Boston High School: Sue Downer
LAWRENCE, Mass. -– In its first three games the Central Catholic girls basketball team averaged 69 points, but over the Raiders' previous four outings they were only able to average 46.3 points.
Sadly for Andover, the Raider offense found its groove again last night at Memorial Gymnasium.
Caitlin Dell'Orfano scored the game's first seven points as the Raiders rolled to a 75-37 win in MVC action. Dell'Orfano finished with a game-high 22 points, including four 3-pointers.
“We just wanted to definitely take it to them for the times they beat us and didn't stop, didn't let up,” Dell'Orfano said. “It feels good to be back.”
Dell'Orfano set the tone early, scoring 13 points on 5-6 shooting in the opening period, as the Raiders raced to a 23-9 lead and cruised the rest of the way.
Andover was able to out-rebound the Raiders in the early going, but the duo of Amanda Williams and Erica Hadad took over in the paint. They combined to pull down over a dozen rebounds and altered even more shots. Williams pumped in 14 points.
“They're pretty tough down low, tougher than most people think,” Dell'Orfano said. “Amanda is the player a lot of people underestimate most of the time. I know how good she can be; I full confidence she can be as good as she can.”
Central's rotations of guards wreaked havoc on Andover for all 32 minutes. When Dell'Orfano hit a cold spell over a large chunk of the third quarter, Courtney Walsh stepped up. The senior scored six points in the third and quietly netted 13 during the game.
“We all have confidence in each other,” Dell'Orfano said. “When one of us is down the others can pick it up. I knew at halftime [Walsh] hadn't really scored a lot and she usually does. Our gameplan was to get her involved, get her into it.”
The Raiders emptied the bench early in the fourth quarter and still finished the game on a 12-2 run over the final five minutes. Central coach Sue Downer said she was quite pleased with the performance of her club.
“Tonight was the first complete game we've honestly played all season,” Downer said. “It was good to see the kids and respond to the challenges that we gave them. It's good to come out make a bit of a statement tonight that we are a good team.”
Andover closed the gap to seven early in the third quarter, but the Raiders finished the frame on a 21-5 run. Alyssa Casey led Andover with 13 points, and Colleen Caveney added nine of her own.
Thirteen days ago the Raiders suffered their lone setback of the season, a physical 49-42 loss to Westford. However, Dell'Orfano said that her and the team used the loss as a motivation that has sparked their current five-game win streak.
“I think Westford was a turning point for us,” Dell'Orfano said. “We really had a reality check that we weren't going to win every game. We had to work a lot harder in practice and we pushed each other.”
With the schedule not getting any easier, Central has two games against Billerica over the next two weeks, Downer said that she liked being able to build success off of losses like the one against Westford.
“I'm a huge believe in losses make you a better team,” Downer said. “I think they realized they couldn't just walk on the court and beat these teams. We've got to do better.”
“They basically kicked our ass for three years and it's nice to finally beat them,” Westford coach Russ Coward said. “I'm thrilled that we played tough today, we played composed. We're just really happy we came away with the win today.”
No one was more composed than the duo Hannah Hackley and Samantha Hyslip. Westford's frontcourt tandem combined to score 25 points and pull down eight rebounds for the Grey Ghosts.
Hackley led all scorers with 13 points. Hyslip hit both of Westford's three-pointers.
“I think she played to her ability and even a little bit more,” Coward said of Hackley. “That's kind of what we've been hoping for her for a long time. I couldn't be happier right now.
“Sam's been working on her outside shot. They are both very good players down low. I think the two are finally starting to believe what we've told them: you're two of the better players in the state. You should start playing like them. They played great today.”
Westford's defense forced Central to shoot from the outside and the Raiders failed to convert on most of the looks Westford gave them. The Raiders shot six percent (1-17) from three-point range.
“Obviously I think that certain players of ours had trouble tonight,” Central coach Sue Downer said. “I think one of the things we are is a balanced team. We have the potential to have four, five, players score in double figures, and that's how we have to attack every game. That just didn't happen tonight.”
Courtney Walsh led the Raiders with 12 points while fellow captain Amanda Williams chipped in seven of her own. Caitlin Dell'Orfano had a sneaky good game, pumping in eight points while also pulled down a game-high seven rebounds.
