Bishop Fenwick junior Tess Keenan picked quite a moment to score her first basket of the night.
The 4-foot, 11-inch guard snuck behind the defense, corralled a bounce pass from Erica Lendall, and floated the ball up for two from just outside the key. Her clutch bucket with 26 seconds left lifted the third-seeded Crusaders to a thrilling, 40-38 win over No. 2 Norwell in the Division 3 semifinals Wednesday night at Newton North.
“Tess does everything right,” Bishop Fenwick coach Adam DeBaggis said. “Great things happen to people like her.”
The Crusaders (17-7) advanced to their first state final since 2016 after outlasting the Clippers (21-3) in a back-and-forth battle. They’ll face top-seeded St. Mary’s, their Catholic Central rival, for the third time this season (St. Mary’s took the first two meetings, 71-45 and 76-39), either Saturday or Sunday at the Tsongas Center in Lowell.
Junior forward Cecilia Kay powered Fenwick with 19 points, 19 rebounds, and 6 blocks, scoring 13 points in the first half to help the Crusaders build a 19-14 halftime advantage.
Senior Chloe Richardson (17 points), Reagan Dowd (10), and Maddie Oliver (8) helped the Clippers respond to even the score at 31 through three. Richardson tied it with 38 seconds remaining on a well-designed out-of-bounds play, then Keenan came through in the clutch.
The Clippers had a last-second attempt. Coach Matt Marani called the way the final seconds unfolded disappointing but said a lot more went into the game than just that play.
“From our view, it was on our sideline, it looked like she got absolutely hammered,” Marani said. “It looked more like a tackle. Most end of games, you try to put the whistle away. If we had finished earlier in the game, some of our open looks, it would be a different story.”
Marani acknowledged it was an extremely tough loss but believes his players will look back one day and be extremely proud of the historic season. The Clippers made their first state semifinal since 1989.
For the Crusaders, who only have Kay and Lendall back as regular contributors from last year’s team, this was a particularly gratifying win because of how much they’ve had to grow over the course of the season to earn it.
“We’re all ecstatic,” Kay said. “We got here last year and ended up falling a little short. To come here today, and finish it off, it’s a dream come true. We’re so happy.”
St. Mary’s 70, Rockland 43 — Their 2022 Division 3 state final came down to the final possession.
In the rematch, St. Mary’s wanted to end the state semifinal on the first.
Starting with bucket from Reese Matela, the top-seeded Spartans (22-2) were in control, surging to the semifinal win against No. 4 Rockland at Quincy High to book their fourth straight state championship appearance. It’s also the third straight year St. Mary’s has knocked the Bulldogs out of the tournament.
“We knew that they were going come for us,” St. Mary’s senior guard Yirsy Queliz said. “So I told the team that they want it, so we’ve got to want it more than them.”
St. Mary’s powered out to a 9-1 lead early, led 19-7 after one quarter, and then used a 21-0 onslaught to create a comfortable 40-9 cushion by halftime.
Queliz consistently swiped steals on defense while Matela (15 points) and Kellyn Preira fortified the interior.
St. Mary’s wanted to pressure the ball early and establish a fast pace, and coach Jeff Newhall was pleased with the first-half synergy.
“[Rockland] tried man or a 1-3-1, they did a bunch of different things,” he said. “But when we’re shooting it that way — I just thought, offensively, we executed as well as we have all year really; in 5-on-5 and in transition, we had some really nice plays.”
The Spartans racked up fast-break layups and moved the ball efficiently for threes. Niya Morgen (20 points) canned three triples in the first half and attacked the basket in the second half.
On two separate occasions, the Spartans’ star seniors connected in impressive fashion, with Queliz (14 points) pushing the ball up to Preira on a fast break before Preira made the extra pass to Morgen for the score.
“You’ve got to play all four quarters,” Morgen said. “There’s been times where we come out flat, where we kind of take our foot off the gas. But we knew how important this game was, and we knew that this is a good team, so we can’t take our foot off the gas.”
Freshman Zariah Ottley led Rockland (21-3) with 14 points.
Trevor Hass reported from Newton and Ethan Fuller from Quincy.