Rockland girls’ basketball coach Diana Newcomb and her captains couldn’t contain their jubilation when they embraced during the waning seconds of Friday’s Division 3 South final at Taunton High.
The Lady Bulldogs turned in a complete performance against powerhouse Archbishop Williams to earn a 53-37 victory, snapping a streak of seven straight sectional titles for the Bishops.
Rockland (22-2) will face the winner of Saturday’s D3 North final between St. Mary’s and Amesbury next Wednesday (2 p.m.) at TD Garden.
"Last year [they] knocked us out on this floor, and we wanted to give it back to them,” said Newcomb, who was a point guard on Rockland’s last sectional champion team in 2000. "I’ve been the coach here eight years, and half of those years [Archies] knocked us out. They’re a great team, and I’m just happy we came out on top.
“I haven’t been this happy in 20 years.”
Defense carried the day for the Lady Bulldogs. With senior Hannah Wyllie (12 points) and sophomore Julia Elie (15 points) trading turns on Archies star center Jessica Knight (17 points), Rockland was able to hold Archies (16-8) scoreless to take a 10-0 lead after one quarter.
Rockland led 19-12 at the half, and opened a 34-16 lead late in the third quarter thanks to more stifling defense and unselfish offense. The Lady Bulldogs assisted on 10 of their first 15 made field goals, and every player who checked in recorded an assist. Senior Caroline Elie (16 points) ensured that the lead never returned to single digits.
“I told [the players] we have no margin for error,” said Newcomb. “The more stops you get, the more wiggle room we can have, but if we’re not getting stops, we have to execute on offense. They followed our game plan exactly how we practiced.”
Division 4 North
Matignon 48, Fenway 44 — Senior Emma Found poured in a game-high 20 points and her sister, sophomore Olivia Found, added 15 points and 7 assists, as the top-seeded Warriors (20-1) halted Fenway’s bid for a fourth straight sectional title.
The Wakefield natives willed Matignon, which takes on the winner of Saturday’s Cathedral/Carver game next Tuesday at TD Garden.
“We wanted our revenge from last year,” Emma said.
Another matchup against the section’s premiere program provided plenty of motivation.
“All programs are based around being like Fenway, being consistent winners,” Matignon coach Joe DiSarcina said. “We respect them immensely. We’ve battled them a number of times, and they always come out on top. We didn’t not just want to get here, we wanted to win it.”
The Founds combined for 16 first-half points for a narrow 24-23 halftime lead.
“It makes it a lot easier playing together,” Olivia Found said. “We always look for each other. She’s always cutting, and I know where she is.”
Emma, who will play collegiately at Worcester State, scored eight of her points in the fourth quarter, including nailing a pair of free throws with 3.6 seconds left to ice it.
As their days playing together come to a close, the Found sisters are cherishing one final run.
“I’m going to miss that a lot next year,” Emma said. “It’s a big part of success because we feed off each other really well.”
Division 1 Central
Franklin 53, Natick 38 — Another piece of hardware secured for the mantel, there’s just one thing left for the most decorated girls basketball player in Franklin history to accomplish.
Ali Brigham, the Panthers’ monolith in the middle, had another stellar night (17 points, 13 rebounds, three blocks) as they blew by Natick to earn a second straight Division 1 Central title at Worcester State University. With it, the Panthers move on to the state semifinal, one step closer to her dream of ending her high school career a state champ.
“I want it so bad. And I know not just me, but the whole team wants it,” said the 6-foot-4 Brigham, who’s signed to play at George Washington next fall. “Especially since it’s our last two practices. We’re going all out.”
Last year’s sectional final on this floor, won on a last-gasp buzzer-beater, teemed with suspense. And a visit from former Braintree girls and current Norwood boys coach Kristen McDonnell — who coached multiple members of the Panthers in AAU — at Wednesday’s practice warned them that, as Brigham tells it, “the first eight minutes are always your worst.”
So naturally, the Panthers (23-0) stormed out of the gates and left little doubt despite stalwart efforts from Natick’s lengthy frontcourt, led by Yale commit Brenna McDonald (19 points).
Every bout of momentum Natick (20-3) put up, Franklin answered. When the Redhawks stormed back with three straight 3’s to begin the fourth quarter, the Panthers returned favor with a Brigham pump-fake that she made a 3-point play and a 40-28 lead.
That was even with Brigham picking up her second foul a little more than four minutes into the contest. Franklin still held a 13-4 advantage on the boards after a quarter and 36-22 mark for the game.
All the while, Brigham showed off her range. She sank a walk-up three from the left wing to cap an impressive game-opening run. Then, in the closing seconds of the opening half, she lasered a cross-court pass from the right wing to Elizabeth Wilson, whose 3 made it 28-13.
“We’ve had a huge advantage on the boards all year, but tonight we were going to have to earn them,” Franklin coach John Leighton said. “Once Ali picked up her second foul, we told them, we don’t need every shot block, but we need every box out. She played under tremendous control to be able to do that.”
Greg Levinsky reported from Tewksbury, and Brendan Hall from Worcester.