WORCESTER — The Medfield girls’ basketball team has owned the Tri-Valley League the past five seasons, but the Warriors couldn’t make it farther than the league title.
This season, they changed that.
First it was the South Sectional championship at UMass-Boston, then the Eastern Mass. championship at the Garden. On Saturday, it was a 54-36 victory over Nashoba to become the MIAA Division 2 state champions for the first time in school history. And for the Medfield girls, it is their third state title in less than a year, following lacrosse last spring and soccer in the fall.
Medfield’s nine-year coach Mark Nickerson constantly reminded his team throughout the season the state championship was within reach.
And that is where the Warriors found themselves Saturday at the DCU Center.
“I just didn’t want them not believing in themselves, and realistically I knew they believed it — or maybe I was just trying to convince myself of it,” Nickerson said jokingly.
Medfield (26-2) came out of halftime in man-to-man defense, which was too much for Nashoba (22-3), and scored 6 straight points to extend its lead to 38-21.
“We went in at halftime and we talked about how they were handling our half-court trap pretty well, which not many teams have done,’’ Nickerson said. “[The trap] kind of carried us to this point and we were counting on that to carry us to a state championship, but they did a nice job passing through it.
“Second half, we came out in full-court man, and really focused on pressuring the ball, trying to make them make long passes, trying to jump those passes and get turnovers and maybe score off those.”
Although Medfield held Nashoba scoreless for four minutes in the third quarter, Nashoba turned the tables, and did not allow Medfield to score for the final 3:51 of the quarter after Erin Cressman (12 points) connected on a basket and free throw to put Nashoba on the board for the first time in the second half.
“I thought they did a better job defending the paint, which slowed us down a little bit and we weren’t able to get to the line, we weren’t able to finish, which I thought might cost us the game,” Nickerson said.
Medfield put together a run after the Chieftains cut the lead to 6 in the second quarter, and scored the final 5 points to end the first half, capped by a buzzer-beating jumper by Lauren Petit to take a 31-21 lead into halftime.
The difference in the first quarter was Medfield’s ability to protect the ball and execute on offense. The Warriors kept their turnovers to a minimum, and forced Nashoba to cough up the ball.
Petit has made a living on the free throw line in the past two games, but the junior point guard didn’t go to the line once against Nashoba. Petit made four 3-pointers and led all scorers with 18 points.
“My mentality was basically to attack, and once they slip off to shoot, and then it would open up everyone else inside,” Petit said.
Said Nickerson, “She let’s the opponent and the flow of the game dictate what she’s going to do. If we need to go inside, she’s going to sacrifice her own offense and that’s what she’s been doing. Last few games we’ve been pounding inside the paint, trying to get to the line, trying to get their bigs in foul trouble. But today when they closed off the paint, [Petit] came up with some big 3-pointers.”
The Warriors also received offensive contributions from sophomore Payton Ouimette, who netted 11 points, and senior forward Jennifer Narlee, who scored 10 points.