After falling behind 16-5 in the final minute of the first quarter Central battled back to take a 23-22 lead into halftime. Westford tied the game at 29 four minutes into the second half and put some distance between themselves and Central with a 9-4 run to open up a five-point lead.
Central closed the gap down to less than three twice more before the Ghosts ended the game from the free throw line.
SENNOTT SISTERS SHINE IN THE GRIME
At a glance, twin sisters Cathryn and Rebecca Sennott didn't make much of an impression on the score sheet. Rebecca had six points and Cathryn had only a bucket in the first quarter. However, it was the Sennotts' ability to win in the ruck and muck of the paint that made them invaluable in Westford's win.
“When we need steals when we need tough defense [they do it],” Coward said. “Cathryn guarded three people. Rebecca played great, composed. This is what happens when you have four kids that have been playing on the team since they've been freshmen.”
The sisters combined for nine rebounds and Cathryn picked three steals.
“They're amazing; they're tenacious on defense,” Hackley said.
While the points were few they were big. Rebecca scored five of her six in the final quarter, including two free throws that helped seal the win.
WORCESTER, Mass. --- Senior forward Casey McLaughlin was in eighth grade in 2009 when Central Catholic defeated Shepherd Hill 67-62 to win the Division 1 state championship. After three straight years of watching Merrimack Valley Conference rival Andover hoist the state championship trophy McLaughlin and her Central Catholic teammates seized their opportunity on Saturday night at the DCU Center in Worcester.
The Stonehill-bound McLaughlin scored a game-high 27 points and pulled down 14 rebounds to lead Central Catholic (22-5) to the MIAA Division 1 state championship as they defeated Holy Name (23-3), 53-48.
“I wanted it so bad,” McLaughlin said after the game. “We all wanted it. None of us had been this far in the playoffs ever. This was my senior season and I just wanted to go out with a bang.”
McLaughlin, who never stops working on both ends of the court, found her angles to the basket as she repeatedly beat the Holy Name defense to the right and finished at the basket.
“She is so quick,” Holy Name head coach Barry Finneron said of McLaughlin. “She catches it and gives you that little head fake to the middle and then she is down the lane.”
Central Catholic jumped out to an early 17-8 lead after one quarter of play as the tandem of junior point guard Courtney Walsh (13 points) and McLaughlin accounted for 13 of Central’s 17 opening quarter points.
Holy Name, led by junior point guard Aryauna Perez (12 points), fought back in the second quarter as they cut the deficit to six and gained momentum with under 10 seconds remaining in the first half.
With less than 10 seconds on the clock Central Catholic junior guard Alex Nagri would come up with one of the biggest plays of the game. The 5-foot-2 Nagri stole the ball and found junior forward Amanda Williams (10 points, 10 rebounds) for a successful And-1 conversion with 6.7 seconds remaining in the half. The play helped shift the momentum and give Central Catholic a 31-22 lead at the half.
“I know that I am obviously short,” Nagri said. “They had some shot blockers and some big people so after the steal I saw Amanda and I knew my job was to get it to her and she did a great job of catching and scoring it.”
Holy Name junior center Brianna Frias (six points, 11 rebounds) came out of the half time break and showed why she is one of the top talents in the state as she was aggressive on the glass and sparked the Holy Name effort on the defensive end of the floor. The staunch defensive effort by the Naps would help cut the Central Catholic lead to six points at 42-36 heading into the fourth quarter.
Holy Name sophomore guard Gabrielle Guenther (11 points) nailed two big 3-pointers in the fourth quarter but Central would answer back as Walsh, McLaughlin and senior guard Darion Summers made big plays down the stretch to ensure the victory.
Summers scored her only two points of the game on two clutch free throws down the stretch to help seal the win.
“I don’t even know how to put it into words,” Central Catholic head coach Susan Downer said. “I am just so proud of them. They dug, made plays when we needed to, stuck to our game plan, we switched some things up in the third quarter, it is just amazing.”
Arms distance: As hard as Holy Name fought throughout the game they could never cut the Central lead to under five points. Each time the Naps would hit a big shot to shift the momentum Central would stay poised and answer back with a basket of their own.
“I think our transition play is the best part of our game,” Nagri said. “I think that we just stuck with our plan, got key defensive stops and pushed the ball in transition and that is what ended up helping us keep the lead.”
