TAUNTON — When Greater New Bedford coach David Harrison played basketball for Middleboro, he never got a chance to play at Boston Garden. Forty years later, Harrison is headed to TD Garden for the third consecutive year as the Greater New Bedford girls’ basketball team defeated West Bridgewater, 53-52, in an overtime thriller in the Division 4 South final on Friday.
“It kind of takes your breath away,” Harrison said. “I had told the girls the other day, I said, ‘I can’t believe you made my dream come true because everyone wants to play in the Garden and I missed it.’
“Forty years later, a bunch of 15- and 16-year-olds are making my childhood dream come true.”
When Greater New Bedford’s Nakira Examond (14 points) walked to the free throw line with 3.9 seconds remaining, she knew she had to make one for a chance to go into overtime. After missing the first, Examond took a deep breath and watched as her second foul shot hit nothing but net. On the ensuing play, West Bridgewater’s Christine Schondek failed to connect on a half-court heave, sending the game into overtime.
“I was thinking I have to make at least one, it would be great to make two, but I have to make one to send it into overtime,” Examond said.
After both teams exchanged baskets to start overtime, Brittany Stone (31 points) split a pair of free throws to put the Wildcats (22-1) up 1. Greater New Bedford sophomore Irisneida Rivera (18 points) hit two huge shots down the stretch to give the Bears (21-2) the lead for good.
First it was a layup, followed by a jump shot for a 53-50 Bears’ lead. After a Stone basket brought the Wildcats within 1, West Bridgewater sent Rivera to the line after an intentional foul, but she missed the one-and-one. West Bridgewater had 11 seconds and two attempts to make a basket, but in the end, Greater New Bedford hung on.
“We actually boosted up our confidence because playing as a team, that’s how you win games,” Rivera said. “We knew we wanted it more than them, so we had to play like that.”