Millis fans celebrated as the sound of the buzzer filled the Taunton High gym. The third quarter had ended and Millis had a 42-40 lead over Greater New Bedford in the Division 4 South final. Almost as soon as the fourth quarter began, sophomore center Nakira Examond let them know they were celebrating too soon.
Examond scored 13 points in the fourth quarter, 10 points in the final three minutes. Examond’s performance pulled Greater New Bedford to a 60-55 victory.
“The last three minutes she turned it up and that’s when we needed it,” said coach Dave Harrison.
Greater New Bedford played at TD Garden last year, but lost to Fenway. The Bears (20-4) will meet Fenway again in the Division 4 state final on Monday.
Greater New Bedford graduated nine seniors in 2012, leaving Harrison with a team of fresh faces.
Rileigh Avila, 5-foot-3-inch freshman guard, scored 11 points against Millis (12-12).
Freshman forward Irisneida Rivera netted 8 points, including a basket in the final minute to give the Bears a 57-53 lead.
“I think Rileigh and Nakira came into their own in the last couple minutes,” said Harrison. “Iris hit a big shot.”
Sophomore guard Amy Assad led Millis with 21 points.
“We just hung in because they were making a run,” said Harrison. “I can’t talk enough about the character of our kids for being so young and their poise. Not to get rattled as a young team, I think that was really the key.”
Fenway 50, Whittier 46 — The defending champs earned a shot at repeating by prevailing in the Division 4 North final.
Fenway started strong and led, 25-11, at halftime.
Whittier went on an impressive 11-1 run in the third quarter, cutting its deficit to 34-28.
Fenway, however, did not surrender the lead. With 19 seconds remaining, Cadieja Matthews hit two huge free throws to make it a two-possession game.
Takora Mcintyre and Jalissa Ross had 13 points each, and Jaqualah Holliman added 12.
“Whittier showed the classy team that they are, they came back and took it to us in the second half, got us back on our heels,’’ Fenway coach John Rice said. “But our kids fought back, they found themselves, it was a great game.”
TD Garden is a familiar place for Fenway.
“The experience is definitely going to help,” Rice said. “It’s going to be a little more familiar this year. We have a number of freshman and other younger kids that didn’t play that much last year, so they’ll still have a bunch of jitters, I’m sure.”
“This is what it’s all about, I’m happy for the kids, myself too, and the school,” Rice said.