The future: It may not be too far fetched to think that we could see this match-up again in next year’s final. The future is very bright for both Central Catholic and Holy Name as each team graduates only three players from their current rosters.
Central graduates one of the state’s best forwards in McLaughlin, along with Summers and guard Allison Tierney. They return four starters in Walsh, Williams, Nagri, and guard Caitlin Dell’Orfano, who are all veteran juniors.
Holy Name also returns four of their starters in Frias, Perez, sophomore forward Lauren Willard and junior guard Ama Biney (11 points, four steals).
Holy Name graduates starting forward Malissa Saad (eight points, eight rebounds) along with center Megan Thornton (two blocks) and guard Eva Katana.
“Malissa Saad is just awesome,” Finneron added. “She just carried us at times and as a senior she played great for us, especially in the third quarter.”
BOSTON -– Central Catholic girls' basketball went right after early season state champion favorite Braintree tonight.
The Raiders (21-5) looked for quick counter attacks and a heavy in-the-paint assault to put a tall Wamps' squad in foul trouble. Central handed Braintree (24-3) its second straight Division 1 Eastern Mass. championship loss with a 55-51 win the at TD Garden.
The Raiders will play Central/West champ Holy Name (22-2) in Worcester's DCU Center on Saturday.
Central lead for the final 19:09 as it created turnovers out of its newly instituted 2-3 zone and forced 17 fouls from Braintree. Ahead only 51-49 with 1:19 left in the game, junior Courtney Walsh cut into the lane and underhanded a pass along the to junior Amanda Williams along the baseline for a layup to maintain control. Braintree's Ashley Russell got the throw in quickly to the opposite basket on the rebuttal and set up fellow sophomore Molly Reagan for a 53-51 layup with 51.8 seconds left.
The Wamps had one more chance to equalize, but Williams punched the ball out from behind on a cut by Braintree sophomore Bridget Herlihy as senior Casey McLaughlin settled it.
“(Coach) always yells at me for reaching in and it is always a foul,” said Williams. “She went by me before and I was not going to let it happen again.”
Walsh nailed a pair of foul shots to seal the win at 55-51. Walsh lead the Raiders with 19 points, while McLaughlin buried 18 points and grappled 13 rebounds.
Central was 17 of 22 from the line.
“Never as big as those,” said Walsh. “I just tell myself this is what you play for and just put them in. I had to do it for my team and I had to do it for myself.”
“If your going to get to these games the thing that is going to change the game is free throws,” added Braintree coach Kristen McDonnell.
Trailing by as much as 12 in the fourth quarter, Braintree switched its player alignments on the press and cut the margin to two within the final two minutes.
McLaughlin nailed a 10-foot floater and drew a point from the charity strike to give CC the 51-39 advantage. Scoring the next 10 points, Wamps' Herlihy ducked a defender in the paint and finish a short shot to start the run at 6:07.
Herlihy flicked a down-low pass to Reagan at 1:29 to bring the score to 51-49.
“We were forced to (change up the matchups), because of foul trouble,” said McDonnell. “We did not come out as hard on our man-to-man (and) we tried to pack it in within the three-point line. We tried to take our taller girl Molly (Reagan) off their big other big girl instead of in the middle.”
Tied 26-26 with 4:51 left in the first half, Central pulled ahead for good with a rebound and pair of one-and-one foul shots from Walsh. The Raiders outscored Braintree 11 to two in the next 4:37, including a three-pointer from Walsh assisted by junior Alexandra Nagri for a 37-28 lead early in the third quarter.
“We have never played a 2-3 zone,” said Downer. “We had one day to prepare yesterday. They adjusted (and) they jumped to the ball.”
On a team that boast two girls over six feet tall, 5-foot-9 Russell has been a ball hawk on the boards all season. Russell dropped 17 points and grabbed 15 rebounds, while Reagan scored 11 points and grabbed six rebounds.
The Wamps -- who lost 54-39 to three-time defending Division 1 state champ Andover last year at this stage -- will return nine players including its four highest scorers from tonight.
“(Russell) never gives up”, said McDonnell. “The second it leaves her hand she is going to get it again. I never thought we got in a rhythm in the first half.”
LAWRENCE, Mass. -– In a Merrimack Valley Conference showdown featuring two of the premier teams in the state, you knew it would come down to the end, and possibly the last possession.
