WORCESTER — Senior forward Casey McLaughlin’s dominant 27-point game led Central Catholic to a 53-48 victory over Holy Name in the Division 1 state championship at the DCU Center on Saturday.
Holy Name (22-3) battled back in the fourth quarter to close the deficit to 48-43 with 2:55 remaining, but that was the closest the Naps could get in the final quarter. Though Holy Name’s resiliency kept it in the game, a slow start was too much to overcome.
“I think the start [hurt us], I mean you get yourself in the hole right away,” said Holy Name coach Barry Finneron, who is in his 36th season.
Although Naps center Brianna Frias had the size at 6 feet 2 inches, the 6-0 McLaughlin refused to let her get an edge.
“I knew she was definitely bigger than me, but I just wanted to beat her on the drive,” McLaughlin said. I wanted to be quicker than her, but I just needed to box her out and get her away from the rebounds. I mean she got some over me, but for the most part I tried to beat her to the boards.”
In her final game for Central Catholic (22-5), McLaughlin left everything on the court and helped give her school its first title since 2009.
“She’s our everything,’’ Central Catholic coach Susan Downer said. “She’s our emotional leader, our physical leader, our vocal leader, she’s just everything. a team doesn’t get to this point without someone like Casey McLaughlin.”
Trailing, 22-8, after Central Catholic scored 5 straight points to open up the second quarter, Holy Name stormed back to cut the deficit to 6 after a 10-4 run while McLaughlin was on the bench with two fouls. The Raiders took a 31-22 lead into halftime after Amanda Williams scored off a Holy Name turnover and was fouled.
“Everyone just stepped up,’’ McLaughlin said. “Every single person who came in wanted to win, so everyone just pushed through [the foul troubles].
“Every game in this whole season, especially this game has been a fight, but we just honestly played so tough, we weren’t going home without a ring on our finger.”
At halftime, Downer didn’t want her team to get too comfortable so she told them to come out of the locker room as if they were trailing by 20 points.
“I think that a lot of people didn’t expect us to beat Braintree at the Garden, and we did that,” Downer said.
“And I think my job was just to make sure that they knew that wasn’t our big game, that Holy Name was just as good a team, and we had to come in here and fight and make sure we had the same mental and physical preparation that we needed.”
Central Catholic set the tone early defensively.
The Raiders held Holy Name without a field goal until Aryauna Perez’s (12 points) driving layup at the 2:58 mark.
Courtney Walsh and McLaughlin stepped up in the first quarter, combining for 13 of Central Catholic’s 17 first-quarter points. Although Walsh finished with 13 points, she deflected praise to her teammate.
“Casey just is unbelievable, this whole entire season she just led us,” Walsh said. “I know I score too, but she’s really been the leader of the team and she’s brought us to where we were.”