In the first half of Friday’s Boston City League semifinal matchup, O’Bryant girls’ basketball coach Trudy Fisher didn’t recognize her team.
She saw a timid group that wasn’t running the offense correctly and was trying to go at the Boston Latin Academy defense 1-on-1. O’Bryant scored just 12 points before the break and was in search of the identity that it’s had throughout the season. Eventually, after trial and error, the Lady Tigers found the right formula.
“That’s not the way they normally play,” Fisher said. “They picked it up and started attacking the basket. That was the difference in the game.”
In the second half, Fisher saw the aggressive, unselfish, poised team she’s grown accustomed to watching. The Tigers erased a six-point halftime deficit, played with the conviction they’ve shown all season, and earned a gutsy 43-38 win over the visiting Dragons. O’Bryant will host Fenway in Saturday’s final at 1.
Sophomore guard Lina Guerrero paced O’Bryant (10-0) with 15 points, including four clutch free throws in the final minute. Freshman Jasmine Cox scored eight of her 10 after the break, senior Jahbria Horsley hit a timely 3 late in the game, and the Tigers outlasted scrappy Latin Academy (7-3).
Senior captain Jordan Bellot led the Dragons with 16, junior Ruth Norton chipped in 10, and Alexa Poremba hit two 3-pointers. The teams were knotted at 8 through 1, then Latin Academy took an 18-12 edge into halftime and led 31-30 through three, but O’Bryant used a strong fourth quarter to steal one at home.
“Honestly, as we went into the second half we said we had to play as a team,” Guerrero said. “We had positive energy, kept our heads up, and took over the game.”
Bellot and Norton consistently teamed up and found each other in ideal spots to help Latin Academy build a lead and nearly register the upset. Latin Academy coach William Dever called Bellot one of the best players he’s ever coached, and he said he’s pleased with the competitiveness of the battle and the tournament as a whole.
“There’s no super team,” Dever said. “All these four teams, for the first time in a couple years, are similar talent-wise, which is nice. You don’t see those playoff games where you’re down by 30 at halftime. I think in the future, it’s going to be like this the next couple years.”
Fenway 50, New Mission 37 — Fenway has a new steward in first-year coach Caitlin Fenn. But the Panthers kept with tradition, advancing to its fourth straight final with a controlling home win over New Mission.
The Panthers (10-1) jumped out to a quick 15-2 lead after the first quarter before New Mission’s offense kicked into gear. Fenway never gave up the lead, though, and used tenacious defense to set the tone.
“I guess [it’s] business as usual, but at the same time, every year it feels very important,” Fenn said.
Junior wing Kayana Armbrister was dominant, scoring 26 points and grabbing nine rebounds. Armbrister rarely forced a shot, instead playing within the flow of the game, threading passes to teammates and crashing the offensive glass.
She had her fair share of highlights – including a 4-point play that sparked an impromptu bench mobbing during the second half. But Fenn was impressed with the ease at which Armbrister got her buckets while bettering teammates.
“I can tell that she’s learning to work with other players, and to be the person that is the go-to person,” Fenn said. “I think that she’s doing it in a really elegant way, to be honest.”
“I felt good. We really worked hard this whole season,” Armbrister said.
In Saturday’s final, Fenway and O’Bryant will square off for the first time this season.
“We tried prepping – we had two practices this week – so we tried practicing for all scenarios,” said Fenn.
Falmouth 49, Nauset 45 — Lily Craft cherishes her role as a tough defender, a responsibility she has embraced her entire senior season. Craft not only aced her final defensive assignment, she came through for top-seeded Falmouth (13-1) at the offensive end of the floor, too.
Craft was the only Clipper to score during the fourth quarter, netting 9 points to propel Falmouth past second-seeded Nauset (12-2) in the Cape & Islands League Atlantic Tournament final. After being held scoreless in the first 16 minutes, Craft finished with 14 second-half points in addition to holding Nauset senior guard Avery Burns to just 4 points, all of which came in the first quarter.
“Determination,” Craft answered when asked how she locked up Burns for much of the game. “And just getting over the fact that it’s a big responsibility honestly. I prided myself on being able to do it.”
Craft wasn’t the only senior guard to come through for Falmouth. Endicott-bound Ariana Silvia scored 18 of her game-high 21 points in the first half, on the strength of five 3-pointers. She also contributed four rebounds and three steals.
“I’ve never done that before. It was definitely crazy,” Siliva said of her 3-point shooting in the first half. “I was making them tonight and I was getting a lot more confidence in myself so I just kept shooting.”
Seniors Ashley Ross (15 points, 5 rebounds) and Quinnipiac-bound Korin Mereste (14 points, 4 rebounds) led Nauset (12-2), which was dealt both of its losses by Falmouth.
St. John Paul II 56, Cape Cod Academy 38 — Senior Skylar Gonsalves (18 points) and Olivia Marchand (16 points) were too much to handle as the host Lions (12-1) captured the Cape & Islands Lighthouse title with the victory over the Seahawks (7-4).
Ethan Fuller reported from Fenway and Brad Joyal from Falmouth. Steve Sousa also contributed.