That is exactly what happened as No. 6 Billerica (8-1) was able to sneak away with a win over No. 9 Central Catholic (7-2), 57-55 on the Raiders’ home court.
Central Catholic trailed 56-55 with 13.2 seconds remaining and the ball at half court. The Raiders got the ball to their leader, senior Casey McLaughlin, on the right block. But Indians center Joslyn King was up for the challenge, blocking McLaughlin’s shot attempt, giving her team a hard-earned win.
“I didn’t want to foul her, but I knew I needed to do something. So I figured I just needed to try and get a hand on the ball,” said King, one of the Indians’ five seniors.
King’s block was almost as dramatic as the possession prior down the other end of the court. Billerica had the ball under their own hoop trailing 55-54 with 17.2 seconds to play.
Although the play didn’t go as planned, the ball ended up in junior Shannon Hayes’ hands under the basket, and her lay-in gave the Indians their first lead of the game since early in the first quarter.
“The play was designed to go to (Brittany) Lamanno on the outside for a jump shot or if she could, get to the basket," Billerica coach Chris Doneski said. "Our second option was a dump down to our center Joslyn (King), but I’ll take it anyway we can get it.”
Billerica’s last lead before the basket was just over four minutes into the game at 6-4. The Indians battled back all game long, cutting the lead to one three times during the final quarter until Hayes’ hoop in the final seconds gave them the lead for good with Lonanno adding a free throw in the final seconds to seal the win.
“I thought they showed a lot of resiliently as we were down virtually the whole game,” Doneski said. “They kept fighting until we clawed it out there at the end.”
Despite being down virtually the entire game, King had an inkling her team would somehow pull out a win.
“In the back of my mind I thought we were going to win, but there was always a little doubt,” she said. “We played hard and came out with a win. That’s all that counts.”
The Raiders led 17-11 after the opening quarter, 33-25 at halftime and 43-40 entering the fourth, but finally poor rebounding caught up to them and too many second chance points allowed the Indians to climb back into the game.
“The bottom line is we gave up way too many second chances tonight,” said Central Catholic coach Sue Downer. “The boards absolutely killed us. You can’t do that. Those were some crucial points we gave up in the game. Those can’t happen.”
It was a balanced attack for the Indians as seven players recorded points. Leading the way was senior forward Danielle Nickerson, who finished with 15 points, followed by Hayes who had 13.
The matchup was a rematch of last year’s first round of the MIAA tournament where Central beat the Indians 63-57. Billerica wasn’t necessarily looking for revenge, as they just wanted to get a win.
“It’s great for us, I mean we had a great season last year,” Doneski said. “We weren’t thinking about payback, we were just thinking of going out there and getting a win against a good team. We’re tied for first place right now, so we knew how important it was to steal one on their home court.”
Downer and Central Catholic knew coming in it was going to be a hard fought battle.
“A lot of these girls play together and know each other so we knew it was going to be a battle,” she said. “It’s two good teams fighting. I’d like to think we’d play multiple times and my team would win multiple times, but it’s going to be a battle every time we play them. There were some things down the stretch we didn’t do well. We have to do better to learn how to win these games.”
Judging by how well both teams played Friday night, one shouldn’t rule out a similar outcome next time around.
MCLAUGHLIN LEADS CENTRAL
Senior captain Casey McLaughlin had a tremendous game for the Raiders despite the loss. She finished with a game-high 23 points, 10 coming in the final stanza. McLaughlin recorded all but nine of Central’s points in the second half.
“She’s very determined this season to do everything she can to win,” Downer said. “She is extremely upset in the locker room and she has every right to be. She is very emotional, and I cannot say enough how hard she works and the leadership she gives us every game. She wants to win so bad and we have to learn from these and figure out what we can do better.”
Junior guard Caitlin Dell’Ordano contributed 11 points (all in the first half) in the loss.
Although Joslyn King only finished with eight points, she battled all game long, going toe-to-toe with McLaughlin. She even took an elbow to the mouth early in the fourth quarter, forcing her to the bench until the bleeding stopped.
She didn’t sit for long as she was right back in the game, eventually blocking McLaughlin’s last second shot, sending her team home with a win.
"It was hard (going back in), but I knew my teammates needed me so I had to be in there,” she said.
This is King’s fourth year on varsity and her toughness is something her and the coaches have been working on since her freshman season.
