Anchored by an outstanding defensive effort, the Noble and Greenough girls’ basketball team cruised to a 65-42 win over Worcester Academy in the 2020 NEPSAC Class AA championship game Sunday at Rappaport Gymnasium.
The Bulldogs (24-3) defeated the Hilltoppers (18-6) with overwhelming defensive pressure and crisp offensive execution. Nobles forced 12 turnovers in building a 48-16 halftime lead that effectively decided the game.
“Their whole offense is basically transition, so we just pressed to slow them down and get stops that way,” said Nobles junior Caroline Ducharme, the 2020 Massachusetts Gatorade Player of the Year, who fished with game-highs of 31 points and 14 rebounds. “Last time we played them, they got to the rim way too easily.”
Nobles lost 88-74 at home to Worcester Academy on Jan. 25. This one was never in question.
Ducharme had 10 points in a 16-0 run to start. Nobles held Worcester Academy scoreless in the first seven minutes until junior Bella Nascimento, who had a team-high 10 points, hit a layup.
Nobles senior captains Lauren Keohan (8 points, 6 steals) and Sydney Jones (8 points) led the charge defensively at the top of the press.
“Love and joy are the two things that drive us,” Nobles coach Alex Gallagher said. "We love playing defense together and proving that we have each other’s back, and we get a lot of joy in shutting people down and I think you saw that tonight against a really good Worcester Academy basketball team.”
The first half lead stretched to its 28 point peak when Ducharme beat the second quarter buzzer with a 3-pointer. Worcester Academy couldn’t climb all the way back, as Nobles picked up its second title in three years.
“To end the season this way means everything to us,” Ducharme said.
Division Class B
Brooks 63, St. Luke’s 47 — Sophomores Taina Mair (19 points) and Samantha Dewey (16 points, 15 rebounds) powered Brooks (19-8) to the NEPSAC Class B title in Dedham. Brooks took a 11-3 lead in the first quarter and never trailed for its first title since 2006.
"It was a rocky road, but the kids started to buy in, and here’s the result,” second-year Brooks coach Ushearnda Reynolds said. “We don’t want this to just be one year. We want to build a program.”
The 6-foot-2 Dewey, who played as a freshman and sophomore at Melrose before enrolling at Brooks, was the tourney MVP.
"I want to develop basketball players, not set positions,” Reynolds said. “She’s a real student of the game.”
Sophomore Caroline Lau (23 points) led the Storm (22-5).
Division Class C
Beaver Country Day 57, Dexter Southfield 38 — Senior Gina Lombard posted a game-high 24 points, punctuated by six 3-pointers to lead the Beavers (22-2) to the NEPSAC Class title in Dedham. Junior guard Maria Olliviere added 11 points for BCD. A team-high 13 points from freshman Sheyenne Swain-Price paced Dexter Southfield (21-6).
NEPSAC Elite Division
Nobles 5, Phillips Andover 4 — Noble & Greenough girls’ hockey coach Tom Resor arrived at Fidelity Bank Ice Center just in time to see his team do something it had not had to do all season to cap an undefeated run (32-0-1) to a New England Elite Division championship.
Resor said he received Twitter updates throughout game as he rushed back from his best friend’s daughter’s wedding in the Bahamas through flight delays for Sunday night’s NEPSAC title game against Phillips Andover in Worcester. He knew the Bulldogs were down 2-0 in the second period, and he knew they had rallied for a 5-3 lead early in the third.
It was 5-4 in the closing minutes of the game when Resor got to watch tournament Most Valuable Player junior Taylor Hyland, of Wellesley Hills, turn away one last bid from Phillips Andover junior Olivia O’Brien, of Duxbury, in the final seconds for the program’s 10th NEPSAC title in the past 20 years.
“This group is really resilient,” said Resor, who credited Keith McLean’s coaching of the forward lines and Steve Cedorchuk’s coaching of the defense in his absence. “That was the first time all year we were down 2-0. You don’t know, sometimes, how they’re going to respond to that. But they responded incredibly well.”
Sophomore Emerson O’Leary, of Southborough, scored the game-winner for Nobles when she knocked home the rebound of a blast from sophomore Kaley MacDonald, of Walpole, for a 5-3 lead with 14:03 left for her second goal of the game.
“I saw Kaley go for the shot and I knew I needed to get in front,” O’Leary said. “I just popped it in. She’s got a cannon. I knew I needed to be there.”
Phillips Andover (16-8) got within one goal when sophomore Gwyn Lapp, of Andover, completed her hat trick with 11:22 remaining. But Nobles held from there despite a 6-on-4 for the final 35 seconds after Phillips Andover pulled its goalie on a power play.
“We were in a place where we knew we needed to not give up,” O’Leary said. “We never did. We just kept going. We just kept on piling on goals, and look where we ended up.”
Division Dorothy Howard (Small)
Cushing 2, Rivers 1 — Freshman Sammy Taber netted the first goal and sophomore Mia Langlois scored unassisted for the winner to propel Cushing to the NEPSAC Dorothy Howard Small championship at the Worcester Ice Center. Making its first postseason appearance since 2012-13, Cushing finished 18-14-1.Boys’ hockey
Loomis Chaffee 2, Cushing 0 — Cody Hoban and Adam Martin each found the back of the net in leading Loomis Chaffee (17-7-4) to the NEPSAC Martin/Earl Large School title at Trinity College.
Gunnery 5, Pomfret 3 — Senior defenseman Zander Lizotte netted a hat trick and classmate Alex Jefferies (Lunenburg) tallied two goals to rifle The Gunnery to the NEPSAC Piatelli/Simmons Small School title at Trinity College.
Scott Souza reported from Worcester.