BOSTON –- Sometimes an ugly game can make for a pretty one.
Arlington Catholic and Duxbury combined to hit 23.8 percent of their 105 total shots, and combined for 28 turnovers. In the end, though, it was the Cougars' defense that shone brightest, powering AC to a 40-27 win and the Division 2 Eastern Mass. title. They will play Longmeadow on Saturday for the state title.
“I think when shots aren't falling and it's tough to make shots you just have to win defensively,” Arlington Catholic's Maura Buckley said. “At some point we just locked down on defense and it gave us the upper hand. We were able to transition and keep shooting.”
The Cougars suffocated Duxbury from the start, jumping out to an 11-2 lead after the first quarter. The Dragons were unable to score more than nine points in any quarter.
The Cougar defense allowed the offense some room to breathe when the shots weren't falling. Melissa Rogers benefited the most for AC. The senior point guard dropped in game highs in buckets (5) and points (17) to power AC.
“I noticed the big girls up top, and if I had the post come out I can just drive right by them and go around,” Rogers said. “My teammates worked together and helped me get to the basket just by pulling the big girl out of the game.”
The Dragons, who entered the game undefeated, were unable to muster an offensive rally. At half the AC lead was six and after the third quarter it was 12. The Cougars never stepped off the gas until the final horn.
“We knew that they didn't know what it felt like to lose,” Rogers said. “Once we got ahead we knew they're not going to do to get back up because they've never been in that position. So we just did our thing and kept pushing the ball and doing what we do best.”
The 40 points put up by the Cougars was their lowest scoring output of the tournament. Duxbury coach Robert Sullivan said he was pleased with his team's defense but that more could have been done.
“To hold them to 40 points was a credit to my ladies,” Sullivan said. “We did struggle offensively. Can't make any excuses for that. We've got to make shots, make our free throws, and to their credit the other team did.”
Big games call for big pressure situations. Unless you're Arlington Catholic's Demiana Fogarty.
The sophomore played nearly the entire game was tasked with marking Duxbury's frontcourt duo of Molly Quilty and Catherine Harrison. All she did was consistently break the Duxbury press and pull down a game-high 16 rebounds.
Her coach, Dave Brady, said he was amazed by her sense of calm on the court.
“She's so relaxed,” Brady said. “When she gets out there everything's tuned out. All year she's been breaking the press for us. She played against a lot of centers with a lot of names and she did such a great job. She might be a name now. She played against four or five scholarship players this year and held her own really well.”
Due to the abundance of rebounds, Fogarty was tasked with multiple rebound opportunities each possession. Amid the chaos, Fogarty also swatted four blocks.
“I just boxed them out, got physical,” Fogarty said. “They were really good so I give them all the credit in the world; they gave a good fight.
“It's tough but it's so worth it because as soon as you get you pass it out to your shooters and you're right back in the game.”
AGONY AND HOPE
After the handshakes and the postgame awards Harrison returned to the Duxbury bench with tears on her face and her head in her hands.
As she walked off the court a Duxbury parent applauded for her. Harrison didn't notice.
The junior played a solid game of basketball, scoring a team-high eight points, blocking two shots, and pulling down nine rebounds. She said the taste of the loss stung, but the season was sweet.
“I consider the team to be my second family and to be out there with my sisters is awesome,” Harrison said. “Obviously we wish the outcome was different, but it was so amazing to be this far and have this opportunity.
“We just couldn't hit a shot. Nothing just couldn't go right for us. It was tough because you want it so badly, but sometimes you have those nights when nothing falls for you.”
Harrison will return to a team that only graduates two players and returns the entire starting five.
“Going into next year when we have our returning five, obviously we're losing Haley [McLaughlin] and [Isabella McGoldrick] who are two really special girls, going into next year if we work hard we can get back here and hopefully even further.”