According to St. Mary’s guard Brianna Rudolph, last year’s team mentality was “we can show up and win.” This year, the Spartans’ mentality changed to “we’ll show up and believe that we will win,” Rudolph said.
On Tuesday, No. 6 St. Mary’s believed, and won at TD Garden, edging Archbishop Williams, 47-45, in the Division 3 state semifinal.
After ending the third quarter on an 8-0 run, cutting Archbishop Williams’s 9-point lead down to 1, Rudolph opened the fourth quarter with a layup, pulling the Spartans (23-2) ahead, 35-34.
Rudolph’s first two assists came in the final two minutes of the game. Knowing Archbishop Williams (15-12) would double-team her on the baseline, Rudolph (31 points, 11 rebounds) first found teammate Kayla Carter, in the middle of the paint, putting St. Mary’s up, 45-43. Archies senior guard Leah Spencer tied up the game on a putback layup, but Rudolph made another tough pass between two defenders to classmate Sharell Sanders (8 points) for the 47-45 lead after watching Alana Gilmer’s shot rim out.
“We talked in the last timeout, which they were sending one or two people from the weak side to stop Brianna, you have to cut into the paint,” coach Jeff Newhall said. “If you’re not covered, you have to go to a spot where you could hit a shot.”
After a back-and-forth first half, Archbishop Williams started to break open the game in the third quarter. Archies coach Jim Bancroft started the third quarter with four guards against St. Mary’s defense. And it worked. The Archies drained four 3-pointers to open up its third quarter scoring, building a 34-25 lead.
“Our initial plan was to run back, play inside the 3-point line, play physical, deny the ball inside, and it worked for quite a while; we were sagging off,” Newhall said.
But when it looked like the defending Division 3 champions, Archbishop Williams, had a comfortable 9-point cushion, Rudolph and the Spartans responded with a sense of urgency. Bancroft’s adjustment forced St. Mary’s to go back to full-court defense. Rudolph, who scored 18 second-half points, would not be denied. The Spartans went back to its fast-pace game, ending the game on an 8-0 run, trailing 34-33, after three.
While the contest between Archbishop Williams and St. Mary’s was a clash between two Catholic Central League teams, facing each other for the third time, Archies’ Gilmer (18 points) and Rudolph established a battle between each other.
“[Gilmer] is a tough player,” Rudolph said. “She’s strong, she can shoot a little bit, so it was kind of like if she makes a basket, we have to make a basket.”
“It was kind of like a one-on-one thing. Every time we play, it’s that rivalry. It’s great, it’s entertainment and I enjoy playing against her.”