Shyan Mwai is undoubtedly Lowell’s best player, but the 5-foot-6-inch senior guard knows she has some talented teammates.
On Monday night, it was sophomore guard Nikeishla Yrrizarry’s potent play that made the difference. She collected 15 points, five steals and three assists and two blocks and Mwai netted a game-high 23 points as sixth-seeded Lowell advanced to the Division 1 North sectional semifinals with a 57-48 win over third-seeded Masconomet in Topsfield.
“She’s our go-to person for defense, so when she’s on we feed off of her,” Mwai said.
Lowell jumped out to a 11-4 lead after back-to-back 3-pointers by senior guard Brittany Mota and Mwai midway through the first quarter. Masconomet (17-4) came storming back to cut the deficit to 15-11 early in the second quarter, but the Red Raiders (18-6) employed an equally tenacious defense
“[Our goal] is to pretty much confuse the opponent,” said Lowell coach Brian Myers, whose team will face No. 2 seed Central Catholic on Thursday night at 7 p.m. in the semifinals at Whitter Voc-Tech in Haverhill.
“We don’t want to stick in one thing for too long, we are who we are and we didn’t want to overthink tonight.”
Mwai banked a deep 3-pointer after Masconomet sophomore Mak Graves split a pair of free-throws to keep Lowell up, 30-23 with less than 90 seconds to play in the first half. It was the second triple she banked in the frame.
Yrrizarry’s aggressive defense and her five-first half steals helped force 13 first half turnovers to give Lowell a 35-23 halftime advantage.
She flashed her offensive skills with a nifty layup and deep 3-pointer to give Lowell a 40-28 lead less than two minutes into the third quarter after Masco scored the opening five points of the second half less than two minutes in.
Freshman Morgan Bovardi’s six 3-pointers en route to a team-high 19 points was not enough for the Chieftains.
Despite facing a tough halfcourt, ball-denial defense, Mwai was lethal. The Iona-bound guard quelled several Masconomet runs with a mix of outside shoots and lane penetrations.
“She can get 30 on any given night, but this year our role players have really stepped up,” Myers said. “They’re prepared. We have a lot of senior leadership, so those girls are ready to make plays.”
“Our energy this game was on top, it’s probably the best we’ve had all year,” Mwai said. “We’re just gonna look to use this energy against Central Catholic.”
Division 2 South
Pembroke 51, Falmouth 42 — Junior forward Jayne Howe scored 17 points and sophomore Katie Galligan added 16 points as the 15th-seeded Titans (11-11) toppled the seventh-seeded Clippers (12-8) to advance to the sectional semifinals for the first time in program history.
Division 2 Central
Medway 46, Nashoba 45 — Freshman forward Lauren Beach hit the go-ahead hoop with 16 seconds remaining in the game to help Medway post a thrilling semifinal win at Clark University’s Kneller Athletic Center.
Hopkinton 43, Groton-Dunstable 39 — Ivy Gogolin scored a team-high 11 points and Marissa Prall and Regan Keavany each chipped in nine points apiece to help the fourth-seeded Hillers (19-4) eliminate the top-seeded Crusaders (20-3) in the sectional semis at Clark University.
Division 3 South
Fontbonne 59, Rockland 37 — Senior Annabelle Larnard scored 23 points and pulled down 13 rebounds and classmate Ari Sauvignon Howard added 15 points as the sixth-seeded Ducks (18-4) knocked off third-seeded Rockland (18-4).
Division 4 South
Coyle & Cassidy 66, Old Colony 16 — Senior guard Abbie Kurtzer scored 11 points as the fourth-seeded Warriors (19-3) knocked off the fifth-seeded Cougars (17-5).For more highlights, go to bostonglobe.com/schools.