BOSTON -– The biggest of games sometimes call for the biggest performances.
With fellow seniors Jennie Mucciarone (0 points) and Sharell Sanders (8 points) struggling offensively, Brianna Rudolph took things into her own hands scoring a game-high 31 points and pulling down 11 rebounds in St. Mary’s 47-45 win over Archbishop Williams in the MIAA Division 3 EMass. Final at TD Garden.
“The team that plays here every night (Celtics) would probably like to have a player that could score 31,” St. Mary’s coach Jeff Newhall said. “She’s the MVP of our league. She’s a special player and it appears she wasn’t going to be denied in this game anyway.”
The Spartans were taken out of their offensive rhythm for the majority of the game primarily because of Archies’ long arms making it very tough to get shots off –- finishing with 16 blocks. But, Rudolph would not be sent home as she recorded eight of the Spartans’ 11 field goals in the second half, but it was the last two of the game in which she didn’t score that proved most important.
With the score knotted at 43 with 1:30 left, Rudolph drove to the basket and found sophomore Kayla Carter for a jumper inside the paint putting St. Mary’s up two. Then, with the game tied again at 45 and 25 seconds remaining she drove to the hoop and found Sanders for an easy two, proving to be the game-winning basket.
“We talked in the last time out, when they were sending two players from the weak side to stop Brianna, you have to go to the paint. If you’re not covered you need to go to a spot where you’re going to hit a shot,” Newhall said. “I think our last two hoops Kayla cut into the paint, Brianna passed it to her and the shot went in. Then, the last hoop Sharrell’s player went into the paint to stop the ball and Sharell cut into the paint and hit it off the glass.”
Junior Alana Gilmer led Archies with 18 points and went back-and-forth with Rudolph for much of the second half, with the two guarding each other on multiple possessions providing quite the show.
“It’s very fun, we talk trash. It’s like that every time we play,” Rudolph said. “I have to give it to her she’s a good player. They are tough, strong.”
Senior Leah Spencer had a solid game for Archies finishing with 14 points, including a jumper with 45 seconds left tying the score at 45 at the time.
Archies had a shot at tying the game in the final seconds, but a Gilmer jumper from the right baseline rimmed out with Carter diving for the loose ball and calling timeout with 2.6 seconds left clinching the win for the Spartans.
“We had her set a back screen and pop out, then clear out and let her go one-on-one. I think the ball was halfway down. We could’ve gone overtime, it would’ve been fun to go overtime,” Archies coach Jim Bancroft said.
The two teams play in the Catholic Central Large division and played twice in the regular season, both winning at the opponents gym setting up Tuesday’s rubber match for the EMass crown.
“When St. Mary’s came to our gym they blew us out. When we went to their gym we blew them out,” Bancroft said. “We’re two good teams, I didn’t expect a blow out. I expected a tight game like this that could’ve gone either way. I have to be satisfied with the way the kids played, it could’ve very easily been our win.”
A KNACK FOR THE BIG PLAY
Mucciarone will finish her career at St. Mary’s as the schools second-leading scorer, but had an offensive game she’d like to forget. Despite the offensive struggle, she still found a way to make the big play albeit not on the offensive end.
With the score tied and just over two minutes showing on the clock the senior guard stepped in front of Spencer drawing a charge, putting all the momentum on the Spartans side.
“Jennie had the worst game of her career offensively, I don’t think she had a point. She’s a scorer and sometimes when scorers are not scoring they go off and pout a little bit. I’m not saying she does, but when there was 2:17 left on the clock and a tie game, she takes a charge. For us, the biggest defense play of the game,” Newhall said.
Rudolph also took notice of the big defense play and momentum swing.
“It’s tough, Jennie did struggle in the game, but I thought the momentum shift in the game was when she took that charge and went the other way,” she said. “For you to stay in the game is tough when you’re having a tough shooting night and scoring. She stayed in it defensively and rebounded well (nine rebounds).”
ENDING THE WAY YOU STARTED
The three St. Mary’s seniors won a state title when they were freshman besting Coyle & Cassidy in a three-point game at TD Garden and then topping Lee by 10 in the state final.
Having the three seniors this season has been a major reason for the success and a trip back to the DCU Center.
“You win with seniors there is no question about it,” said Newhall.
St. Mary’s will take on Hoosac Saturday at the DCU Center for the state title and end the seniors’ careers the exact same way they started.