The Scituate High girls not only locked up a perfect regular season Monday with their pulsating 57-51 win over once-beaten Braintree, erasing a 15-point second-half deficit, they also made a point.
The Sailors realized that a win over a quality Division 1 foe was important going into the postseason, even at 20-0.
“I think that was something we needed to prove,’’ said junior point guard Kelly Martin. “Everyone’s been saying that we haven’t proven ourselves until we played a good team, and we got the win, so it was huge.’’
Nearly a year ago, the Sailors, in a very similar situation, erased a 13-point deficit in the Division 2 South sectional final against Hopkinton. Martin tied the game at 50 with 15.6 seconds left, but Hopkinton’s Tess Chandler kissed a layup off the glass with only seconds remaining to send the Hillers to the state semifinals at TD Garden.
“It’s definitely a sore spot for all of us,’’ said senior forward Megan Otto, a 1,000-point career scorer who is lined up to play at Babson College next season. “Down big in that game and similar to this one, we just couldn’t battle back enough.’’
It was a devastating loss for a Scituate team that had gone 17-2 in the regular season; the defeat also served as a motivating factor this season.
Monday’s comeback showcased the Sailors’ strength, but also their resilience.
“For us to play in this situation, I think was a direct result from last season where we performed well in the state tournament when we got to UMass Boston,’’ said coach Brian Buckley.
With Martin (averaging 14 points, 6 assists per game), Otto (15 points, 7 rebounds per game), and senior center Shannon Brady (14 points, 8.5 rebounds) playing lead roles, the Sailors are determined to make a run at reaching the TD Garden.
“We all just want it really bad,’’ said Otto. “I think a lot of us know if it doesn’t happen this year, it might not ever happen.’’
Scituate will be the top seed in Division 2 South when the tournament taps off this week.
There are a few other storylines to follow over the next few weeks:
Many contenders in Division 3
With the likes of Wareham (20-0), Norwell (17-2), Rockland (18-2), Cardinal Spellman (16-5), Norton (15-5), Old Rochester Regional (14-6), and Bishop Feehan (14-4), the road to the Garden is loaded with contenders among boys’ squads in the Division 3 South sectional.
“I don’t know if there’s any sectional as competitive,’’ said Rockland High’s coach, Fred Damon. “There are seven or eight teams that are pretty legitimate. It’s going to be a tough, tough haul.’’
Rockland has been great at both ends of the floor, limiting foes to 46 points per game while its top three offensive threats - Matt Nicholson, Ricky Witt, and Tyler Gibson - have teamed up for 45 per game.
But Damon said he remembers how last year ended for the Bulldogs, and won’t be caught off guard again.
“Do not underestimate the teams here,’’ he said. “It could be a Canton team or a Dedham team from the Bay State. It’s just tough competition through and through. In other divisions you’ll see 20- or 25-point wins because of teams with superior talent. That’s not the case in our division. Last year as the four seed we played Dedham at our place, and they had a losing record. We lost by one point. You always see games like that in D3 South.’’
Randolph girls are back for more
Last season, the Randolph High girls’ team made its first tournament appearance in over a decade. Facing a veteran Medway team in Division 3 South, and some postseason jitters, the Blue Devils were knocked out in the preliminary round, 77-44.
A year removed from the always-demanding Patriot League, the Blue Devils are back with an 18-2 record, and a high seed.
“Our girls are confident,’’ said Randolph coach Rick Beach. “They’ve worked hard, put in many hours of game preparation. They’ve done a lot of good stuff’’ this season.
Senior Dominique Montrond (19 points per game), the only returning starter, has been backed up by a pair of impact freshmen: Jessica Nichols-LaRosa (15 points per game) and Chayla Louro (10).
“I don’t think a lot of teams have seen us play, which is good,’’ said Beach.
Mansfield is lurking in Division 1
As the defending Division 1 South champion, the Mansfield High boys’ team has been wearing a bull’s-eye the entire season despite graduating six seniors.
A season after going 24-3 and falling to eventual champion St. John’s Prep in the state semifinals, the Hornets sit at 14-7, good for second in the Hockomock League’s Kelley-Rex Division.
The Hornets have received stellar play from senior Brian Hershman and his sophomore sibling Michael, both averaging 11 points per game and both league all-stars.
“We’re a battle-tested team; the thing I like about being 14-7 is I think that it is our true record,’’ said Mansfield coach Mike Vaughan, citing tough nonleague games against Brockton and Cardinal Spellman. “If we run into a team that is 17-3 who isn’t a true 17-3, we can give anyone a run.’’
Don’t look past the girls from Sharon
With a 10-10 record, it’s easy to overlook the Sharon girls in Division 2.
But the same was said of last year’s 10-10 team, which entered the postseason bracket as a 14 seed and scored a convincing 57-38 win over Boston’s O’Bryant School.
“I’m cautiously optimistic,’’ coach Kate Horsmann said of her young team. “We’re happy we’re there, but we’re not satisfied just to be in.’’
The Eagles starting five includes three sophomores, and no girl is taller than 5-foot-8. Other than three games, however, Sharon has not lost a contest by more than seven points. In four of those games, Sharon was tied for the lead heading into the last minute. A few more better-executed plays, Horsmann said, and Sharon could be 12-8.
Sophomore Karlie O’Driscoll, a natural guard who is averaging 13 points and 11 rebounds per game for the Eagles, has been consistent all season. As the team’s tallest player, she has been asked to play in the post.
“She’s playing against bigger, older kids every night and she’s just doing a great job for us,’’ said Horsmann.
Horsmann understands her team is not the tourney favorite, but she also knows other teams do not want to face the Eagles.
“Honestly I don’t think anyone wants to play us,’’ said Horsmann. “We shoot really, really well. We’re small but we’re scrappy. We have four 3-point shooters who are really good shooters on the floor all the time. The girls never give up. We’re small and we’re fast. We’re going to give somebody a good game.’’