just box out and to play hard,” said Thomas-Waheed. “With them being scrappy, it motivated us to be disciplined and to be the exact opposite because we knew that if we played their game than it would be a really close game."
With both point guards, Sayawni Lassiter (six points, six rebounds) and Amanda Ortiz, in foul trouble, the Tigers turned to experienced players like Bledsoe to provide the leadership on the ball needed to stem the Brockton tide. Martindale moved Bledsoe from the high post to be on the ball more and she scored 10 of her 19 points in the quarter and added nine rebounds.
“She’s so calm under pressure,” said Martindale. “She was able to control the pace of the game when we needed her to.”
Senior Tatiana Dias scored six points in the fourth and Jackson added seven for Brockton, including a three from several feet behind the arc, but the Boxers could not get any closer than nine.
The victory sets up a third meeting with top seed and Bay State Conference rival Braintree on Saturday at UMass Boston in the sectional final. This is the furthest that Thomas-Waheed has been in her four years and she admits that last year’s early exit was the push the team needed to take this step.
“We’ve worked hard this whole season and making it this far is amazing,” she explained. “I think that was our motivation for this year. We weren’t letting that happen again and we added so much talent that weren’t going to let it go to waste.”
Martindale is also relishing the chance to lock horns with the Wamps for the third time this year.
She remarked, “They are so effective and they are so methodical -- we are the opposite. I say it’s beauty versus brawn and we’re going to be the beauty because when we play together and we play disciplined we have this sweetness with which these kids can play -- it’s going to be a beautiful game. And I think beauty will come out on top...I hope.”