When the game was on the line, Central Catholic played its best. In the final five minutes, the Raiders went on a 13-2 run to beat Westford in the Division 1 North final, 60-51, at the Tsongas Center in Lowell.
“We have had an easy run up to this point in the tournament and we have struggled winning some tight games this season. So that we persevered in this environment and this big game, it’s amazing. I’m just so incredibly proud,” said Central Catholic coach Susan Downer.
Central Catholic (20-5) led for most of the game but when the Grey Ghosts (20-5) went on a 8-0 run to start the fourth quarter, the Raiders found themselves trailing, 49-46.
From then on, Central Catholic dominated. With 3:25 left, Caitlin Dell’Orfano hit a jumper to tie it, and 45 seconds later Alexandra Nagri scored on a runner in the lane to give CC a 2-point lead. When Dell’Orfano drilled a baseline jumper with 1:20 left to give the Raiders a 55-49 lead, Westford was forced to foul, sealing the trip to the TD Garden for Central Catholic.
“I thought we had good time management with the basketball at the end of the game and we made good decisions,” said Downer. “A wise friend once told me when I got into coaching that it always comes down to defense, layups and foul shots, and that’s what it came down to tonight.”
Courtney Walsh had 16 points and Casey McLaughlin added 14 for the Raiders.
The game was even through the first five minutes but the Raiders went on a 7-2 run to take a 15-10 advantage after the first quarter.
The Central Catholic lead stretched to 7 in the second quarter, but Westford chipped away, thanks to solid play from Samantha Hyslip (17 points).
Braintree 43, Franklin 36 — Braintree captured its second consecutive South sectional crown at UMass-Boston, defeating No. 11 Franklin in a rematch of last year’s South final. Late free throws from sophomore Molly Reagan and senior Alyssa Klotzbeecher secured the victory for the Wamps.
Reagan, who finished with 14 points, said she was in a similar situation last year.
“This time I was thinking I have to pull it through for the team,” said the 6-foot-2 inch forward, who went 5 for 6 at the line in the fourth quarter. “It was nerve-racking but really exciting at the same time. The fans were so loud.”
Braintree (24-2) surged to a 24-12 lead at the half.
“Our whole thing all year has been defense,’’ said Braintree coach Kristen McDonnell. “It gets us in the style of play we want. We like to outwork teams and out-tough teams. That defines us as a program.”
Franklin (19-5) picked up its offense in the third, led by seniors Alicia Kutil (9 points) and Kristi Kirshe (8 points).
Franklin finished the quarter with momentum. With one second left, Kutil inbounded the ball the length of the court and found Stephanie Pissani, who nailed a jumper at the buzzer.
Franklin carried that energy into the fourth quarter, scoring 6 quick points before Braintree responded. The Wamps were in foul trouble, but the Panthers were not able to capitalize on free throw opportunities, shooting 37.5 percent in the fourth. Franklin cut its deficit to 7, but couldn’t catch Braintree.