Eyes were on Reading’s top scoring guard, Olivia Healy. North Andover coach Susan Breen engineered a box-and-one defense designed to stifle Healy, but with the attention focused on the senior captain, junior Sarah Haase took advantage of the cracks in the scheme and outmuscled the Scarlet Knights in the paint.
Haase scored 19 points and pulled in 11 rebounds to lead top-ranked Reading to a 50-33 victory over North Andover at the Tsongas Center Saturday for its second consecutive Division 2 North championship. Reading, the defending Division 2 state champions, pushed its winning streak to 48 games and will face Medfield in the EMass title game Monday at TD Garden.
“I just came to play and had my team’s support and that helped out a lot,” Haase said. “[Healy] knows what to do, she’s great to be able to pass to, and she’s a great passer, and the rest of us had to step up to make up for her being double-teamed.”
Despite the concerted defensive efforts, Healy scored 18 points, pulled in 10 rebounds, and had 8 assists.
“I’d rather see the box-and-one more than anything, because that just frees up other people on offense,” Healy said.
Although Reading (23-0) came away victorious, coach Kim Penney said it wasn’t the prettiest win for her team, which had scored 60-plus points in each of its last eight games.
“Defense wins games,” Penney said. “Thank God our defense was pretty solid tonight. Defensive boards were good for us, too.”
Senior Katherine Starbel anchored Reading’s defensive effort and limited North Andover’s sharp-shooting guard, Morgan Lumb, to 4 points in the first half and 17 for the game.
“[Starbel] can defend anyone, and we knew from the start she was going to shut [Lumb] down and we knew she could handle her,” Haase said.
Reading led, 23-11, at halftime, but North Andover (15-9) cut the deficit to 7 with 1:56 left in the third quarter.
However, Reading did not allow North Andover to get any closer, outscored North Andover, 19-11, in the fourth quarter.
Medfield 47, Duxbury 43 — The Division 2 South final came down to free throws and more free throws.
Fourth-ranked Medfield’s stellar free throw shooting helped topple 17th-ranked Duxbury to give Medfield its first girls’ basketball championship.
Medfield (23-1) will play Reading on Monday at TD Garden.
With Duxbury clinging to a 41-40 lead, Lauren Petit was fouled and made a pair of free throws to put Medfield up for good.
Duxbury torched Medfield inside behind senior center Michela North, who netted 21 points. Duxbury (21-3) dominated the third quarter, holding Medfield to just one field goal. After a tight first half, the Green Dragons began to pull away late in the third after North hit a free throw to give Duxbury a 37-27 lead with one minute left. The Green Dragons appeared to be cruising.
“[After the third quarter] all I said to them was that we have to keep on going inside and I know it’s difficult, I know they’re big and they did a great job defending, but we were getting to the line a bit and I thought we could continue to get to the line,” Medfield coach Mark Nickerson said.
Then Medfield’s full-court trap started to work.
“Our full-court pressure kind of finally kicked in,’’ Nickerson said. “Obviously having their guards in foul trouble helped. Getting their point guard out of the game made our pressure more effective and that probably ended up being the deciding factor of the game.”
Medfield only connected on seven field goals for the game, and the Warriors did not help themselves by missing layups, but they made up for it at the free throw line, making 32 of 42.