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South Boston, Fenway stay on collision course

Daitannah Smith is hugged by Jewel Celestin after South Boston’s win over Dorchester.

JESSICA RINALDI/GLOBE STAFF

Daitannah Smith is hugged by Jewel Celestin after South Boston’s win over Dorchester.

South Boston defeated Dorchester, 45-28, and Fenway cruised to a 56-15 victory over Brighton in the Boston City League girls’ basketball semifinals Tuesday at Madison Park.

The first semifinal between South Boston and Dorchester was a tight defensive battle.

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After a low-scoring first quarter, the Knights held a 7-6 lead. Scoring proved no easier in the second quarter, and Dorchester took a 14-13 lead into the half.

“I told them at the halftime we needed to go back to what we did the whole season to get us where we are,” said South Boston coach Andrea Higgins. “We were taking good shots, but we weren’t taking great shots. We needed to attack the basket, we needed to step up on defense. Our defense all year has created our offense.”

Dorchester took an 18-13 lead at the start of the third quarter after junior guard Verdine Casimir scored and senior guard Phyllis Nyamunda followed with a steal and a layup.

South Boston sophomore guard Jocelyn Harris answered with two consecutive layups and Khadijah Young hit a free throw to tie it. After Nyamunda gave Dorchester a 20-18 lead, Harris scored on another layup and drained a 3-pointer to put the Knights back on top.

“It’s a team effort all the time,” Higgins said. “And on any given night, any one of my kids has stepped up and Jocelyn kept us right there and actually gave us the lead.”

The Knights took a 27-22 lead into the fourth quarter and never again. Junior forward Destinee Morris (game-high 18 points) nailed two 3-pointers off feeds from senior guard Elaina Wright-McCarthy in the final frame to close out the victory.

Nyamunda led the Bears with 12 points, while Harris chipped in 11.

“Heading into the championship, our goal is to win,” Higgins said.

“We’ve played Fenway twice, they’re our only two losses this year. We’ve obviously seen them, we know what they have. We know what we have to do in order to win.”

Fenway’s offense fired on all cylinders in the second semifinal. Sophomore guard Takora McIntyre finished with 18 points for the Panthers and junior forward Jalisa Ross added 17. Senior guard Walae Hayek scored 6 points for Brighton.

Although Brighton was the fourth-place team in the South Division, it earned a spot in the tournament because the division’s top two teams were barred from competing.

Still, Fenway coach John Rice did not take his opponent lightly.

“It’s the cities,” Rice said. “Anybody here is good enough to be here and that’s just the way we approached it.”

South Boston and Fenway will compete for the City League title Thursday.

“They’re athletic, they’re tough,” Rice said of South Boston. “We played them twice. They’re our toughest competitor in the league every year.’’

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