The bright lights and legendary parquet floor at TD Garden did not phase the No. 15 Fenway girls as they cruised to a 58-38 victory over Cathedral in the Division 4 state semifinals on Monday.
Fenway advanced to the Division 4 state championship game for the third time in four years. On Friday at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, the Lady Panthers will play the winner of Tuesday’s Millis-Quaboag semifinal.
Two miles separate Fenway and Cathedral, but Monday on the court they were miles apart.
Fenway (20-2) jumped to a 18-3 lead by attacking Cathedral’s ball handlers on a full-court press. The Lady Panthers forced turnovers and and created easy transition buckets.
“We jumped out with our full-court pressure and I think they were surprised by it and we got a good lead,” Fenway coach John Rice said. “We scouted them and we felt we could give them some problems with some full-court pressure, but it’s a chess match when your coaching.”
Rice has instilled a defensive mentality, and his team has bought in. Guard Takora McIntyre forces the initial pressure, and 6-foot-2-inch captain Jalissa Ross secures rebounds and blocks shots.
“Defense wins championships,” Ross said. “So that’s what our focus was.”
Ross finished with 11 points, 6 in the fourth quarter to extend the Fenway lead. McIntyre drained three 3-pointers and added 13 points, and Shai’Ann Nance had her best game of the season, scoring a game-high 14 points.
“It feels good, happy for my team,” Ross said. “They played very well. [Shai’Ann] had an excellent day, she crashed the boards very well as usual, so I am very happy she came out to play.”
Cathedral (17-5) did not have the offensive firepower to compete with Fenway. Cathedral trailed by 9 points or more for the majority of the game and never held a lead. Cathedral even failed to cash in on 14 free throws, making only three.
Sophomore Masseny Kaba had a team-high 13 points.