“She started out on varsity as a freshman and the biggest thing for her is we tried to install a little more toughness in her and she really showed that tonight,” Doneski said. “She played really hard and got banged up pretty good there at the end, but she really helped us down the stretch.”
One of them is a left-handed, quick-triggered sniper.
So with his Andover girls basketball team knotted with rival Central Catholic late in the fourth quarter Friday, he drew up one of his more successful inbounds plays to free up southpaw sophomore Devon Caveney. Starting in the low block, Caveney waited for two screens to push down from the elbows, curled toward the top of key and took a pass without a Raider within five feet of her.
“She’s got a sweet stroke,” Tildsley marveled afterward. “I love lefties.”
Caveney nailed the 3-pointer, her second in less than a minute and fourth of the game, and Andover came up with one last stop with under 10 seconds to play to rally past Central Catholic, 53-52, in what so far is the Merrimack Valley Conference’s game of the season.
On a night when the Golden Warriors lived and died by the outside shot, Caveney couldn’t miss, scoring 22 points to keep Andover (8-0) atop ESPN Boston’s MIAA girls basketball rankings. Junior Nicole Boudreau shrugged off a cold shooting touch for 17 points, 10 rebounds and the game-sealing steal in the waning moments, and Natalie Gomez-Martinez added 11 points.
Andover needed every one. Central Catholic (6-2), ranked fifth by ESPN Boston, led by as many as 11 points early, four by halftime and seemed to have the Warriors at arm’s length throughout the fourth quarter before Caveney tied the game with a 3-pointer with 1:58 left to play.
The teams then traded turnovers -- Boudreau was called for a travel before the Raiders were tagged on a quick five-second violation -- setting up Caveney’s heroics. The 5-foot-8 guard hit four of Andover’s eight 3-pointers, using her size on the wing to find great looks throughout the game.
The Warriors’ first player off the bench as a freshman, Caveney has proven a fantastic complement to Boudreau and Gomez-Martinez this season, and when necessary, a star herself.
“I knew I had to score, so I needed to hit those tough shots,” Caveney said. “We struggled, but we pulled through. We got the win.”
Central Catholic didn’t, but “heartbreaking,” coach Susan Downer said, doesn’t necessarily mean disappointed.
Placing an emphasis inside after struggling down low in their 53-43 loss to Andover on Dec. 21, the Raiders thrived behind senior Melissa Miller’s 18 points and game-high 16 rebounds. Combined with emerging 6-foot sophomore Casey McLaughlin (13 points, six rebounds), the senior helped control the blocks, scooping in a variety of lay-ups and put-backs while keeping Andover’s drivers at bay.
In all, 44 of Central Catholic’s 52 points came inside the paint. Downer said Miller “played the best that I’ve seen her play yet as a high school player.”
“There were a lot of things in the end that we needed to do better and we didn’t,” said Downer, whose team committed 22 turnovers, the majority in the halfcourt. “But I’m proud of them. This is the best game we’ve played this season. I had three freshmen rotating in there. So there were a lot of positives out of this game.”
Momentum swayed throughout the night within Andover’s rumbling, jam-packed gymnasium. Down eight points to start the second quarter, Andover ripped off a 10-0 run to take its first lead. Central Catholic then closed the half on a 10-4 stretch to retake the advantage, only to see it switch hands five times in the third.
Miller’s lay-up with 2:10 to play staked the Raiders to a 3-point lead, which Caveney erased and then handed Andover with back-to-back 3-pointers.
“We know and I know she can stick the 3,” Downer said of the sophomore. “And that’s what dangerous about them. You cannot not play anybody. “
Miller hit another lay-up with 34 seconds left to slice it to one, and after Boudreau missed the front end of one-and-one, Central Catholic called timeout to set up its final play. But in a hectic sequence, Gabie Polce (12 points) pushed the ball over midcourt, only to have it stripped by Boudreau, who -- on her back -- passed upcourt to run out the clock.
Andover players rushed to the center of the court in a wild celebration that Tildsley chose to avoid.
“I’m exhausted,” he said with a smile afterward. “It doesn’t get better than this.”
We’ll see: The teams meet again Feb. 7 in Lawrence.
“One of our goals is to win the MVC championship, and we know to do it we have to beat Central,” Boudreau said. “It’s a key win, and it gives us a little bit of boost, a little more confidence.”