In the eyes of Brian Buckley, it was the greatest high school girls’ basketball game ever played at TD Garden. And his Scituate High squad lost, suffering an excruciating 71-64 overtime defeat to eventual Division 2 state champion Reading in the state semifinals earlier this month.
At the very least, it was certainly the best game he has ever been a part of in a coaching career that has spanned nearly four decades, at the high school and college level.
And Shannon Brady’s game-tying basket in transition with 2 seconds left to force OT?
“The highest point in my coaching career. It was part of our normal transition offense, and we ran it just like we do in practice,’’ said Buckley, who has decided to step down as coach after eight seasons on the bench at Scituate. “It’s nice to leave on top.’’
He informed his players at their breakup banquet on Wednesday night. He departs with a 131-47 record, punctuated with a 20-0 regular season this year, 24-1 overall, and the program’s first sectional championship.
“It’s sad. They were special years, but it’s time for me personally,’’ said Buckley, a Quincy resident who retired in January as the athletic director at Quincy College.
His final game featured two teams with a combined 47-0 record. There was star power on both sides: Scituate’s big three of senior forward Megan Otto, junior point guard Kelly Martin, and Brady up against the Rockets’ formidable backcourt of Olivia Healy, Morgan O’Brien, and forward Melissa Dal Pozzo.
Scituate built a 10-point cushion, but Reading rallied for a 59-57 lead with 14 seconds left. However, in transition, Brady (28 points, 17 rebounds) connected on a hook with two seconds left for overtime. O’Brien (33 points) then paced Reading in the extra session.
“My last high school game as a player in high school, at Archbishop Williams in 1969, we lost to Catholic Memorial at the [old] Garden,’’ recalled Buckley. That CM club featured Fran Costello (Providence), Bill Raynor (Dartmouth), and King Gaskins, the sixth man as a freshman.
“My last game as a coach was at the new Garden. And both teams we lost to were undefeated and went on to win the state championship. Kind of fitting.’’
There were other moments, and performances to note from the recent state tournament. Here’s one scribe’s opinion:
Best shooter/scorer: Aaron Calixte, Stoughton
After a season in which he established himself as one of the best point guards in the state, Calixte kept it going in the Division 2 South tourney.
On the verge of a first-round upset of Duxbury, the 6-foot junior outscored the Dragons in the fourth quarter, 13-5, capping a 31-point performance in a 69-63 win.
“Aaron just single-handedly took over that game,’’ said Stoughton coach John Gallivan. “He had a look in his eye.
“Everybody has the type of defense that they think works best for their team,’’ said Gallivan, “but when a team comes out man-to-man, a light goes on in his eyes and he says, ‘This kid, by himself, can’t stop me.’ ’’
Calixte added 17 (on 7-of-10 shooting) against Norwood, 22 vs. Hockomock rival Oliver Ames, and 18 more in the South final against Hopkinton. He had 17 in a 53-42 loss to Brighton in the state semifinals.
Best rebounder: Sayvonn Houston, Brockton
The 6-foot-6 center averaged 14 rebounds per game in the Boxers’ run to the Division 1 state final, including a whopping 21 boards, along with 20 points, in a 49-44 win over Newton North in the South semis. He hauled in 14 rebounds in the state semifinals against Charlestown in a 67-64 victory and then 17 more in the state championship loss to Springfield Central.
Most inspirational team: Cohasset boys
Less than two weeks before the Division 4 tournament, the games almost became secondary for the Skippers. Driving to practice on Route 53 in Hingham, coach Bo Ruggerio collided was involved in an accident with an allegedly drunk driver. He was in a hospital intensive care unit with blood on his brain, cracked ribs, a broken kneecap, broken ankle, fractured wrists, and a pinched vertebra in his neck. His players focused on winning until Ruggerio could return to the bench.
Assistant coach Jim Willis said, “Our big hope was for a rematch against Cathedral, who we beat in an amazing game in the South finals last year. We all recognized if it got to the rematch vs. Cathedral, that was the key to getting Bo to come see a game.’’
The Skippers faced a 15-point deficit in the first quarter of their quarterfinal against Westport, rallied for a two-point lead in the third quarter but fell, 70-68, despite 26 points from Christian Davis (26 points).
“I think [Bo] is very proud,’’ said Willis. “He’s expressed nothing but pride in the effort his kids put in.’’ Ruggiero is determined to make an appearance at the team banquet Thursday night.
Breakout performer: Jen Gemma, Fontbonne
After averaging 17 points and 14.5 rebounds during the regular season, the 5-11 junior forward was immense in the tourney, putting up 22 points and 18.5 rebounds per game in victories over Oliver Ames and O’Bryant. In the South semis, she had 20 points and 12 boards against Scituate.
Unsung hero: Kayla McArdle, Quincy
When Quincy guard Nicole Lamie landed in the hospital with an illness, sophomore McArdle stepped up, playing a pivotal role in three games.
“Where a lot of kids would have gotten nervous, it was like she belonged there,’’ said Quincy coach Jeff Bretsch. “She hit big shots for us. She was aggressive, she attacked the rim, and most of all she was an incredible individual defender.’’
Her lockdown defense was essential in a 48-40 win over Durfee, and she hit a clutch jumper with 19 seconds remaining to secure a 50-44 upset of Wellesley. She also solid against Catie Phelan, Franklin’s best player, in a 57-53 defeat.
Most promising future: Molly Reagan, Braintree
It’s not uncommon for a player to earn a spot on the varsity as a freshman. Reagan, however, was a bit different.
“Molly came in right away and was a starter for us from day one,’’ said Braintree coach Kristen McDonnell.
Averaging 10 points and eight rebounds per game, the 6-1 Reagan played a huge role in the Wamps advancing to the Division 1 state semifinals before falling to unbeaten Andover, 54-39.
“Molly is unique, especially for a forward,’’ said McDonnell. “She’s almost like a guard in a forward’s body. She’s a good dribbler and can take the ball to the basket, but she can also spot up and shoot from fairly far out. I think that’ll increase as she develops.’’