BRAINTREE, Mass. -- On a team that prides itself on its size, it was 5-foot-9 guard Ashley Russell who came up the biggest for Braintree girls' basketball on Wednesday.
Leading her team with 17 points and nine rebounds, Russell pushed the host Wamps (9-0) to their first big win with a 54-31 besting of previously-undefeated Fontbonne Academy (7-1).
“A majority of our defensive (practice) is rebounding drills,” said Russell. "We usually try to help on the post and off our guard somewhere in the middle (on offense). When we are playing defense my player usually shoots it (and) when they do not have it I try to help off down low.”
Braintree, who struck first, lead the entire game and pulled away in the third quarter off 10 points from Russell.
Leading 20-13 at half, the sophomore guard followed up a 10 foot jumper with a steal and a counter lay-in to give Braintree its first double-digit margin up 24-13 after 1:26 in the second half.
“We talked about spacing on their zone,” said Braintree coach Kristen McDonnell. “We were sending girls to the same spot and it was where the defenders were. Look at the weak side and try to dump it in that way.”
The Wamps finished the Ducks with nine straight points starting after the first minute of the fourth quarter. Freshman Brianna Herlihy grabbed a two-on-one counter layup to start the run, while sophomore forward Molly Reagan put back a missed lay-in for a 45-27 advantage with 3:42 remaining.
“We definitely knew they were going to do a zone,” said McDonnell. "What we had devised was not as effective in the first half. We brought our whole team up so there was more room to work with in the back.”
Brianna Herlihy grabbed a throw-in under the basket and finished off the backboard for the first score at 6:57, while Russell stole the ball and forced a pair of free throw scores for an early 7-3 lead at 3:47 in the first quarter.
Two-Pronged Attack: A majority of the Ducks' scoring came from seniors Georgia Bourikas (16 points) and Bentley commit Jennifer Gemma (10 points, eight rebounds).
Bourikas caught and finished a pass under the basket from Gemma to cut the deficit to 11-9 at 4:05 in the second quarter, while a pair of back-rim three-pointers by Gemma temporarily settle Fontbonne with a 24-19 deficit at 5:20 in the third quarter.
Man vs. Zone: The two squads ran very different offensive and defensive fronts throughout.
The Ducks looked to slow the game by combining a 2-3 zone defense with long pass-heavy possessions on offense. The taller Wamps speed the tempo by working the boards on the attack and forcing turnovers off a man-to-man defense and an early game full-court press.
“We run a different type of game than them,” said McDonnell. “We wanted to press right away to get into out (fast) tempo and let them play to us. They run a really tough zone that makes us slow it down.”
Youth and Size: Though they certainly do not appear it on the court, the Division 1 South defending champs are a young team. The Wamps start three sophomores and a freshman, including six-foot-two Reagan and sisters Bridget and Brianna Herlihy (both near 6-foot).
Reagan had 10 points and eight rebounds, while Brianna tallied seven in both points and rebounds.
“We had to for the first time really this season adjust to what another team was doing,” said McDonnell.